Magnificent and unexpected

Piazza San Marco.

I continue in this post my journey through Italy. Too quick, too hurried, but fascinating all the same.

(I dream of the day when I am not beholden to an employer any more and I can travel at will.)

The train ferried me from Verona back to Venice on a warm Sunday afternoon. I was curious to see, at last, the city of palaces built on a mosquito-infested swamp. What were they thinking?

Along the Grand Canal.
The train rolled into the Santa Lucia station and when I stepped out, I finally saw what Venice’s founders envisioned. What they built is truly magnificent, no other city in the world can compare. In fact, the entire city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Next, I boarded a water taxi at Ferrovia and 14 stops later along the Grand Canal, I’d reached my destination: San Marco. My hotel was a step away and just around the corner from the main plaza in Venice.

I was meeting two of Kevin’s brother’s here. Yes, I know. A strange thing to go on vacation with your husband’s brothers. But their trip was planned and how easy was it just to tag along? Kevin did not have enough vacation time to make it work.
More about the family in my next post.
Chatting with John and Sue Maso at dinner.

The first night, my brother-in-law Peter and I found a cute trattoria not far from the hotel. We were tired and hungry and filled up on spaghetti with seafood.

Next to us was a couple from Perth, Australia. She’d asked us if our food was good before ordering.
“Delicious,” I said. “Where are you from?”
“Oh, really?” I said. I lived there for a bit way back in the seventies.”
John and Sue Maso, it turns out, were on a multi-nation adventure. Their days in Italywere to be extra special. John’s parents were from Vittoria Veneto. But the family moved to Australiaafter World War II.
Johns’s father returned four times from Australia. On each of his first three visits, the pope died. It was an omen. The fourth time, he died. That was in 1991.
Veneto was on John’s bucket list. He had to go back to see it, meet family, he explained.
Bangladeshi Shipu Mollah served us our dinner.

I could see he was excited and nervous all at once. He savored his steak as did Sue her spaghetti and seafood.

We laughed and talked some more about Italy. They had enjoyed their day trip to the island of Murano, where glass blowing is an art honed to perfection.
Then it was time to pay the bill. Our waiter Shipu Mollah was young, handsome and I could tell from his speech, very Bengali.

He’d come to Venice from Bangladesh, looking for work.

What I did not know at that moment was that in the three days I was to spend in Venice, I would speak more Bengali than I have in six months in Atlanta.

All the men who sold gimmicks and toys and souvenirs to the tourists were Bangladeshi, as were many of the waiters and shopkeepers. Syad Shamim Ali told me he arrived only a year ago in March — from Libya.
Of course, I thought. I remembered when I had written about Bangladeshi laborers clamoring to get out once Moammar Gadhafi’s rule seemed uncertain.
They’d been transported to the borders at Tunisia and Egypt. Many spent days and nights in the open before they were able to board a ship to take them away.
Life was different in Venice, they told me. Of course it would be after war in Libya and the abject poverty of home. But they did not speak of cathedrals, palaces or aquamarine lagoons.
All they saw were the thousands and thousands of tourists. They were lifeblood.
The Bangladeshis missed their families, their homes — some had not returned in years. But it was possible to make a few dollars. There were a few possibilities here.
Their words would hang over me during my time in Venice.
In between the pricey gondola rides and bottles of Valpolicella, I thought of them, trying to just make it. Life in Venice was certainly no vacation. Not for them.
The basilica and tower at San Marco.


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