The weather continued blue and sunny. We woke to a thin blue sky and a white sun, as if behind a veil. But it was bright light and, in the sun, a warm day. But it must have been cold during the night because there was ice in the Campo, and we slipped a few times. Myles and I went out to the supermarket to buy breakfast and managed to make an enemy of the cashier who told us that we had to weight the pre packed bananas, and when we intimated that we wouldn’t take them, she lost her temper and went and weighed them herself. Oh, well. It was our last day. Perhaps we would never see her again.
We were booked to pick up a car at Piazzale Roma at 3.30pm so we had most of the day to wander about and enjoy the loveliness that is Venice. I had also arranged to see Marco; the cousin in Venice I had not yet caught up with. We had agreed to meet at San Giovanni e Paolo at about 10.30am but, as ever, we were running late. I think there might be a phenomenon of Venice time which we were not yet hooked into. It takes time to walk the calle, and even though this is a small place, it is also a deceptive place where time is swallowed up into the stones and water. We thought we left enough time but as we passed the small clock that heralds your arrival at Rialto bridge, it was already 10.30 and we had some way to go yet.
Up and over the bridge, no time to linger and admire the rippling waters of the Grand Canal, down the stairs, past Goldoni and deep into the other side of Venice. I don’t know this part of Venice very well, but there are signs (I must say, the signs are quite well hidden and are often not where you expect them to be, but it you hunt around, you can find them) and we managed to be at San Giovanni e Paolo about ten minutes late. There was no Marco; had he left in disgust? I found a phone and rang him. Ma no! He was also running late. So we found a place in the sun and waited. We actually went to go into La Chiesa di San Giovanni e Paolo but it was not one of our churches on the Chorus card. The children were so pleased; it was as if they had arranged it themselves.
Marco arrived and we went for coffee and hot chocolate and caught up. It was lovely. Then he showed us a hotel for sale on Bacino San Marco – Hotel Gabrielli (I think) – run down but amazing. A steal at 50 million. Sadly, we don’t have that kind of money. He took us to another little place for lunch where the waiter more or less took one look at us, and did the ordering. I actually insisted on tasting the lamb sauce that was on the menu (he was not pleased with me) but he did bring a plate of sweet and sour sardines (a Venetian specialty) with white polenta and tiny, tiny shrimp. It was amazing. We drank prosecco happily, and then tucked into pasta. I could live like this – bearing in mind that for Marco, this was a work day. Happy, happy, happy. He had to leave after lunch; we wished him well, and set off for our final tour, and goodbye to Venice. Myles, in particular, was feeling sad about this, he had really fallen in love this time. We had been here together in 1999 but he said that it hadn’t had this effect on him then. This time, the magic had crept into his bones. I felt sad too – this for me is a melancholy city anyway – but I also figure I’ll be back. Goodbye to San Marco; I had a final look from the church down the piazza. This would have been the view my parents would have had as they exited the church after getting married. They must have felt so special; as if they were part of some timeless masterpiece. Through the calle we plunged; time (despite the whole timeless thing) was against us – this phenomenon of the time in Venice and we had to be gone from our apartment by three. We had not packed even a singlet yet.
Goodbye to the stone under your heels, goodbye to the colours of the buildings and the Turkish style windows, goodbye to the low doorways, and the city upside down wonky in the waters. Goodbye to the particular smell of Venice; I haven’t found words for it yet. Perhaps never. Goodbye to the little bars that suddenly invite you as you turn a corner, and the dogs that wander the calle with their owners. Goodbye lovely Venice for now.
We packed by flinging all our stuff into three bags. We are down to three bags; I’m not sure how (we began with seven, and we have bought more stuff along the way. Physically, it makes no sense). We belted over to Piazzale Roma and made it there bang on 3.30. The bloke at the car hire counter awaited us patiently as we crabbed walked our way into his shop front, dropping our bags and shutting the door on our hands and toes. Myles and I huffed up to the counter. I asked him, in Italian, if he spoke any English. He shook his head. So I proceeded to explain our booking in Italian. He let me go on for some time; and then began speaking English. His English was perfect. A little joke (possibly at my expense). But he was charming and very helpful and told me that my Italian wasn’t half bad; or my accent was quite good.
We were in the car and away before we knew it.
Our last sight of Venice was gliding over the road that joins Venice with the mainland and looking at the light blue waters that guard her. Sigh.
We were headed for a week in Tuscany, but before turning there, we were going back to Padova. Why, you must ask. Well. Niccolo had studied the saints at school this year and one of the saints that had stood out to him was Saint Antony. Saint Antony had a voice so beautiful and uncorrupted that it was a gift from God. When he had told me this, I had told him that in his church in Padova, you can see his tongue and teeth. Niccolo was in a fever to see this. So we indulged him. I thought perhaps something would jog my memory this time about Padova as we drove in, but again, a big blank. But I have to say that I like the look of Padova very much; it is beautiful. We found a park right by the church and hustled in. Passed the tomb of San Antoni, and into the chapel of the relics. And there, in what looks like priceless jewelled display cases, were the tongue of Saint Antony, the jaw of Saint Antony and the vocal cords of Saint Antony. Even Paris was gripped. Zelda was a little disappointed that the tongue was no longer pink – it was a kind of mottled black – but there it was none the less. Myles wondered about removing bits of a body for display. Yes, well.
It was time to leave. We programmed Samantha for the tiny Tuscan town of Vicopiano and set off.
We were guided by a spectacular sunset. And behind us the moon rose full. The moon was low and yellow and looked like you could lean out and smell it. What might the moon smell like? Not sure; a candle perhaps. Wax, and smoke, and heat. It would have hung beautifully over Venice. But we were not to see it.
A bitter sweet farewell.