I first arrived in Venice, on a stifling summer’s day in 1988, carrying a heavy rucksack that smelled of damp and chafed my nipples. I was penniless, and very hot and very bothered, gazing at the Fascist architecture of the railway station. We took a boat to Giudecca and stayed in a youth hostel with deliciously cool showers and a fig tree. Later we began to explore and I was transfixed. We ate crusty rolls and thick slices of cheese in a courtyard as it was all we could afford. I had travelled with my friend Graham, a more experienced traveler with a taste for Baroque and opera, taking a night train that rumbled through Alpine meadows and tunnels as we rocked in tiny bunks. It was a wonderful trip, days of sun and nights of pastel and fairy tale lights, a time when I was young enough to live on magic and imagination, when I could relish the sensations and sounds. I remembered how I had longed to come here, from childhood, having heard tales of Marco Polo, of the Ghetto, of Doges and an empire that stretched to the Levant, dripping in spice and gold. I returned years later, in winter when the air nibbled my cheeks. The alleys and steps were deserted at night, slippery, ghostly, Gothic. We ate in a restaurant with table cloths and a wine list, red walls shimmering in candle light. Full and merry we took a boat and train back to Mestre in the moonlight. After another interval I came with my spouse, staying in a hotel this time, like grown ups. Layers of memory, a place for all seasons, for all stages of my life.
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