Venice: Finding Joy During Uncertainty
At the beginning of this month, I went to Venice and reconnected with the things in life I had forgotten could bring such joy. Things that in the spirit of pandemic sacrifice I had convinced myself I could do without or had to do without.
When the opportunity came at the spur of the moment, I surprised myself and said, “yes”. It was the end of June. London was just beginning to come out of lockdown. The clarity that had brought us comfort with knowing exactly how to behave during lockdown was ebbing away as politicians pushed us to get back to normal. The first 14 day travel quarantine hovered and confusion induced anxiety was thick in the air. As I write this now, the second 14 day travel quarantine has been instated to those coming from Spain. Confusion induced anxiety is still thick in the air.
The occasion for the opportunity? A birthday celebration for a friend of a friend. BB (Birthday Boy) had rented out the entire piano nobile of a palazzo near St. Mark’s Square for a month and flown in from LA in the middle of June to take residence. His husband and their friends were due to fly out and meet him a few weeks later. But then as we all know, things got tricky in the US as California and the southern states started to explode with the virus. Travel restrictions were raised and those traveling with American passports were no longer welcome in Europe. Saddened but making the best of things, the lovely and generous BB invited a mutual friend of ours in the UK to come and join him. The mutual friend mentioned he was going to Venice and wondered if we might want to come as well. And so yes basically, my husband and I gatecrashed the party; bringing two more friends with us. We the uninvited had never met BB before; that’s how kind he is. One actor, one art historian and four architects. Can you think of a better bunch to spend four days in Venice with?
I have never thought of myself as an early adopter but that’s what I felt like when we decided to go. The temptation to see Venice empty of tourists was too great. Who knew if we would ever get this chance again? Overcoming my anxieties about traveling — never mind to Italy, the first country to shut down in Europe when Milan, only 270 kilometres away, became the epicentre of the virus only three months ago — we booked our flights. And up until the day before we left, I was still prevaricating.
Venice whose fragile beauty makes your heart weep because its soul emanates from the very source to where it may disappear forever. Where centuries of memories rise out of the water, enshrouding you in the thick suspended particles of mist and fog. And where you hold your breath longer than you should just to suspend your wonder because letting go could mean crashing precipitously into reality.
It was this Venice that I boarded an airplane in the middle of a global pandemic to see. I also saw more. I saw a city whose residents were shaking off the darkness of their own lockdown, embracing their beloved city for a brief moment without having to share it with 25 million tourists. “The most beautiful spring in years,” I kept hearing. “We are so lucky.”
With lightness in our hearts, we allowed the city and its people to guide us, masks and all, out of our own trepidations. We ate well. We drank better. We shopped, sketched, painted, walked and marveled. And most importantly, we enjoyed the company of each other and that of the Venetians, laughing more deeply and heartily than I have in a long time. It felt so damn good to be out there in real life.
Going to Venice was the hurdle I needed to overcome to find life after lockdown, where joy still exists amidst the chaos. And to think, I almost didn’t go.
A few favourite restaurants, galleries and shops.
Chiarastella Cattana — beautifully designed artisanal textiles for the home. Do say “hi” to Chiara for me!
Ottica Manuela — somehow we all managed to buy a pair of sunglasses here.
Giorgio Mastinou — the teeniest tiniest art gallery packed with a 70’s punch.
Vino Vero — wine bar along the canal in the ghetto section with natural wines and delicious aperitivos.
Trattoria al Gatto Nero — a canal side restaurant on the island of Burano whose owner has a kick-ass Glaswegian accent.
Corte Sconta — book for the outdoor terrace.
Antiche Carampane — simply delicious.