Venice in winter

Venice at night
Venice at night

When you’re traveling, it seems that instead of being caught in your normal predictable routine with small unexpected occurrences, those small occurrences become what guide your travel, if you let them of course… And such was the case for my girlfriend and I’s visit to Venice in December of 2010. I say visit but it was really more of a quick stop for a night en route to Rome via train. Although not an amazing twist of fate, what happened that night surely turned out for the better and demonstrated how travel can be a very fluid thing. As with many of our flights in Europe that winter, when the arrival time was supposed to be 9:00pm, that meant you could be expected to arrive around midnight. In a sleepy town like Venice, this meant that lodgings would be difficult to secure at that hour. We had a train to catch the next morning so we thought that it would be fun to wander about Venice for the night until dawn. We had met an Australian man on the flight into Venice and invited him along for the late-night marauding we spontaneously planned. We thought that at least we would find a bar where we could warm our bones against the damp, chilly evening of late December Venice. It was raining out, and we needed a place to shield us from the downpour that waxed and waned in almost rhythmic intervals. We did indeed find a bar, a charming place where we could enjoy some good wine at a cheap price. We were only there an hour or so before the bar started closing and we had to continue our aimless meandering. We soon realized that everything was closed in Venice. No bars, no hostels nor hotels, no cafes in which to seek refuge. As we twisted about the dimly-lit narrow streets of Venice, going under and over the small stone bridges, taking turns at random, sometimes happening upon this piazza or that piazza, our situation looked bleak.  We knew we shouldn’t go back to the train station, from whence we came, to sleep because a police officer had warned us about muggings taking place there often enough for him to have to mention it. As we wound about the old deserted Venice walkways, we passed by a small group of about 6 young Venetian men and women who seemed to be on their way home from a night out. The three of us murmured ‘hello’ as we passed them, focused on our plight that night and what we might have to do until morning. As we walked a bit further we found an alley that was protected from the rain by a stone archway. We stopped there, considering amongst ourselves that we could take a nap there under the damp yet shielded-from-rain underpass and then head back when the train station opened. A few minutes passed, and one of the young women whom we had just seen came back trotting up to us and offered for us to go with them to their house to get out of the rain. We followed them to a small gate of one of Venice’s many Renaissance-era houses, each a beautiful example of architecture of the period and no two alike. The Italian students were extremely hospitable. They cooked us penne pasta with whole cloves of garlic and the most delicious lemon olive oil that one of the women’s father had made at his country house. They were also very generous with their alcohol. They brought out a plastic 2-liter bottle of locally made wine that cost 2 euro and was easily as good if not better than a $20 bottle in the US (That is truly the great thing about Italy and France, their wine can cost so little and yet be so delectable). We searched each other’s homes on Google-earth, spoke of our professions and studies, and stayed up chatting and refilling our wine glasses into the wee hours of the morning. The Australian and I played stringed instruments that we had both bought separately and coincidentally in Turkey. Finally, my girlfriend, our companion, and I left their house for the train station to catch an early departure for Rome. We still keep in contact with them and will always remember yet another example of how winging it whilst traveling can be exceptionally rewarding.

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