It's me again.
It's been a very long week. So long, in fact, that I'm going to need to work backwards to make sure I don't forget anything.
Today, Sunday 8th March, Women's Day, was a very good day.
I woke up determined to track down a Catholic Mass...and I did! Turns out that about seven minutes away from my appartment there's this beautiful church called S. Giovanni Fuori Le Mura. That's what I love about Verona; it's full of these little surprises. So much so that I have decided to devote a Facebook photo album to all the churches that I come across while I'm here, famous and forgotten alike. I wonder how many I'll end up with...
Anyway, back to today. Well, I arrived at around 10.05 and, since I was told that the mass started at 10.30, I spent half an hour taking photos, wandering around, looking into the windows of Pasticcerias and just faffing about in general. Sadly, I had been misinformed. When I walked into the church, I stepped right into the prayers of the faithful. Oopsy.
At first I was upset but soon all I could feel was this wave of relief to be back in a church again. I had missed Mass last week because I just hadn't got everything together at that point and I had no clue where to go or what to do. I had, and have, been feeling a little lost recently and being in that Church today just made me realise how much I've missed CLC, and Community and Chaplaincy. I've been feeling alone and sad, without knowing why, and this morning, surrounded by the congregation of Borgo Venezia, mouthing words I wasn't used to but which felt so familiar, I felt like part of something again.
I felt...weightless. And so happy. It's funny; when I reached out to shake the hand of the old woman next to me she smiled back when she said "Pace". She gripped my hand tightly and really looked at me when she said it. It was almost like she knew what I was feeling. And then the last thing I could have possibly imagined happened: I started crying. I guess I really am turning into my mother!
I walked down towards the city centre to meet two friends of mine and together we went on a hike to the Sanctuary. This monastery was built right at the top of the highest point in Verona. It is now my second most favourite place in the whole world. Taize still comes in at number one. What can I say, I have a thing for monasteries.
The sanctuary is the building that looks kind of like a cupcake, on the far left of the top photo. As you can see, the walk up is quite brutal. A constant curving uphill, followed by many, many steps. But I would do it a hundred times over. And I probably will. When you finally reach the top of the hill and look out onto the horizon, all Verona is spread out before you. The river, the bridges, the endless churches and their campaniles, the snow-capped Dolomites; all of it. The atmosphere of the sanctuary was so calming; a place of prayer and reflection. The few people who were up there with us felt the same awe and reverence we felt, and there was a silence that none of us wanted to break. I want to go back there to sketch. It's one of those places where you could sit for hours without seeing the time pass. Where you don't have to do...you can just be.
Like I said, today was a good day.
Thursday 5th March.
The day I would finally cross something off my Bucket List.
"In short, he who doesn't go to Venice is a fool". Anton Chekhov knew what he was talking about, believe me.
One of the places I promised myself I would see in my lifetime. I can't even remember what made me fall in love with the city. All I know is that whatever it was, it was justified.
Even though it was cold, with torrential rain and Malta-style wind, Venice's charm was irresistible. The canals! The bridges! The gondolas! The blind-ending streets! The sour-faced locals! The endless stalls of Murano glass! The time spent wandering around as you get lost over and over again! Ah, Venice. There's really nowhere like it.
I loved every second of it. And I wasn't kidding about the rain. Exhibit A: the bins full of broken umbrellas. Sadly, mine was destined to join them.
The trip was totally unexpected, as the best things in life usually are. As we were only there for a day, St Mark's Square and Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (i.e. Titian-land) were on the top of my hitlist.
First things first: we got totally and utterly lost. Please note: I had a complete street map. I never claimed to have good direction skills. We (Anja and I) decided to stop for lunch to get out of the rain and maybe figure out where we were. A piadine and panino later and we realised we were a total of five metres away from dei Frari. Figures.
It's a really really really big church. And I'm short.
But mostly it's just really big.
TIIIIIIIIIIITIIIIIAAAAAAAAAAAN!!! I will typescream his name for all to hear! Before going to Venice, and more specifically de Frari, I never really put him on the same level as Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael, the Florentine masters.
I was wrong.
This is for the lady who shouted "NO photography" at me: The Assumption is miiiinnnee muahahahaha. What can I say. I'm a rebel.
I must, and will, go back to Venice. No other place can make you feel so confused (try walking up and down the same piece of waterfront for half an hour looking for a pizzeria that you know is there... in the rain) and enthralled (St Mark's Basilica in all it's golden, mosaic-ed, Byzantine glory).
My feet were soaking wet the entire day [MEMO to me: check weather forecasts], I ate a chocolate and almond pastry bigger than my fist, I walked past Byron's old haunt, I heard a gondolier sing, I nearly fell into a canal, I bought more books than I could carry, I envied the art students sketching in the rain, I unleashed my inner tourist and I broke my umbrella.
Not bad for one day.
I think I'll stop here.
I know: two days don't really make a week. So I guess I'll be back sooner rather than later.
Oh and thanks for all the support! You have no idea how much it means to me.
And I apologise for never uploading more photos to my last post. I would say that I'll try to remember, but I know I won't. I'll put them all on Facebook. Soon. Promise.