|Time In Venice
October In Venice ~ by Suzy Fischer
|We woke up on that perfect Venice October day and went down to a breakfast of bread and coffee as is the Italian custom. We did not know yet that it would be the most perfect of Venice fall days, with the sun still warm, and mostly just the townspeople left to go about their days after this summer's mad rush.
We chose our bread and butter and jam, and even the chocolate that the Italians spread on their bread at breakfast. We ordered our coffee from a stiff backed proper Italian waiter, in his starched white morning uniform.
Across from our table, behind your back, I saw an old man who I knew must be the patriarch of the family who had owned this little pensione for 200 years. He was being led to his table, carefully and slowly, by the unsmiling and proper Italian waiter, who had a starched white linen napkin draped across his forearm
The old man finally reached his chair, at his table, and the waiter carefully helped him sit. Then, with unsmiling that tender care he snapped open the white linen napkin and tucked it under the old man's chin, being careful to cover every bit of the old man's dapper silk suit and Italian silk tie.
The two men nodded barely perceptibly to each other, in unspoken agreement that this morning would be like all other mornings, before and after, and forever to come.
With that, this stiff backed waiter brought the old man his piece of bread, and his coffee, just so. Presently, the old man proceeded to pour spoonful after spoonful of sugar into his cup, so much that I thought surely his cup would overflow. But, of course, having done exactly this on hundreds of mornings before, he knew precisely when to stop. He then picked up his spoon, took a sip of coffee from it, a nodded contentedly to himself, and then he broke off a crest of his bread.
"Look !" I said to Adrian, "You've got to see this.
"Come sit on my side of the table where you can watch".
"What?" you asked. "Just watch", I said the "You'll see. . . "
The old man then took just enough more sugar from the bowl to make up for the set he had just taken, and dipped the crust of bread into the coffee, and ate it, chewing thoughtfully. "What?" you asked again, impatient to get on with the days sightseeing . "Just watch ... " I said again "This is fantastic, you really have to
Again, the old man added yet another spoonful of sugar from the bowl, and drank one more sip from his spoon, and took another piece of his bread, a bit larger it this time, and it tore it into several tiny pieces and dropped them into his cup. Just at that moment, the waiter hurried over to the table and swept away the crumbs
swiftly, with an efficiency that told of the countless other mornings he had done precisely this. The old man then proceeded to eat several slow spoonfuls of coffee soaked bread crumbs, sitting slowly back in his chair each time, savoring every bite.
It was then that I noticed that the waiter had stationed himself in a place near the kitchen door where, in between attending to the few other guests, he was keeping an intense watch out of the corner of his eye at the old man slowly eating his breakfast. Just as the old man ate the last of the bread crumbs from his cup, the
waiter rushed over with another bowl of sugar.
|The old man then added several more spoonfuls of sugar to his cup, so that I thought "Surely by now his spoon should be able to stand up by itself in the cup!". He finally lifted the cup to his lips and took several tiny loud sips, and again and leaned back in his chair to savor the taste.
As by then we saw that he still had at least half of his bread left, and we knew that the waiter would keep bringing more coffee, and more sugar, and even more bread until the old man was finally satisfied with this one of hundreds of breakfasts, we could stand the lure of the beautiful October Venice sun no more, and we left.
We turned right, and of the front door facing the waterfront. A few hundred feet down the promenade we crossed over the "Bridge of Sighs", past the Doge's Palace" and turned into the Piazza San Marco. There, glinting in the morning light was the Church of San Marco, a thousand years old, but we did not yet go in. We kept walking, randomly turning down the narrow passages which make up the streets of Venice.
Sometimes, we would venture down a street, and it would become narrower and narrower until finally it dead ended at someone's front door. One, I remember, was only about 4 ft. high, and I thought "When this was built, the carpenter must have made the door just the right size for the person who was to live there, as if no one else taller might ever come to occupy this house".
As the light from the warm sun began to slant in a way that lit up everything with a golden warmth, you handed me your smaller camera, and said "This is the light! you should look to see where the light makes something glow, and then you should try to catch it with the camera".
I looked around, not quite sure what you meant until you said "Look! There! See? There it is!" A doorway with a tiny dog sitting in front, the faded color of the plaster glowing in the light. "Click"! went the camera. Then, I started to see the light, at first glowing here or there, in the colors of laundry on the clothesline hanging above the narrow street, next to the flower box in the owner's window.
We came to a small stone bridge, across an even smaller canal, with one brightly painted rowboat tied up beside the crumbling plaster wall. Just then and unseen breeze rippled the water just so, and it's sparkled like jewels, and we both picked up our cameras "Click! Click!" at precisely the same moment, and it was then that I
knew that I could see the light too, and that we both could see the light at the same perfect moment.
As the sun began to slant deeply across the streets, the finally managed to find our way back to the Piazza San Marco. Crowds were milling around, forming small groups, all waiting, but for what?
We stood for a moment, looking up at the church, its facade covered in real gold on millions of tiny square tessarae, tiles no bigger than a thumbnail. Then suddenly a hushed murmuring fell over the throngs gathered in square as the slanting sun positioned itself just so, and at that moment each of the tiny gold tiles lit up in the golden sunlight, flashing and glittering as if lit up from within.
We ran from place to place, both of us trying to catch the glittering light. "Click, click, click!", but there is some light that just cannot be caught. You just have to be there and see it yourself, or, if you are very, very lucky, with someone else who can see it too.
There are places still where people drink wine and eat ice cream every day at 4. Places where an old man can eat two bowls full of sugar every day if he pleases, and he will be tenderly indulged. Where people build beautiful things that they know they will never live to see finished, but they build anyway, because somehow they understand that a thousand years later, hushed crowds will still gather every evening just to see the light for a brief flashing moment as the sun sets.
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