Which Way Do We Go?

Venice is a conundrum. For many, it’s a torture. For some, it’s an ethereal mysterious place that repays repeated visits.

In the summer it’s hot and humid. And in the summer it’s crowded, horribly so. And in the summer, rising from the canals, there can be a smell. Unlike American cities we love, take New York, for example, which is also hot and also crowded and also smelly, Venice is not perpendicular.

There’s no grid of avenues and streets that provide even minimal spatial orientation. To be in Venice is to be lost in a maze of tight streets, called “calle,” crossing one bridge after another, disoriented, ravished, or rabid. In New York you look up and see skyscrapers and the sky. In Venice, you don’t look up. You look ahead, you look sideways, you look behind, you look down. Where the hell am I?

I learned Venice by walking it in the early morning. Today, when I left the hotel to get coffee, I remembered that. Before coffee, go for a walk. Take a few photos of the empty sleeping city before it wakes up.

Later today we’ll take a boat to two outlying islands, Murano and Burano. To Murano not for glass but to see Santa Maria e Donato. To Burano to see colors.

We’ll catch the boat to Murano over by the hospital, stopping first in the church nextdoor to see Marcantonio Bragadin’s skin. He was flayed alive by the Turks in 1501 in the Battle of Famagusta. In 1575 the Venetian leadership dispatched a group to Constantinople to steal the skin and bring it back.

Bragadin’s skin, in the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, will be our first stop today. Can’t wait.

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