Julie Noble

Serendipitous- the Wrong Waterbus for Venice.

Julie Noble in Burano

We’re Venice virgins, staying at Lido for our Wedding Anniversary.  This morning the Lagoon’s haze lifts early, so propelled by warmth, excitement and the sight of at least twenty people piling onto a boat that is facing the right direction, we rush through the barriers and jump on. The conductor indulgently at our eagerness.

But “P.Sabbioni” says the onboard screen. My husband and I exchange puzzled glances, so I fish for the guidebook, just as the boat answers us by swinging round in a full turn. Shrugging, we settle down to read about Torcello, the first Island that the desperate refugees inhabited in the fifth century. Here they survived, and for a time thrived, before moving to create Venice.

However the steady Vaporetto does not go straight to Torcello. After changing at Punta Sabbioni, we see a slanting campanile, for Burano is the home of a less-famous leaning tower. The island’s bold, bright buildings intrigue as we draw alongside, slabs of colours with fringes of washing hanging across their confident housefronts, draped like the lace the place is famous for.

With the Torcello Vaporetto not due yet, we follow a local artist carrying his blank canvas, and a group of school pupils, who chatter along through the picturesque streets. Soon we are boxed in Hockney hues, admiring a palette of shuttered houses on a delightful morning canvas.  

The Spring sun highlights threading canals where locals are loading up tiny fishing boats; elsewhere the rays warm quiet campos. We watch a bending Signora carefully choosing a particular cardboard box from the heap of recycling.

San Martino church is mausoleum cold, though lit by bigger windows than basilicas. Inside is richly decorated with artwork. I admire the honoured Madonna and Child: crowned, jewelled, and worshipped by a staunch row of glowing candles.

We reheat ourselves with Cappuccino on lemon-clothed tables, then peruse the shop run by the local artist and his son. I hover over the bold-hued houses, especially the ones with the washing portrayed. The father includes it in the paintings, the son leaves it out. As a mother of five, I particularly admire this tiny sign of domestic acknowledgement.

It’s a quick trip to Torcello, where Hemingway regularly stayed. We are pleased to visit the Basilica here before the biggie at Venice. The gold mosaics predate, the tessellated floor holds a myriad of patterns which are better developed in St Mark’s, but the apse here has much more presence. The design gives the appearance of a heavy-lidded eye. The iris is the Virgin, her own brown pupils are the compelling centre, and her gaze rivets you beneath it.  

I kneel humbly underneath, the cold seeping into my bones, thinking of the thousands that were penitent here before me.

Afterwards, even with the sun, it takes a long time to get warm again.

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Julie Noble has been published previously in Mslexia, She Magazine, Writing Magazine, and in the US.

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