More than seven hundred years have passed since Marco Polo roamed the narrow allies of this famous city. As I sit on the small, second floor, restaurant balcony of my hotel and look over the beautiful Grand Canal in Venice, Italy, I understand the reason Venice gave birth to an explorer. The maze of canals, bridges, and secret pathways must have been an incredible training ground for exploration. With the fear of getting lost on my first day in town, I decide to get to know Venice a little by taking in the sights and sounds from my balcony.
FINALIST 2012 YOUNG TRAVEL WRITERS SCHOLARSHIP
It took a few minutes for me to get a grasp of my location, but after studying a map of Venice, I come to a conclusion. Venice is a group of islands that has a large canal in the shape of a horseshoe running through the center. With my vantage point established, I make a place for my elbows on the balcony rail by pushing the red flowers and vines out of my way. I rest my chin in my hands as I watch the water taxi boats. As the taxi drivers make their turn into the entrance of the Grand Canal, the faces of their passengers light up with excitement. The narrow canal leads to a world that is different from any other place. The old buildings with green rooftops and red tinted exteriors stand upon tall stilts of wood. Enormous hotel and restaurant doorways open directly onto the water.
My right elbow asks for a break from the rust of the iron balcony, so I switch over to leaning on my left side that faces me toward a huge bridge that connects one island to another. The sign that proclaims it the Rialto Bridge is surrounded by tourists that climb over a hundred steps to get to the top of this famous landmark. I watch as family after family take turns snapping pictures, so they will have proof of their trek across the largest bridge in Venice. I follow a man with my eyes as he pulls a wheeled cart up one side, and down the other until I am distracted by a huge clap of water below where I am sitting.
Water, which seems to make music, is lapping at the sides of the canal. The beat of the waves crashing against the buildings and the voices of the men rowing the famous gondolas make me start tapping my fingers on the table. The songs that the gondoliers are singing are so beautiful even though I do not understand a word of Italian. I am ready to take my turn in the canoe-shaped boat with my guide dressed in stripes as if he has escaped from jail. The convict thought goes away when my head turns quickly as I hear a scream from below.
A teenage girl walking down the sidewalk that borders the canal had took her shoe off and tried to stick her foot into the murky water. Just as she fell into the nasty water of Venice, someone from behind me said, “Every tourist thinks they can do that, and it ends up the same way every time.” The waiter had a smile on his face as I turned and laughed at him. He told us of how the water stands for so long that it becomes slimy on the edges of the walkways. He was right about how many people fall, because during my time of taking in the sights, I saw two more people hit the water.
My secluded spot on the balcony starts drawing a crowd of hungry hotel guests. The loud conversations echo through the small restaurant to a point where I ask my family if we could leave. When all of a sudden, the area is filled with silence. The sound of a church bell rings through the allies and canals, changing pitches as it passes by different building heights. I close my eyes and imagine an organ with the landscape of Venice acting as its pipes. It is one of the most beautiful things that I have ever heard. I stand up to leave my interesting overlook, and realize that of all the sights that my eyes have seen today, the music that my ears just heard will be a memory that will bring me back.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.