I have been to Venice once before as a kid – my mom took me and my brother and I remember a warm sunny day, with carnival processions, and markets, and glass-making demonstrations. There was also eating fish, and shopping for souvenirs, and visiting the Romeo and Juliet square in Verona (which blurred into the Venice memories), and feeling a little bit trapped and lost with hundreds of people in tiny little alleyways.
So this year we went to Venice to catch the tail-end of the 56th Biennale, and what we found there was so profoundly different from what I remembered. We went for late-night walks in narrow, labyrinthine alleyways, tracing the maze that is Venice as if we were the only people on the floating city, with patches of light glistening on the wet cobblestones. Sometimes the canals get so hazy in the cold, that the water disappears into the sky without any traces of a horizon. We find an open shop, glowing with gold-like warmth against the dark and quiet street, filled with Venetian masks and the mask-maker, dressed in his white coat with glue or paint or something on his hands. Then we find an open bar, and we watch a gang of old and tipsy Italian ladies whilst sipping on limoncello, spritz, prosecco and wine. And then the sun comes out on Sunday (affirming me that my memories were real) and people dare to hang their clothes out to dry. The water turns clear blue just before we have to take a boat back to Italian mainland, back to cold and windy London, which feels a lot different than cold and windy Venice.