Venice, the city of bridges, the city of masks, the city where I fell into a canal.
Two things I’d heard about Venice: expect constant crowds, and embrace being lost.
Getting lost is part of the magic, the guides said, so wander freely.
Exiting the ferry, I immediately saw the part about crowds was true. In midst of a three-week solo trip, I was lonely, and disliked the jostling crowds. I would try to see the famous Piazza San Marco later, I decided. For now – I needed some magic. Keeping my phone with its map in my pocket, I twisted through charming stone alleyways. Eventually, I found myself in a courtyard with no other exit except an archway looking down into a canal. I crossed to it to look for gondolas and magic.
Instead, I fell in.
Two things I wish I’d heard about Venice: slippery algae grow along the edges of walkways, and falling into a canal happens very fast.
After splashing around for a few shocked moments in the murky water, I clambered back up through the archway. On solid ground, I assessed: I was soaking wet with a bruised arm and a bruised ego, but my belongings were dry inside my purse. Then – I remembered my phone. I clawed at my pocket but realized it was now empty. The sickening realization flooded me that my phone had fallen out, all of my photos, travel plans, and ability to communicate sunken to the bottom of the canal.
What next, after one loses her phone falling into a canal in Venice? A shower. I resisted panic and found my way back to the ferry, keeping my eyes straight ahead all the way to my hostel. What next, after a shower? A drink. I sat down at the hostel bar and ordered an Aperol Spritz.
“How are you?” asked the girl next to me, American, friendly face. I burst into tears.
Soon, a small, international support group had gathered around me. The story grew funnier with each telling. The American said, “I have an iPad you can use and mail to me after your trip.” A Swiss said, “Let’s get dinner.”
Back to the ferry – this time dry, surrounded by new friends, and filled with warmth over unexpected generosity. The ferry was followed by pasta, by wine, by dancing. Later, sometime very late, we walked through empty streets, lost, laughing, until we turned a corner and found ourselves in Piazza San Marco. The ornate buildings and statues gleamed white and breathtaking. The square was empty, except for us.
For one shimmering hour, on the day I fell into a canal, Venice belonged only to us. It was magic.
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