15 June, 2006

23. Play misty for me

Most of the tourist pictures you see of Venice show the city bathed in sunshine. The Adriatic climate may be semi-Mediterranean, but it isn't always that good. According to the locals, it rains a fair bit more than most tourists seem to think. Which either means that tourists tend to go to Venice only when the weather is nice, or Venetians like to complain a lot about their weather.

The city of Venice is actually more beautiful – if such a thing is possible – in the softer light of winter. Even when the sun is shining in the colder months it is lower in the sky, the shadows are not as deep or as harsh, and the glancing light shows the textures and details of the decorative buildings better than overhead glare.

Nothing else could be as beautiful as the basilica and the ducal palace when they are surrounded by the chill winter mist at dusk. Gondolas appear out of the haze, and the pink lampstands glow gently, making this place even less like any other in the world.

Sometimes a winter day can be clear, sunny, and pleasantly mild, but later in the day it will suddenly remind you that you are standing on a few small islands at sea-level in the middle of a lagoon, when the cold mist rolls in and wraps itself around you, sucking out your warmth.

It is the kind of damp that anywhere else in the world gets into your bones, but here it gets into your soul instead. Rather than shutting it out or hiding from it, you want to open your arms out and embrace it and dance in it.

And coming from a man with two left feet, that is really saying something.

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