100 Cities

Venice and the mind

The light in Venice is like none other, inspiring one to paint, or imagine brush in hand. One understands what has compelled masters, and even local artists creating watercolors to sell to passersby. The beautiful cold, golden light of Venice. It is a privilege to roam its passageways. To tread the route a young Marco Polo may have taken after a day of exploring to get home in time for dinner. I can envision him, in soft red boots, racing through the city of canals all the way to China.

Venice has inspired pilgrimage, poetry, literature. From Voltaire’s Candide to Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice. And the words of Lord Byron’s Childe Harold:

I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs,     
A palace and a prison on each hand:     
I saw from out the wave her structures rise     
As from the stroke of the enchanter's wand:     
A thousand years their cloudy wings expand     
Around me, and a dying Glory smiles     
O'er the far times, when many a subject land     
Looked to the wingéd Lion's marble piles, 
Where Venice sate in state, 
throned on her hundred isles! 

These thoughts were with me on a rare afternoon, not two weeks ago, working in Italy. After living in various states of quarantine and lockdown, confined to a net work of streets in New York City, it seemed a miracle. Suddenly to be on the very bridge of which Byron speaks, surveying the same waters. A day off in Venice, in between a handful of small concerts, another miracle. I was well aware of my good luck, even though masked, to be in there, devoid of tourists, roaming free.

The atmosphere for the potential traveller is yet a divided thing. We are still living within a pandemic and it is necessary to be prudent. There is uncertainty, a bit of the feeling that someone is looking over our shoulder; the fear of a spreading variant. Yet beauty is a respite, inspiring optimism. Stirring the desire to express ourselves, see with new eyes. We have traces of Marco Polo within us, the urge to be in motion. I was happy to be in his city, history and culture in every turn. I stood on a curving bridge, absorbing the light, praying all will soon be well.