Durable Growth

Venice 2007: Beginning to look about

Guidecca Channel at Dusk

Guidecca Channel at Dusk

For a holiday respite, some of my posts through December and into January will tell of a trip I took to Venice in 2007. Using photos and notes that I took at the time, I’m highlighting the urbanist issues of day-to-day life in perhaps the most famous car-free city in the world.

After three posts, I’ve managed to get myself inside the front door of my well-located but headroom-challenged apartment near the Grand Canal.   In this post, I’ll begin looking around the city that I was to call home for the next two weeks. (Four posts and I’ve barely covered a single day in Serenissima.  I need to move along more quickly.  Maybe next week.)

First Destination: With bags unpacked and a short nap having shaken the worst of cobwebs from a trans-Atlantic red-eye, Venice beckoned with urgency.  The Rialto Bridge seemed an appropriate destination for a first outing.

I took a good look at a map and headed out on foot.  Having learned lessons from my attempt at Venetian pedestrian navigation, I did better this time, ducking into passageways that looked nearly private and crossing over bridges that seemed headed into dead-ends.  A good rule for Venetian pedestrians is that if there isn’t door blocking the way, it’s likely a public route.  And if it’s a public route, it’s likely essential to reaching a fascinating district of the city.

With barely a misstep, I found the Rialto Bridge, passing through an area of enticing restaurants and the end-of-day activities of the Rialto Market, one of the great public markets of the world.

Grand Canal from Rialto Bridge

Grand Canal from Rialto Bridge

I can take some 1,500 digital photos before downloading photos to my computer and clearing the memory cards for more photos.  In the numerous trips I’ve taken before and after my Venetian adventure, I’ve never come close to that limit.  In Venice, I had to download photos several times.

It was from the Rialto Bridge, looking at the centuries-old buildings along the Grand Canal in the golden light of a fading day, when the wonder of Venice was really driven home.  And when the memory cards of my camera began to fill.

Taking a Vaporetto to Parts Unknown: Having successfully found the Rialto Bridge, I decided to wander farther afield.  I hopped a vaporetto without checking the route map, trusting it to take me to a place that I would find delightful.

Automotive manufacturers suggest that a car is a route to freedom.  In the rural countryside, they may be right.  But in a city, a car is an anchor.  Between sitting in traffic, circling in a search of parking, and taking a second mortgage to pay the parking tab, a car doesn’t provide much freedom.

Instead, hopping aboard transit to parts unknown, letting serendipity take hold, is the ultimate urban freedom.  Especially when the travel is accompanied by the gentle slap of waves on a hull.

And sometimes it also leads to great photos.

I found myself near the southern tip of the island, a neighborhood that I would later explore more fully.  But for tonight, I stayed along the water, following a broad walkway looking across the Guidecca Channel toward Guidecca Island and the San Giorgio Maggiore Church, a structure which had played a key role in the history of architecture and which I would also later visit.

On the landside as I walked was a tall fence, covered in jasmine that was fully in bloom.  I’m not always scent-oriented, but this evening the jasmine was an essential part of the scene.

As the light turned increasingly golden, I found the photo that remains my favorite from the entire trip.  Looking across the light chop of the channel at the church steeple, with navigation pylons in the foreground marked with lights that looked as if they’d been stolen from a London street, it wasn’t the quintessential Venetian scene, but it captured the magic of Venice for me.  I can’t smell jasmine without thinking of the setting.

My exploring quotient complete for the day, I returned to my home neighborhood, found a trattoria on the Campo San Polo, and had a frutte di mare pizza with a beer, happy with my first day in Venice.

The next day, I’d begin to explore in earnest.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. – Dave Alden (davealden53@comcast.net)

Written by Dave Alden

Dave Alden

Dave Alden is a Registered Civil Engineer. A University of California graduate, he has worked on energy and land-use projects in California, Oregon, and Washington. He was also the president of a minor league baseball team for two seasons. He lives on the west side of Petaluma with his wife and two dogs. The blog that he writes can be found at http://northbaydesignkit.blogspot.com.

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