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February 6th 2005
Published: June 12th 2005
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"Parking Lot""Parking Lot""Parking Lot"

Right off piazza San Marco is a parking lot of sorts...
On the train to Venezia! We're passing through the countryside outside of Milano, which is eerily beautiful in the winter. The frosted fields are full of stubble, and are criss-crossed by rows of elegant bare trees, canals full of silvery ice, and hedges protecting stubborn bits of snow from the weak sun. This morning, a mist hangs over everything, and the new rays transform the scene into a study in pastels.

We're sitting across from three people who seem to be going home to Venice. Their Italian is softer, full of sussurating z's, not the hard explosions of Milanese. Erika gets a text, and they smile at each other, indulgent of the American students, when I whip out my dictionary to translate "augorio." (Wish, as in "best wishes.")


Morning after arrival. Yesterday: Stopped at a little cafe whose main advertising point seems to be that they speak four different languages. (Da Ivano- right off Piazzale Roma) They gave us books of Carnival pictures (photographer: Fulvio Roiter) and marsala, a yummy, warming digestivo. After lunch, we made our way to the hostel, a.k.a. the mushroom village, and experienced the "camping" side of hostelling. We came back to the

The most amazing mask I saw: his wings tower four feet above his head, and they open and close.
city and found Piazza San Marco. This piazza has been rhapsodized too well and often before now for me to do it justice: it is simply beautiful. As we walked along the water in the growing darkness, the basilicas scattered around the city lit up like magical onions floating above the black water: invaders from Constantinople. On our way back I happened to glance down an alley ending in steps to the water. A bewitching Mask stood there, fiddling with her fan, waiting for her ride to a ball, I suppose. I couldn't muster enough courage to photograph her.

Then an interminable wait for the bus, nearly crying with cold, and then we really did cry when we got back to the mushroom village to find no hot water. We made do with a few drinks, nursing them until they kicked us out of the warm bar, and fell asleep in our drafty cabin, huddled under every article of clothing we had.

Now, back to the city!
Have seperated from the others and gone on a determined quest to get lost. After an hour of failing miserably, I have been left with two impressions: one, that it
Two MasksTwo MasksTwo Masks

On the Ponte Accademia, w/ la Chiesa della Salute in the background.
would take a lifetime to fully absorb the beauty of Venice, and two , that whoever said it was inevitable that you would get completely lost in Venice was over-occupied with the map in front of them and completely missed the flow of the city. Wether I was in a crowd or not, it was the easiest thing in the world to take tempting turns, wander down passageways, and find myself in a wide sunny campa full of guitar music and robust singing and pidgeons taking flight from one of the innumerable bell towers. In fact, Venice seems to me more of a forest than a city, full of ancient trees, thick underbrush and impassable ravines, yet small enough that I always found myself in a familiar place.

I ended up on the water's edge, by Canale della Lindecca, only a bit south of the Accademia de S. Marco. I crossed the famous wooden bridge straight in to a market with the best knockoff bags I've seen, as well as Carnevale costumes. Finally made my way back to the Piazza, and fought the ruthless crowds of tourists for the best angle of the Masks parading in the sun, and

Apparently not too happy about all this ribbonry...
then entered the Basilica.

Of all the churches I've been in, this was the most sensuous. It is not a church that takes your breath away when you walk in: it is more inviting, paralizing with its Eastern wealth. The blue-green mosaic floors undulate under the foot like the waves that will soon cover it. An intimate altar in the corner was hung with red glass sconces that seemed to float of their own accord in the dark, and everywhere gold niches flickered in candlelight.

Now, after wandering back, I've finally bowed to the elements and taken refuge in a cafe to write. Another day, and my first taste of Venice will be behind me.

Additional photos below
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The most beautiful piazza in the world...
blasted pigeons...blasted pigeons...
blasted pigeons...

I hate pigeons. With a burning passion. And this one threw off my poor dumb camera's focus. But, turned out sortof cool, so I'll keep it.
The Mushroom VillageThe Mushroom Village
The Mushroom Village

Don't expect to find reliable hot water at the Alba D'Oro.

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