Espressos under the winter sun
Surrounded by a sea of pastel buildings, gondoliers and canals, a walk around The Floating City is like stepping into a dream
It was a cold morning, sometime around ten o'clock, when we arrived in Venice. Before we even stepped out of the car, I was already taken aback by the atmosphere and the dream-like charm of the city. With its reputation as one of the most poetic places on Earth, the water city was one of the most incredible places I have ever had the privilege to explore.
During a hot summer evening Venice was a postcard picture perfect idyll; under the winter sun it was like a place taken straight out of a fairytale. I thought I'd be immune to the beauty of "The Floating City" as I had seen countless images that portrayed its splendor, but I was wrong. Every time we took a stroll down the little alleyways and saw gondoliers taking travellers on a ride through the water ways of the canals, it was a reminder that Venice was more than the cliché stereotypes - it was all in the smiles on people's faces, the way they seemed to slow down just so they could take in the magic that surrounded us all. The picturesque landscape and the sea of pastel buildings was an easy view to picture walking up to every morning.
It was the day before Christmas and, to our surprise, the crowds were as big as ever. There were groups of people looking at Google Maps in the street corners in an attempt to find the tucked-away family-run restaurant they heard about from a friend and the decades old bookstores that were on their bucket lists; couples were holding hands whilst walking without an end destination, trying to take in the view; Asian and European tourists were observing the plazas through the lens of their Kodak cameras.
Our coffee lust led us to a little café on the side of the street. We took a moment to escape the nomadic crowd that was making its way towards Piazza San Marco, and sat down under the shade of a few umbrellas around a small, round table. It is no secret that coffee is a special ritual for Italians and I noticed that everyone's go-to order was a espresso, and the preferred way to drink it is not by sipping it down, but by downing it in one go. That was one of the quietest moments of the whole trip - drinking espressos and soaking up the winter sunshine in a moment of quiet bliss, sitting mere meters away from the busy streets.
Once we stepped away from the streets and walked around the bridges, we saw the city from a different perspective. A layer of fog dimmed the air. The cool whisper of the winter breeze was a reminder of the change of seasons. It started getting dark around four o'clock. If we thought that the alleyways around the canals couldn’t have gotten any more crowded, we were proven that the city came alive with the arrival of the evening.
The winter dusk felt magical in a special kind of way. As we followed the path of the bridges, I noticed the smiles on people's faces. As if pulled out of a dream, Venice looked exactly the way you would imagine it described in the pages of a story. The lights twinkled through the fog, the water underneath the gondolas glistened and the soft glow of the lamp posts gave a hint of secrecy.
We took the bus home. I watched through the window as we got further away from the centre. The street lights illuminated the way and outside the city looked quiet for the first time since we arrived. Inside the bus, there was a chatter in different languages. I heard a few German phrases and the guys sitting behind me spoke in French. We were people from all over the world, all heading to similar places, all brought together by the magic of Venice.