VIAGGI – FAMILY TRAVEL
A city on water makes every dream seem possible. It’s a vision, a work of art that is part man-made and part divine intervention. With every breeze, you feel movement. With every wave, you feel a swelling potential. That is why I was always drawn to Venezia. When I was dating Antonio, my now husband, I often dreamed out loud about someday making it there.
In the summer of 2007, when I landed in Naples, he whisked me off to a car and told me I was in for a long road trip. He wouldn’t say where we were going except that we were heading north. I had a feeling I was about to step into the painting, experience the magnificence, and then some. Indeed, he was taking me to Venice, but not directly.
Once I guessed our destination correctly (when we were almost there), Antonio explained we’d be staying in Jesolo, which is accessible to Venice by a short water taxi ride. Most Americans have never heard of the place. I had not, and I have been traveling to Italy from the time I was 2 and writing about it since 2003. To be honest, I was a little disappointed at first. But my then boyfriend promised I was going to love it, and that we would enjoy this town, too. I hate to admit this because I don’t want to give him a big head, but he turned out to be right. It was fabulous.
Of course, we first headed to Venice. We visited St. Mark’s Square, where we became engulfed by a sea of pigeons. It was just like the movies. We shared a kiss near every bridge and watched the gondoliers take advantage of the tourists. We didn’t go for a ride because we recognized the swindling going on. Besides, we have plenty of relatives, who (after a few glasses of vino) serenade us with “O Sole Mio,” which is a Neapolitan song and shouldn’t be sung by those with Venetian accents anyway. We tried on the famous Mardi Gras masks. (Here, Mardi Gras is Carnevale.) We held hands, ate delicious food, and took in the scene. It was everything I hoped it would be.
Then, we indulged in gelato, our drug of choice, and hopped on a water taxi to visit nearby Murano, where we observed the finest glass makers in the world at work. And I shopped for vases and glass candlestick holders that I still treasure today. When it was all over, we returned to Jesolo, where we stayed at the family-run Hotel Fenix that cost less than half what it would have cost in Venice. While the hotel wasn’t perfect – the room was a bit small and the food was decent but not outstanding – it served its purpose. The staff couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful, and my future husband didn’t go broke making my dream come true.
Perhaps, the best part of staying in Jesolo was the nearby beach, where we lounged for an entire day, just the two of us. We took in the sun, walked along the shore as the waves tickled our feet, and savored anguria (watermelon) and peach iced tea. In the evening, we were super Italian and went on the passeggiata (walk) to the town’s square, Piazza Mazzini. We also did more shopping along Europe’s longest pedestrian zone. My husband bought chess sets made of glass that we are still giving out to friends and a ceramic chicken with a plump belly that sits in our kitchen in Italy, a reminder of the fun we had. Now, we can tell all of you that if Venice seems too costly, you can always stay in Jesolo.
Indeed, leaving Jesolo and nearby Venice was tough for me. But that was only the first of the dreams my then boyfriend had in store. On the way back to Naples, we stopped in a church in Padova, where he asked me to marry him. But that’s a story for another time.