Venice, Italy
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Venice - A Love Story
By Tim McDonald

The woman is young, beautiful and Italian, and I wait for her in the open courtyard of the Hotel Europa. The northeast Italian sky has not yet begun to show a glimmer of the new day and the sparse lights of the courtyard make the early-morning fog rolling down from the hills glow orange.

Will she arrive before the others awake? Will we be seen? Reported? Punished? Will she have second thoughts and not even show up? Was it just the wine of the previous evening, or is this for real?

A pair of headlights appears abruptly through the fog. The car stops. The window rolls down.
"Get in, quick," she says in her accented English.
As we speed toward the train station, it is hard to tell who is more excited.

The idea had begun innocently enough the night before. How can you travel through Italy with a group of travel writers, so close to Venice, and not actually visit the legendary city, I asked her. Venice, the city of poets. The Bridge of Sighs. Lord Byron, Attila the Hun and Napolean Bonaparte. More than 1,400 years of history, art and war.
Maybe it was the Merlot that made her sympathetic, maybe it was her rebellious Italian character or maybe she had simply grown bored with her official tour guide duties, but she agreed it was madness. A clandestine plan was hatched, out of earshot of the other writers and tour organizers. She would rescue me from the group at an ungodly hour and whisk me to the train station.

It takes about an hour to get to Venice and as I step off the train platform, I'm faced with one of the most delicious scenarios of the itinerary-weary traveler: standing on the threshold of a beautiful, ancient city with no plan other than to wander around and get lost in its labyrinths of mystery.

Photo Below - Venice
A water travel way in Venice, Italy

Lost in Venice
Venice is a city built for getting lost. Narrow, sunlit alleyways lead away into darkness. Back streets circle away from deserted squares. Venice isn't a particularly big city in terms of square footage, but the old center of the city is full of mysterious mazes, pathways and bridges.
So, for those first morning hours, before I hit any of the famous places, I let the city take me where it will, at its whim, without thought or reason. Barbara got me to Venice, beauty will be my guide.
One of the first things to strike me about the old city is its everyday art. Other great cities of the world have world-famous art museums. Venice certainly has those, but what sets Venice apart, and what leads me like a ghost guide through her streets and alleys, is the everyday art so accessible to anyone who happens to wander by.
Almost everywhere you look, there is something graceful, beautiful or inspiring. It might be a statue here or a painting there. Not on exhibit in some great hall, but there on the street, in the corner of an intersection or high atop a building. Even the shops – crass commerce – hold beauty, like the mask shops.

Continue: page 2 of Venice a Love Story

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