There is one thing that I find easy while travelling: getting lost. Finding myself lost in a foreign country was scary at first. But when it happened many times, I took it as an adventure.
The first place that I blissfully got lost was in Venice. The walk from Venice Santa Lucia Train Station, Ferrovia to Piazza San Marco took me forever.
Along the way, I took many wrong turns and being alone in a superficial place, I almost cried. Many times I found myself caught in the maze-like narrow lanes and sometimes it seemed like there was no way out. Some of the lanes ended up on someone’s door. But somehow I managed to get to San Marco Square by finding and following the crowd. I swore to myself that time, if I ever come back to Venice, I will bring a map.
And then four years later, there I was back in Venice again, forgot to bring what I supposed to bring. I instead brought a friend, Evi.
“Emila, you’ve been here before, I hope you can take me somewhere nice where we can do plein air drawings,” Evi said.
“Uh-oh,” I replied.
Evi had wanted to sketch Venice since the first day we arrived in Italy. That actually makes the two of us. The last time I went I was so caught up in finding my way around.
And so we took an early train to go to Venice using regional train. Regional train is cheaper but slower than the fast one, costing only Euro 12 to compare to Euro 30. After validating our tickets (failure to do so can result in a fine), we boarded the train.
It was funny how the view along the way was somewhat different from what I saw four years back. Italy has changed a lot, I thought. But that was not the case when the ticket conductor came and check our tickets. He said the train we boarded was not bound to Venice; it was bound to Padua. We panicked and later boarded off the train. We took a train back to Bologna Station (paid extra 10 Euros for our tickets) and then took a correct train to Venice.
Before we boarded the train, I told Evi, if we ever got lost in Venice, we should find a hotel to sleep and find our way back to our base in Bologna the next day. She agreed as she could not do much about it as I was the so-called ‘expert’.
We reached Venice at about 11.30 am and first thing we saw was a Moleskine shop! We dropped in and bought each ourselves a Moleskine Sketchbook. We already had bought some in KL but we just need to add one each from Venice. Moleskine is an Italian company based in Milan. Moleskine products include sketchbooks, notebooks, planners, diaries and many more. The design of the current Moleskine sketchbooks were based on sketchbooks designed by a small family-run French bookbinder in Tours, France almost two centuries ago. They produced it for stationery shops around France. However, in mid 80s, it had discontinued production after the death of the owner. So, I reckon that the last owner was unmarried and was the only child of the last generation – seems logical, right?
After Moleskine, it was lunch! We were super hungry since we just had a slice of bread and a cup of espresso for breakfast before we left for Venice.
Funny thing was, I seemed to know where to go. We did not cross the canal, but instead just walked along Carnareggio (the lane on the left side of the Santa Lucia Train Station) to find a place to eat. We found a halal restaurant called Trattoria All’Aquila. Evi had Penne al Pomodoro while I had Spaghetti alle Vongole. Evi sketched her lunch first. I could not draw with empty stomach so I decided to draw later after I finished my lunch.
Then we just followed our feet around Venice to admire beautiful buildings and found a spot to draw at Campo S. Sofia, off Carnareggio main lane. The buildings are all so beautiful.
Luigi Barzini described Venice as “undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man” in The New York Times. I have to agree him because every building appealed to me, not to mention picture-perfect. I could go on taking pictures of all buildings one by one. But I was there to draw, so I only managed to cover little part of it.
Our trip went smooth, it was windy and cold but we managed to stop by another location to do a drawing before following the crowd to get to the ferry station at San Marco Square to get back to Santa Lucia Station and then to Bologna.
We missed many touristy spots namely Rialto (where I got lost on my first trip), Murano, Burano and Torcello but we didn’t mind. As long as we set foot anywhere in Venice and drew something, that was good enough. Having Evi with me on this trip gave me the strength and confidence to stop worrying too much about getting lost.
On the night train back to Bologna, Evi told me, “Emila, although we only discovered 5% of Venice today, I think if we ever come back to Italy, I don’t want to go to Venice. I want to discover the place that we got lost earlier today. You remember the signboard at the train station where we boarded off?”
“Yes, you mean Montselice?” I replied.
“Yes, that’s the one.”
“Sure Evi, getting lost in Montselice sounds like a great idea. I’m getting the hang of it,” I remember telling her before I dozed off to the sound of the regional train moving slowly towards Bologna.
[This article appears in Gaya Travel magazine, issue 9.4.]