When the alarm went off at 5.30am, I thought myself “Why am I doing this? Why am I getting up so early on a Saturday morning when I could just stay in bed?” The answer is simple: I wanted to experience the sunrise, and to see Venice before the tourist crowds woke up. I hesitated briefly, and then reminded myself I would otherwise regret this. As I made way down the stairs of the hotel I was staying in, I encountered another guy doing just the same. He also had that early morning “bleary” look about him. But the both of us, with cameras hung around our necks, headed off to the nearby waterfront. It was well worth it, I can assure you.
The only people I could find were “locals” setting up for the day, “locals” coming home from the night before, and tourists like myself who like taking photographs. There was a lovely intimacy about being there, as people genuinely stopped to say hello to each other. It must be hard to live in a place like Venice, when there are so many tourists around. But at this time of the morning, before the tourists (mostly) have woken up, it all seemed so much different. There was just one cafe open at this time, and along with two other tourists, we headed in for a coffee, and were “treated” by the woman behind the counter. “It’s no problem”. one of my fellow tourists explained to me was what she was saying.
After breakfast I made an unexpected trip to the nearby island of Lido, where they hold the Venice International Film Festival. It seemed very much like a tourist resort, a little bit “Gold Coast” in some ways. I ended up there, because I took the ferry in the wrong direction. Still, it was a lovely boat trip.
My goal was to spend a few hours at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. According to the audio tour, Peggy was an American heiress who came to live in Venice in her early twenties. With gazillions of dollars behind her, the audio tour explains, she needed to find a purpose in life. Aside from being married, and apparently shagging lots of other blokes which I’m sure could be a “purpose in life”. And so she began collecting contemporary artists: artists like Pollock and Kandinsky. She lived in the house where the museum now exists for over thirty years. And what a house! Located right on the waterfront, it was both spacious and had spectacular views. But aside from the views, the museum contains some of the most spectacular contemporary art of the twentieth century. I loved it.
After a few hours there, I made my way slowly towards the train station, stopping occasionally for 30 or 45 minutes to have a coffee or a beer. It was another warm day in Venice. It was probably hotter than yesterday. But being on this island, compared with being on the other more touristy island, was definitely the place to be. It must have been a stinker on the main tourist drag.
And from there, it was a four-hour train trip back to Rome. Two days was not enough in Venice. I feel like I’ve only skimmed the surface and I want more, more, more.
I’m heading back to Stockholm tomorrow for a few days, and will be joined for a while by an old school friend. And then I’m off to New York, where a good friend and I have an apartment in Brooklyn for a week. The email reminder came today, “James, your trip to New York City starts next week…” Wooh!!