Wings outside a cathedral. Nothing unusual about that. Not for Venice, anyway.
Her streets may be thronged with tourists, but the city is alive with those who live and work here – simply rise at dawn and wander through the fish markets behind the Rialto, or have a quiet coffee with the locals in a backstreet cafe before they head off to work and you realise how many people live in this place of no cars.
Despite once boasting an Empire which ended only with the arrival of Napoleon, and so many of her buildings wearing an air of faded grandeur, Venice remains a city which has melded her past with the world of today.
I learnt to understand Venice through her art. I never quite understood the allure of Byzantine art, until wandering through Venice where suddenly the works made sense. In Venice I could see how style evolved down the centuries through the Renaissance and the Venetian School, to touch more modern artists (of whom Klimt is a prime example.) Walking her streets was like walking through these artworks, and they now spoke to me in a way they never had from the pages of a book.
So, for me, the allure of Venice lies in this juxtaposition of these different worlds. A crumbling archway leading to the Grand Canal; flower-shops filled with seedlings for this city of hidden gardens; a gondola repair shop dating back hundreds of years, now building a mock tank. The sounds of opera coming falling from the balcony of a private palazzo; the Bibliotecca in St Mark’s Square hidden by giant advertising; the aromas of the evening meal being cooked in the house opposite the convent where I am staying.
Ah, Venice – alluring, unusual, and always worth visiting (again, and again…)