For once we will step slightly out of chronological order. Tom flew to England in mid-April to join Vicky. We then left almost immediately to rendezvous with Tom’s sister Inge, who was in Venice to deliver a lecture, an exercise which popular demand has made increasingly frequent in both Europe and the USA.


The great advantages for us of spending a few days with Inge in Venice – quite apart from the delight of her company – is that she is fluent in Italian, an expert on Venetian art as well as its confusing geography. It was not a great deal for Inge, burdened as she was by a couple of uncultured monoglot sailors, whose only appropriate talent was a willingness to walk considerable distances every day.





Grand scale, touristy Venice is well known through photos to almost everyone. The Doge’s Palace, the Campanile, St. Mark’s, the Accademia Bridge, the Grand Canal, the Rialto Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs, the Horses of St. Mark’s – they are all very well known, but non-the-less remarkable for their familiarity. We were lucky to be staying at the Fondazione Levi Music School, which had provided accommodation for the participants in Inge’s symposium. Though this palazzo, like so many, has a water entrance on the Grand Canal, its main entrance is now from a typically Venetian narrow alleyway.











Tom last visited Venice at the age of twelve, but remembered little, apart from the fact that it rained most of the time during the two or three days spent there. The weather was better this time, which is one of the reasons we have so may photos, as Vicky couldn’t resist almost continuous photo ops. The Piazza San Marco is just as imposing as ever, especially if you get there before the whole area is overwhelmed by day-trippers. We gathered that in fact the vast majority of visitors to Venice only stay for a few hours and see little more than the sights immediately around St. Mark’s. With Inge as our tour director, there was no way that we would get away with that. Exhaustive and exhausting coverage was the order of the day. But once we got past the tourists’ grand sights, it was a fascinating place, particularly in its more ordinary settings, if anywhere in a city like Venice can be called ordinary.









Even some of the tourist sights like the Arsenale towers, give hints of this in the building to the left, with it washing and peeling stucco. It was the small side canals which give more of a feeling of what Venice might have been like in the past than the grandeur of San Marco. For the most part these side canals are quiet. Though all are ‘old’, the houses are in varied states of repair, some with beautiful architectural touches, but most unremarkable. However, almost all give hints in the functions of their windows and doors and gates, of what Venice must have been like as a working, commercial city in its heyday.










There are also beautiful smaller architectural masterpieces tucked away, so that you can find or miss them almost by accident – unless you have Inge guiding you.


And of course everything of any weight is carried by water. The buses, ambulance, fire appliances, police, store deliveries are all water-borne. Because Venice is in a continual state of reconstruction and preservation, the builders also work from the water, but with just as much noise and delay as builders anywhere else.


Naturally, as sailors, we were also fascinated by the gondolas, from the highly polished sleek models used entirely for the tourists, to the larger less burnished traghetti, which act as minibuses for cross canal traffic. Their evolved asymmetry and the functional beauty of the oarlocks are fascinating – whether or not you are taken with the ‘romance’ of the gondolier.










What a good time we had – thanks to Inge.