IT wasn’t the many TV documentaries that made me want to visit Venice. Certainly, I did not care whether the city was sinking into the sea with each passing year.
But as a teenager, I had spent a lot of time watching movies and music videos.
From James Bond’s Moonraker to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the directors had used Venice as backdrop. I was fascinated by scenes of the movie heroes chasing villains along the canals.
If you are a movie buff, then you would have also watched Chalize Theron in The Italian Job, which also used Venice as the setting.
And who can forget watching Madonna squirming in a gondola in her music video Like a Virgin.
Arriving in Milan on Saturday, I was told that I could catch a train to Venice. It would just be an hour’s ride.
It was too good to resist. It would cost me only about 20 euro (RM94) and I could return to Milan the same day.
Besides, the hotels in Venice were too expensive. It would have been over-indulgence to stay overnight just to join the rich romantics watch the sunset and drink expresso by the sidewalk cafes.
With fellow journalists from the other press, we joined thousands of tourists in the unbearable hot summer, leisurely admiring the canals that had inspired poetry, art, music and literature.
The quaint cobblestone streets and medieval churches were as quaint as I expected.
The movies captured those Venetian scenes well. If you had watched The Talented Mr Ripley – which starred Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow – you would know what I mean.
Summer is really not the best time to visit Venice. It’s uncomfortably hot at this time and, while the Europeans love the sun, Asians like me looked around for some shade.
The restaurant and ferry (and gondola) operators overcharge you because it is the peak season.
Many of the eateries do not have air-conditioners. The spaghetti dish I ordered was mediocre yet pricey.
I could never understand how the Italians could have their pasta with tomato sauce alone – no meatballs, no seafood, nothing – and at 20 euro per serving.
There were two Chinese restaurants but the idea of sitting in Venice eating fried rice seemed out of place, even ridiculous.
The souvenirs were overly expensive for us, bearing in mind the ringgit-to-euro exchange rate, but the positive part was that none of us spent our money unnecessarily.
To console ourselves, we agreed it was “patriotic” to be thrifty and that it was not worth buying those tacky tourist rip-offs.
I had to tell the illegal African immigrants peddling fake Louis Vuitton handbags not to bother me.
Like a two-hour movie, my one-day visit to Venice was over by 6pm. We had missed the 4pm train back to Milan because some of my colleagues lost their way in the maze of the Venice alleyways.
As a result, we missed watching the Euro 2004 final between Greece and Portugal at the Duomo Square where a huge screen was set up for city folk.
We missed the train, the football final but, most of all, we missed Venice.
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