It was 20 years ago that I visited the land of Venice, Florence, Tuscany, Roma, Pompeii not to mention pasta, pizza etc…
The visit also marked my 30th birthday and in my haste I failed to photograph the digital display I chanced upon in Roma showing the date 1 SETTEMBRE 2000. My path took me elsewhere that day so my regret is ever present.
I almost returned to Italy in autumn 2011 but of course ended up choosing Asia and a whole new adventure. My journey was documented and can be found in the ‘Voyage of Nomad’ book which will hopefully be available here in due course (but Gum Road for now). Meanwhile here are some excerpts…
Twinkling in the sea ahead I could make out the road that juts out to Venice just before we banked and I got the equally shiny industrial pipes and turrets of smoke, streams of chemical gunk and goo. Hardly what I was expecting of Venice. With a graceful bump we were down and the proverbial stewardess cliché of ‘Welcome to’ drifted over the PA as we rolled off onto the taxiway.
Freshened up and fed I wander as normal without much map aid. My first sight of a gondola and oh my God, I’m in Venice! All the signs read either ‘Rialto’ or ‘St. Marco.’ Meandering down the alleys without wondering where I am or where it leads, one of them opens out into the giant piazza and its basilica. I am taken aback and soak up the atmosphere from the harbour end, the gondolas violently bobbing in the breeze.
I made my way back to my room for a much needed siesta. In the dark all manner of sounds crept in: the loud TV (which unusually didn’t bother me), the Italian dialect seeping from windows of adjacent buildings, the screech of washing line pulleys and the smell of washing powder, jangling keys and their hosts attempt to open their doors (the locks were severely dodgy taking much manoeuvrability of key and patience of character) and the clangs and chimes of midnight churches all fused together into an ambient Venetian cocktail.
Out on my first Roman promenade, The Colosseum grabbed my attention from a side street. Its vastness surrounded by a grand road itself big enough to halt me in my tracks and consider a way across.
There was no need for me to enter the Colosseum, everything I needed to see is on the outside but I did venture into the Forum across the road and as I admired its ruins, to my delight the muggy air was perforated by rain and the sound of thunder reverberated across the sky, by now a strange grey brown hue.
In 1980, I saw the film ‘Pink Floyd in Pompeii.’ The image of David Gilmour and co walking through the mist carved an indelible imprint on the mind. Now 20 years later, it was my turn. Pompeii is indeed big, so you can imagine how big Vesuvio’s blast of discontent was to swallow an entire town.
The problem I faced, being latter day interference, meant I couldn’t tell what was old or new. One of the former rooms had a plasterer in it (a living one) and in the middle of this historic museum, a shop complete with Coca-Cola. As yet omitted was McDonalds, hotel complex and population, though one suspects the latter quite happy away from the tourists in the Pompeii that exists today.
That said, it’s a rare thing for me to do a tourist trap. The locals screaming at me to buy photo film, ice cream and God knows what else did little to persuade my return.
The thing with Sorrento, cliffs and similar lanes aside, is dogs – lots; all cousins of Cujo by the look of things, all dewy-eyed and full of pus and shit. It was only a matter of time before I stepped in it, Cujo’s revenge?
Over the past 16 months, for every town visited I must have missed another one. Amalfi, one of those I’d wanted to see was originally a two night stay, whittled down to one, a few hours and finally thanks to a bus stand-off not at all.
The trains joined them to paralyse the network. No-one went anywhere until one o’clock earliest. The woman at the station lost it when I tried to wean some info, ranting “This is a newspaper shop not information.” I could only look bemused and smile. Ciao for now.
PLAYLIST AND CREDITS
Meanwhile, stay tuned with things here at Kulture Kiosk via THE ATLAS or on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram where you can see some of my photos from around the world. Blog originally posted September 2015.
Playlist and credits follow…
Wildlife – Penguin Cafe Orchestra
Nocturnal Sightseeing – Steve Jansen/Richard Barbieri
The Night Gives Birth – Steve Jansen/Richard Barbieri
Found in a Shell of Murmers – JBK
*most of Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri’s Stories Across Borders album would suit a nocturnal stroll around Venice, you can read my review of that album above.
Photo Credits: KH except Jansen/Barbieri album cover from discogs.