The flight to Milan had been uneventful. The next two weeks had been very eventful. The weather and the sights were fantastic. All over Italy by coach from the north at Pisa and Florence and onwards to the south via Rome as far as Capri and the Amalfi Coast then northwards up through central Italy. The weather had been fabulous for nearly two weeks, but towards the very end of the holiday as we approached Venice, the weather started closing in. We were going home in a couple of days so it wasn't too disappointing, almost allowing us to refamiliarise ourselves with our expected weather patterns back home.
That evening, the coach driver took us all into Venice and we spent a while getting used to the canal buses and finding our way around. It hadn't started to rain yet, though it was threatening to do so. The air was still warm and it was really quite a pleasant evening. We arrived back at our hotel very tired, ready for our last full day in Italy. When we awoke we were greeted by the torrential downpour that had threatened the evening before. We packed our bags in the gloom and it did give a feeling of disappointment as we settled down to maybe watch the Grand Prix on television as something to do later that afternoon. Philippe, our courier, being as optimistic as ever, suggested that our coach driver take into Venice those of us who wanted to go instead of doing nothing in particular on that last day. A group of about ten of us decided to take up the offer and the hotel management lent us some wet weather plastic raincoats and umbrellas. It seemed that the weather may not have been particularly unusual. We set out for the short trip into Venice wondering what we might do when we got there.
We arrived mid-morning in the pouring rain and walked the short distance from where the coach had parked to a canal bus pick-up stop. We must have boarded the wrong bus as we were taken into an unfamiliar area. The six of us in our group decided to get off the bus before we ended up too deep in a less busy part of Venice. The canals and back streets had begun to take on a sinister appearance in the gloom and I thought of Daphne Du Maurier's book "Don't Look Now". Everything was wet. Did I see a small hooded red raincoat? Spooky.
Fortunately, we had a local street map and after a period of study, began to understand where we had gone wrong and probably where we were. Quite some way from the centre of Venice and in pouring rain. We started walking through the back streets and alleyways of Venice. We eventually reached the Rialto Bridge and were encouraged that we were moving in the right direction. We had reached this place without needing to cross over a canal at all, just going around the left or right turn at the end of a path. The group split up and we went on our ways.
The rain began to stop and blue sky showed itself occasionally behind the cotton-wool looking large white cumulus clouds. Throughout the morning, the wet ground steamed as the water evaporated in the growing heat of an Italian summer afternoon. We had walked into an area of Venice on a main canal and crowds were beginning to form. We had no idea what was happening and imagined it was just another busy afternoon in Venice in the summer when people came out to enjoy the weekend. Then things began to happen as the weather began to change quite suddenly. We became aware of a growing number of unusually large gondolas as we spied them through the spaces between the ever increasing number of people.
It turned out to be the most exciting and memorable day imaginable from the depressing and gloomy start and transforming into a brilliant spectacle before our eyes. It was going to be a carnival on the canal! We sat on the edge of a canal somewhere in Venice amongst hundreds of local people all watching this procession of gondolas of all shapes and sizes filled with Italians dressed in the most beautiful and brightly coloured costumes of reds, purples, blues and yellows. On that glorious afternoon, the pageantry and colour was truly wonderful. The crowds of local people all chattering away in Italian made the original sinister day a really warm occasion on that sunny afternoon. A real carnival on the canals of Venice and we were actually there on that one day of the year that it all happened.
On the day of our flight home, the sun shone on us once again. The entire group had been ushered to the wrong departure gate at the airport and the monitor showed us lining up to go to Manchester. A long way from Gatwick airport near London! The error was corrected and the trip from Marco Polo airport was then uneventful. We didn't talk much about our fabulous day in Venice as most of the people on our plane hadn't experienced the spectacle. We reached our destination safely with our memorable holiday complete.
Right up to that last sunny day.
© Louis Brothnias (2005)