Dispatch, Venice: An art lover's concerto: Travel Weekly

Venice is a good place to get your heart broken.

Because, in Venice, you are amongst friends.

Somewhere out there are a pair of star-crossed lovers in a painting hanging at the Accademia or Peggy Guggenheim Museum who have been suffering for much longer than you. There’s probably a fresco or two in Doge’s Palace desperately in need of repair as time bitterly chips away at its centuries-old paint. Some ancient Byzantine tomb beneath St. Mark’s Basilica is on its last leg because the place just won’t stop flooding. Someone, somewhere out there, is riding alone in a gondola at sunset that was supposed to be meant for two.

Yes, Venice — I, too know what it is like to be drenched in saltwater.

But I’m finding it hard to have a bad day here. The city simply won’t let me. Somehow it knows the winding path to lifting my spirits. 

The author wanders through one of Venice's many narrow alleyways.

The many lefts I’ve taken around these endless corners — leading me down corridor after corridor through narrow alleys that eventually feed into grand open squares flanked by churches, cafes, gelaterias and people — distract me from feeling anything but curiosity, a defiant sense of wonder.

Sometimes getting lost is the only time I know where I’m going. That happens, I think, when you’re just looking for something new. Lost is a destination here in Venice; this is my kind of labyrinth.

I walk for miles in Venice, trying to make sense of things. Is that the sharp pain of rejection I feel in my heart? No, those are shin splints. 

I’m a New Yorker and even though walking is my currency, Venice leaves me feeling short-changed. The ground I’m covering is certainly not New York miles — these are Venice miles: one mile back home only adds up to what feels like half a mile here. And it’s not because Venetians use the metric system. 

Streets are not straight here, at least not for long, and when you factor in going up and down the stairs of canal bridges, you’ll be reminded why people look at you funny when you opt to walk from Terminal San Basilio (where my Uniworld cruise ship, S.S. La Venezia, is docked) to the Giardini, instead of just taking the number 6 vaporetto. 

Uniworld's S.S. La Venezia docked in Burano, Italy, a small and colorful island located in the Venetian Lagoon.

I guess the U.S. dollar is the only thing that stretches a little farther here in Europe this summer, because it is certainly not the mile.

There’s a statue I can’t stop thinking about. It’s of a woman who represents Venice at its most triumphant time — defeat. At least in my opinion. You don’t know true victory, true success — true love — until you’ve lost it all. There she is, that broken sword in her hand, vowing to make a comeback. She’s not done. It’s not over. Just you wait and see. And sure enough, that’s what happened. That’s what I like about Venice — this city has known defeat.

And I, too, Venice, have certainly known defeat. 

But the best thing about defeat? About not getting what you want, about things turning out differently than what you expected, about things “just not working out?” It’s that opportunity to start a new chapter, to start a new day down a new street and turn new corners you’ve never laid on eyes before, and learn how to make a new sword that will fight for the happiness that you want.

All you need is time, maybe a little saltwater and a canal bridge or two to help you get over to the other side.

This is more than just a floating city, more than just a place with a lot of art and good cicchetti — this is Venezia. 

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