Okay, that title was Google translated: I’ve never had a formal Italian lesson. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from trying to speak Italian in the few days I was there. Sometimes I start sentences well and end them in Spanish. Also, I guess my accent is hilariously British: the couple of times I managed a phrase correctly, people laugh and reply in English.
I fell in love with Venice the moment I set foot there. The entire place is a tourist trap – that’s evident from the start. I actually struggled to find locals that don’t work in the tourism industry (not that I was looking). I’m also as likely to hear English being spoken on the street as Italian, with a myriad of other languages forming an auditory patchwork of noise. Speaking Italian was not at all a necessity, really. Still, I enjoyed making life more difficult for myself and the locals who were unlucky enough to bump into me.
I’ve read descriptions of narrow, cobbled streets and roads being substituted by canals. It’s quite another thing to see it in person, however. The island was an explosion of colour: from stalls selling Venetian masks and Murino glass to flowers adorning bridges. The island was teetering on the edge of maximum capacity; walking down the street is an art in itself due to the amount of bodies packed into the narrow spaces, each carving out their own route. Gondoliers yelled at each other amicably, their oars deftly guiding their boats through the impossibly thin body of water and low, stone bridges.
The music – oh, the music! It seems to be woven so thoroughly into the culture that it’s as much a part of the landscape as the infamous canals and coloured glass. To my absolute delight, the first evening in Venice greeted me with a scintillating performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.
No orchestra, let alone cannons. This full-bodied arrangement was carried through by five ambitious musicians: a pianist, a clarinettist, a double bassist, an accordionist and a violinist. My traditional mind balked at the forces used: I have never seen such a grouping of instruments before!
Somehow it works. The acoustics of the huge St Mark’s Plaza justified the employment of these instruments with such powerfully distinct voices. The virtuosic players performed with their whole bodies, injecting such spirit into the performance that no cannons were required to make the music come to life.
Another half mile’s walk rewarded me with another middle finger to the unwritten rules of Classical music. Two violinists – two violinists! – played Vivaldi’s Summer with a click track! I nearly cried at the travesty. These musicians didn’t make their violins sing, however, they made the violins feel. It was as if body and violin were one entity. It wasn’t two guys playing violins – it was an encounter with two creatures of music that captured Antonio Vivaldi’s spirit and conveyed them to modern Venice centuries later.
Venice taught me that beauty came in different forms. Venice taught me that it’s okay to let go of traditions. Venice taught me that spirit and character, more than an adherence to tried and tested laws, captures beauty for what it truly is.