It could not be so. Fifteen days in Venice seemed like a long time during the planning stages of this adventure. Fifteen days as a visitor in any city should be enough. There have been places—the memories are sadly indelible—that have worn on my psyche after a single night. Fifteen days in Venice in the dead of winter, it should have been enough. It wasn't.
The regrettable countdown began some five days earlier. Five and then four and then three and then two and then this stabbing moment came to be. I stood on the Zattere for the last time, looking out over the Giudecca Canal for the final moment. I was on my morning walk—for the last time. I looked at my shadow and made a photo. "I shall remember this moment…with this photo," I proclaimed to no one but the sun, my shadow, and me. I looked into my shadow for some solace. It was not to be. I was despondent. I walked slowly back to the apartment. Everyone had packed. The bags stood there at the door.
Usually a travel day on an adventure is a refreshing thing. A change of scenery is invigorating. Moving on is an essential part of travel. But, leaving Venice is an unnatural act. Venice was conceived for grand entrances. It is a vast and ostentatious stage meant for curtains to be drawn, not fallen.
"I will check the tides to see if your taxi will make it under the bridge," our host, the Contessa said. She went to the windows of the palazzetto that faced the canal and peered outward. I secretly wished that the taxi couldn't make it. The driver would need to turn back and call us from somewhere else. Maybe we'd miss the blasted train to Bologna and then be forced to stay—for forever, maybe. Alas, the tide was ebbing, the Contessa declared that taxi would be fine. And in five minutes...it arrived.
We loaded the luggage onto the boat. Had our bags had gotten heavier since our triumphant arrival? Or were our heavy hearts bogging everything down? Gravity pushed down on us as we boarded the boat. My back hunched, my jowls sank. We took off on the long journey to the train station.
I sat inside the cabin. I could barely look out the windows. My camera was packed away. "Nothing here to photograph," I said to myself as I gazed downward at my feet. This simply could not be. Fifteen days was supposed to be a long time. And it was gone. So too was Venice. The stark modernity of the train station stood before us. It was time. It was over.
We got out, trying not to slip on the marble's green slime. I walked up the stairs to the station entrance. I stopped, forced myself to turn back and I looked out. I looked out to the very first view I ever saw of Venice. I looked out at my life as it was twenty years ago. After a long, first journey to Europe I'd been at this very same spot, coming into Venice for the very first time. It left me breathless back then. I was breathless again.
I could not stay for long. I'm not much for saying goodbye. I turned and went into the station and then onto the tracks. Our train for Bologna was waiting. There was no sense in hanging around any longer. Bologna was like home to us. We'd be in for another triumphant return.
But, with apologies to Bologna, there is no place like Venice. Every time I leave the place I must promise myself another return. Otherwise, the pain is simply too great. And so far, for twenty years, I have been true to my word. The best tonic to leaving Venice is planning the next trip back to it, something we are doing at this very moment.