Friday, June 5, 2009

Dream No More.

In October 2005, we took the honeymoon we'd put off for four years for lack of funds and time. We went to Rome, Florence, and Venice, shuttling through the lovely countryside between them on a train but choosing on this trip to keep company with culture rather than nature. In Venice, we practiced the fine art of getting lost, our pockets stuffed with maps we (mostly) happily ignored and simply following where the stone hallways that pass for streets there might lead.

As those of you who have been there know, labyrinthine does not even begin to describe it. One narrow alley shoots into another, spills into a corte--a small piazza with a stone fountain, or sometimes a church--that serves as a sort of joint between limbs, a connecting place, a flexible spot in which you might alter your course, picking a passageway that spokes off irregularly in a different direction from the one you entered by. At times, the streets are intersected by the canals, and you find yourself crossing quite the raised eyebrow of a bridge. Because these streets have walls, you are never quite sure what's coming, can never quite see what's ahead--which is, of course, the beauty of getting lost and the absolute beauty of Venice as an experience.

It was on one such trip out one evening, down some back streets of the Castello, one of the oldest sections of the city, that I rounded a corner and found myself looking down a few steps into a private courtyard. The whole place glowed with glass and lights. There were stone pillars and black wicker chairs around little tables, and I stopped in my tracks to gaze at the entry to this little boutique hotel that just looked so unlikely in that particular lost alleyway. I got wistful, in fact, wishing that I was coming back later that night to this particular oasis of peace and calm and glowing light, instead of the louder and darker and decidely chintzier hotel where we were staying.

I tried to remember its name, etched on the wall, but all I could gather of it later was that it began with an "L." I had dreams that took place in that courtyard. Oh, yes, I did. But, even though I ran various Go*gle searches on it several times over the years, its name remained a mystery. I thought maybe it was a "Locanda" (the Italian word for B&B), but none of the ones I found by searching online were right. I played with interactive maps of the area I thought I was when I rounded the corner into that courtyard, but I still couldn't be sure what streets we had wandered down when we found it.

Today, the mystery is solved. I found the place that sometimes appears as a mysterious backdrop in my dreams. And, now, in typical fashion, I'm not sure what to do with it. Yes, it's a lovely hotel. No, I won't be staying there any time soon. And, yes, that expectant, uncanny, SecretGardenesque feeling I had that night is no longer there when I look at the pictures of the place on the website. It's the right courtyard, I'm certain of it (although minus the flags and umbrellas and drapes and ferns--in my memory, it had cleaner lines). But context is missing. And perhaps context is everything.


  1. It is a city of dreams. I traveled there by myself, and got lost and lost and lost, but there was a new boyfriend around every corner.

  2. So true. I arrived in Venice half frozen after traveling through the alps (by train) in the isle. Every seat was filled so I was the only person sitting (on my backpack) in the isle outside the compartments.
    A Canadian man offered me his seat when he saw me shivering with cold. I took it long enough to warm up and then returned it to him. I think I arrived in Venice on bad terms. When you spend months traveling alone you go through periods of great loneliness. Moments of kindness remain with you.

  3. Twenty-five years ago I rode up the Jordan Valley to Jerusalem on a bus jammed with surly Israeli reservists, Bedu women taking their goats to the vet, kibbutz kids on school trips to Masada. I stayed at a place called the Pligrim's Inn; dark, cheap, reeking of cigarettes, cumin and ancient drains. It was as close to pitching a tent in the caravanseri as you could have managed in 1984. It was part of a fairly magical journey.

    But that place exists in that time, in the mind of a much younger, very different man. I doubt if I could recreate the feelings it awoke in me today. So I'd have to agree -context IS everything...