Wishing I Were Going Too

Jacob’s good friend Kate left this evening for Italy.  She and her Mom planned on visiting Rome and Florence, and forgo Venice.  At dinner one night a couple of months ago, we told her this story.  They added Venice to their itinerary.  I hope they love it as much as we did.  I wish we were on that plane, too.

(This is a re-post.)

*     *     *

Eight-year old Jacob looked at me as if I’d gone crazy.  He stopped in his tracks, put his hands on his hips, tilted his head and spoke to me in a tone that was a prelude of the teen years to come.  Looking back, he had some justification.

You see, I was talking to him about Florence, Italy.  I was telling him some of the things I’d learned about the city and its history in preparation for a visit we’d be taking there in about two weeks.  I finished up my quick summary of the history, the art, the architecture, the famous people who’d lived there.  I then offered an enticement.

“You know what, Jacob,” I said.  “I read that most Italians find Florence to be their most beautiful city.”

“Mom,” my son said with his hands on his hips and his lips pursed, “how can any city be more beautiful than Venice?”

Because like me, Jacob had fallen in love with Venice when we visited that city a year earlier.

We actually went to Venice twice.

In August 1998, John, Jacob and I had gone to visit American friends who  were staying in Trieste, which is on the other side of the Aegean Sea.  Venice could be easily reached via a short train ride.

Truthfully, I wasn’t all that excited.  Venice wasn’t really high on my list of places I had to see while we were in Europe.  But we were so close, so of course going seemed like a great idea.  We’d spend a day there, and then on other trips I could see Rome and Florence — the Italian cities I really wanted to visit.

Our train was delayed by a couple of hours, and the evening train cancelled.  So we had four hours to see the city.  It would be plenty, I was sure.

Until, that is, I stepped off the train and found that I really had been transported — we’d landed in a place that was nothing like I’d imagined.  A truly magical place.

I’d read that it feels like you’re back in time because there are no cars in Venice.

I’d heard about the light in Venice, that there is nothing quite like it.  The buildings, mostly built of marble of different hues, reflect the water and the water reflects the buildings.  They both seem to dance at the slightest breeze.

I’d learned about the architecture in Venice, a mixture of European, North African, Middle-Eastern with hints of Asian, styles and materials brought back from the known world by the traders and explorers that built the city and made it fabulously wealthy.

But nothing, nothing, had prepared me for the impact that the beautiful city had on my heart — from the moment we stepped off the train.

Our afternoon gave me a much too quick taste of the magic.

With two young boys and a baby in tow, our first stop was for a late lunch — pizza on the Grand Canal.

Marco just couldn't believe that he'd missed the ice cream boat!

Jacob and Marco, who just couldn’t believe that he’d missed the ice cream boat!

We crammed as much as we could into an afternoon.  August 31st, when everything was mobbed.  We spent time in St. Marco’s Square, visited the Basilica and the Doge’s Palace, crossed the Bridge of Sighs into the Doge’s prison.

When we got back to the train station, I made John promise me that Venice would be our next destination.  An afternoon was not nearly enough time, and my heart was breaking at leaving the magical city.

We started planning to go back to Venice the instant we arrived back home to Switzerland.  Jacob had a 5-day weekend in early October.  So we booked train tickets, a hotel, and got ready to go back.  We arrived at dawn, which is when all the guidebooks tell you to arrive in Venice.  Because the colors from the sunrise reflecting on the water and on the buildings that line the canals.  It is a sight that I will not even try to describe.  Indeed, I’ve never seen a photograph or read a description that did it justice.

Our visit was filled with beauty, from start to finish.  But it is the last night I want to tell you about.

We had done as much touring as you can do with a 7-year old.  A few museums, a lot of churches.  We climbed the campaniles (bell towers) of many churches to get the perfect view of the city that all three of us had fallen for.  We saw masterpieces by Titian, Tintoretto and others, still hanging where they were meant to hang — in the churches of Venice, and in the unique light of Venice.

We went on a gondola ride, of course.  It was wonderful AND schlocky.  We saw Marco Polo’s house.

PIC00022 (2)

But on the last night, Venice captured my heart, and Jacob’s.

We’d finished dinner, and wandered back into St. Mark’s Square.  Jacob wanted to climb the Campanile, the bell tower.


Jacob with the St Marco’s Square behind him. The Campanile standing tall behind him.

We’d climbed the Campanile once already, but Jacob wanted to see the city from that prospect one more time on our last night, hoping to view the city as the lights came up on the buildings.

We loved the view, but were surprised to find that the buildings weren’t illuminated.  We climbed back down into the square, which was completely empty except for the three of us.  Two rival orchestras that were setting up outside of two restaurants on opposite sides of the Square.

The three of us wandered into the center of the piazza when it happened.

Behind us, one of the orchestras began playing a Viennese waltz.  The sound transformed the square into our own personal ballroom.  The light was fading, but soft lights around the square glowed on the Basilica, the clock tower.  Jacob took my hand, bowed, and walked me into the middle of the square.  John, the non-dancer, gave Jacob and I our moment.

My son and I — we danced.  Just the two of us, all over the cobbled square.

The instant the first orchestra had played its last notes, the orchestra on the other side began.

I could have danced all night, from My Fair Lady.  It was true — I could have.

As people began to fill the Square, we thanked both orchestras and headed back down to the Grand Canal, for a last stroll past the Doge’s palace, Vivaldi’s church and the other buildings that had seen millions of people like us come and go.

We crossed a small bridge and stopped to look across the canal at the Church of Santa Maria della Salute, and the golden ball atop the customs house.  We gazed back at the gondolas covered and berthed for the night.  We turned towards the Bridge of Sighs, where prisoners crossed from the Doge’s palace into the Doge’s prison and sighed at their last breath of freedom.

Jacob stood on that bridge with tears running down his cheeks as he looked at the beauty that surrounded us.

“I can’t believe we have to leave Venice,” he said, his heart breaking along with mine and John’s.

Photo credit:  Photozonly.com

Photo credit: Photozonly.com

della Salute by Claude Monet.  He apparently liked Venice, too.

della Salute by Claude Monet. He apparently liked Venice, too.

Was Florence more beautiful than Venice?  I don’t honestly know.  We spent nearly a week in Florence, but it rained so hard that we literally never could see the views and the vistas of that city.  But if you’re going to have a vacation where it pours, I highly recommend Florence.  There are one or two things to look at.

But Venice.  Ah, Venice.  I have never been anywhere like Venice, a place I really wasn’t that anxious to visit.  It captured my heart, and John’s and especially Jacob’s.  It is a magical place.  Words and pictures, even by Monet, cannot capture its beauty or how it made me feel.


I was inspired to finally write this story by DJ Matticus of The Matticus Kingdom who wrote this lovely post.  In the last year or two, John of Johnbalaya sent me back to Venice not too long ago, as did Renee of Renee Johnson Writes.

Somehow, I’m always happy to go back.  Magic and Venice.  Yup.  I’m willing to do either any time!


Filed under Humor

47 responses to “Wishing I Were Going Too

  1. Glazed

    Now I’ll have to put Venice on my bucket list. Thanks for this enticing description. Sigh–there goes my money.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was 8 when when we spent Easter in Venice, I still remembers bits and still love it. I wish I could have gone back all the times I was working in Europe, but never had the time. One of these days I will simply go before I can’t travel anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. so awesome… I was only in Venice for one day 10 years ago… but I loved it… and Rome.


  4. (staring dreamily off into space) Sigh…..Calgon take me away to Venice!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Calgon? Wasn’t that a water softener? I don’t know if a water softener would take you to. VEnice. The water there is kinda stinky fro time to time.


  5. Take me with you next time you go! I was there during the heat wave a few years ago. I sweated wine and danced in dirty water. Didn’t matter. I loved it, my wife too. That place is beyond a city, it’s a creation that could have come out of a book. It is magic.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I took a trip to Italy a few years ago, but was not able to visit Venice. This post makes me sad I missed it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • People love it or hate it. I haven’t heard anybody say they thought it was OK. I don’t know whether to say you will go some day and love it, or that if you had gone you would have hated it. (Since I like you, I’m assuming you’d love it, but if it makes you feel better ….)

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Neither Venice nor Florence are on my must-see list, but I think I might need to put Venice on there. It sounds lovely!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really is like no place else — and I was surprised. But it helps to have a young boy who likes to dance with you! I would have loved the city without the dance, but with it? Oh my.

      Florence was wet for us, but the museums were fabulous and the food just incredible. I have been trying to remember the name of a restaurant we ate at — for a reasonable price — that had been in operation for centuries. One of the best meals of my life. But I can’t remember the name!


  8. What wonderful memories Venice holds for you. Interestingly in my travels to Italy, it wasn’t a favourite of mine. Perhaps I needed to explore a little deeper into the city!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Other friends have said the same thing (and not only the friends who, with their 3 children under 7 rented a ground floor apartment that flooded …). So I am a little nervous that these folks might not be as enamored as we were!

      Italy — anywhere in Italy — is wonderful in my book though! Beautiful cities, countryside, people and food. What’s not to like?


      • I so agree Elyse. Italy is an amazing country to visit, I would go again in a heartbeat!


        • Me too! Years ago I had a horrible diagnosis of Stage IV cancer and the doctor told me to get my things in order. She was wrong luckily. But among my first thoughts was “I’ll never get back to Italy!” Of course, that was 10 years ago, and I still haven’t gotten back …


  9. I loved Venice, too. We took a tour of Italy and spent 2 or 3 days there. Besides seeing all the tourist sights you mentioned, one late afternoon my boyfriend and I just wandered alone all over the city. We saw kids playing in little squares outside of their homes, moms sitting in the windowsills watching. It was really amazing. It sounds cliché but I think it’s a very romantic city. Thanks for taking me back.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know, sometimes cliches are based in the absolute truth. It IS a beautiful, romantic city. The light is indescribable — especially when (at least for me) my only impression of it was in those tacky pictures in pizza places!

      It sounds like you saw some of the best parts. Imagine living there! I would love to spend a month there, just wandering. I will need to win the lottery, though!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. PS: Entry and exit via cruise ship is awesome. We got very lucky. The docks were full, so after a big u-turn, we docked by the sidewalk, just 5 minutes from St. Mark’s Square.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I don’t remember this post … so thanks for the re-post. 😀 … and I think I would have remembered it with your mention of Trieste.

    Venice is wonderful in so many ways … it’s physical beauty, the streets of water, the reliance on your feet, the history, and more. To me, the best way to see Venice is to try to get lost. I hope your friends took along a copy of Rick Steves guide of Venice.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Do you think he has the proper depth of appreciation for this incredible privilege? He’s so young. I don’t know how he could. Perhaps later when he gains perspective. I wish I could take my daughters to Europe. *sigh*

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, no. He is now 23 (nearly 25). He remembers bits. Mostly he remembers when we accidentally ended up in the red light district in Amsterdam.


        • High school age for most kids is best. But we lived in Europe so …


          • I’ve always questioned the wisdom of taking very young children on expensive vacations. They can go to Akron and it’s all the same to them. Unless you’re already living in Europe…

            Liked by 1 person

            • I think it depends on the kid…. Jacob is not and never was terribly interested in art or architecture. I don’t think that would have changed had we waited and taken him later. You do have to tailor your trip when you’re traveling with a kid — and eat a lot more pizza! But he loved the castles, enjoyed (but doesn’t remember) the art .

              My family never took us anywhere. In high school I had the opportunity to go to London for a week for $150! I went and got bitten by the travel bug. Then, years later, I brought my Dad over for his first European trip for his 80th birthday.

              You never know how life is going to pan out!


  13. Dave

    Wow! Lucky young man – I can’t believe he got to go to Venice twice at such a young age!

    I got to go once – for a day, on a school-sponsored (but parent-funded) trip to Italy, Germany, Austria and Switzerland back in 1999. I still remember it fondly. What a fascinating little place!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Venice isn’t my favorite Italian city, but even with all its tourist-trappiness, it’s definitely a must-see. Especially because it’s sinking and won’t be there forever.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That was why I didn’t really care to go. But I loved it! And I discovered, most of the time, anyway, that there is a reason tourists go to tourist-y places. You just have to overlook the schlock!


  15. I never made it to Venice. Instead, I got to enjoy the dubious pleasures of Rome–city of holiness and iniquity in equal measure. You now made me regret it was on my ‘not so important to see’ list.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Beautiful story. Thank you for sharing. Makes me want to go too.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Such a beautiful city!!! Sigh.


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