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a glass horse and a solitary accordion

We’ve been here three days and two nights and even when I’m on dry land, it feels like I’m bobbing up and down on a Vaporetto. I keep having to check with Emma when we’re on solid ground as I can’t tell the difference any more, even when my eyes and feet tell me that the stone slabs of the pavement must be solid. It’s quite disconcerting. I’m finding the feeling so ubiquitous that if my wise-headed friend wasn’t here to tell me differently, I would be seriously wondering if Venice as a whole just bobs on top of the lagoon. It’s not constant: that’s the weird thing. If it was, then I would know that there was a problem with my ears. I could conclude that perhaps I’d developed momentary vertigo. But no. It’s just every once in a while. It’s like my brain is a blob of oil rocking every so often on a barely perceptible wave. Up and down. Up and down. Then it’s gone.

This is part of the reason why today has been a bit of a haze. That and the fact that we had two half carafe’s of red wine at the Trattoria last night. Trattoria Chinallate is a low lit and tiny place, tucked back on Calle Albanesi, with the walls of the Doge’s Palace prison on one side. Our newly made art selling friend led us there, pointing out holes on the way, worn down by centuries of guards’ fingers. He tells us how they would poke into the crevices and press their ears against the fortress of stones to quietly catch inmate’s guilty confessions.

Bless Beni. He did us a bargain on two charcoal drawings whisped into life by his creative brother. He must have liked us. Apparently bargaining doesn’t happen in Venice. Or he was just pleased we weren’t French. Venetians really aren’t a fan. Something about how rude they are. I’ve not been brazen enough to tout that eternal truth that, often – when you really don’t like someone – it says more about you than it does about them. But we have thought it out loud together, when far enough away from Venetian ears. Sleek brunette Cuba-born Giselle who we met this evening conspired with us and professed that the northern Italians are renowned to be…how shall we say… slightly more abrupt? Funny though that it only seems to be those engaged in the service industries that have such contempt for the foreigners they serve. Ask a resident of fair Venice for help or directions (which we have discovered a need to do fairly frequently) and they couldn’t be more obliging to you in their fair floating city.

Yesterday was one of those rare perfect days where all your senses collide and happiness bubbles up inside. You know that feeling where you want to squeal like a child discovering the liberating brilliance of a swing for the first time, or break spontaneously into a life affirming song, or spin round and around with your arms out wide and your face pointing up to the sky?

Being chaperoned around the canals by a striped singing flat hat was all Emma requested of Venice. This would however, we had just read, cost us in excess of eighty euros. Not something that can be justified. Unless two middle aged Spanish ladies on a mission to do exactly that, with only half a day’s leave from their cruise ship, pounce on you the minute you disembark at San Marco.
20 euros each later, we’re gliding under bridges and learning from our bald and incredibly Italian gondolier, that his family have lived here since the fourteenth century. His grandfather was born in that ancient house with the crumbling walls and faded elegance. As we sweep past gated entrances and water gardens I conclude that at some point in my future I must come to a Masked Ball here. I’ll be chaperoned by my very own gondolier and will glide into one of these graceful entrances. Maybe I’ll be wearing an Elizabethan style dress of heavy material which drops to the floor from a delicately embroidered bodice with a flattering square neck. An exotic mask will hide my face but not my smiling lips and I’ll peep out with glittering eyes at the magically handsome man who has brought me. We’ll dizzy ourselves silly on champagne bubbles and sweep around a glamorous chandelier accompanied by rich strings and scores of other half-hidden couples. One day.

For now though, I’m satisfied with our pragmatic Spanish cruising couple, and we absorb the magic of this place which can only be fully explored and appreciated from the water.

“So…to Murano?” after a strong pole-familiar hand has helped us off the narrow boat.

The sun has made a welcome appearance now and as we hop onto the shore at Murano, a throaty voice ushers us in the direction of a (free) local glass workshop. There’s a curtain at the end of a white domed corridor and we feel the heat of the furnace before we see it. I think I came here as a kid. I wonder if I gasped and cooed in awe like the little girl in the middle. One full cheek blow down a long tube into a bulb of glowing molten glass, a delicate pinch, a gentle pull, a flourish of forceps and by some wizardry this stout-limbed man conjures up a tiny see-through horse. He sets it down in front of the mesmerized dozen. We are jaw-dropped as it rears back against the sunlight catching in it’s hooves.

They’ve been practicing glass artistry here since 1292 and it shows. There’s a red and orange octopus in front of the church and you’ll find a garden of breakable roses and scentless lilies watched over by a steady eyed owl next to the water fountain. By the lighthouse, a carnival of ducks crane their necks up towards the sun as they strain to lift their heavy webbed feet from an iron pier.

We bought our icecream for the day (me Melone, Emma Coconut: addicted) and wandered over a sunny bridge seeking out the origen of the music which had drifted across the water. At the bottom of the steps on the other side we discovered that the notes were had originated from the fingers of a Murano-native. His shy smile spreads from under his faded baseball hat and across his soft tan face as he welcomes us to sit down and listen for a while.

“Emma….I’m so happy I could burst”. Her laugh ripples out across the open water.  It’s certainly not every day that you get such a blend of all the senses in such perfect proportions.

Burano is just as pretty and we drink in houses of lavender, dusky pink, sunset orange and moss green; their ethereal reflections in the rippling canal waters.

I could say, if I wanted to be a bit Shakespeare about it, that we surely had a surfeit of beauty yesterday. Does he not talk about gorging on eye-pleasing sites and becoming sick with beauty? Although that may be more ‘Twelfth Night’ than ‘Merchant of Venice’?

We made the long journey back to plates of butter-melty pasta in our prison-side-Trattoria, with sunshine stroked skin, eyes crowded with rainbow houses, tounges drunk on perfect licks of gelato and ears kissed by a solitary accordion at the foot of a bridge.

If only you could bottle it.

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