Venice ended my longest ever relationship. Well, that and a sinus infection. The trip to Italy had been his idea and against my better judgement, I decided to go. It was November, I was already feeling ill and the cracks were showing in our relationship. He was a tax lawyer who loved mountains and spending as little money as possible while I had grown tired of the great outdoors and loved buying dresses and going to the cinema every afternoon. We were supposed to have only one day in Venice to go to the Biennale and would camp close to Vicenza the day before. Whether it was real or psychosomatic, I really don’t know, but a terrible nausea overcame me and I decided not to do anything as ridiculous as camping in winter and checked myself into a four star hotel in Venice where he refused to accompany me.
I have never forgotten the magic of those first impressions or the love I felt for the city. In a way, Venice spoiled me by showing that I didn’t have to do things I no longer enjoyed, that I was much better off alone appreciating its beauty. So when we met the following morning, I told him we were through and began the long train journey back to Berlin, feeling sadder than I had thought I would be and still really ill. I missed the last train to Berlin and spent a miserable few hours in a waiting room at Leipzig station among the drunks and homeless because I was too broke to get another hotel room, trying and failing to sleep a little with my head on my suitcase before waking up bleary eyed and confused to get a train at 4am. I have never forgotten the relief at finally getting into my bed in Charlottenburg and the long sleep which brought me some relief.
In a couple of weeks, I’m heading to Venice again and I can’t tell you how excited I feel about returning there (though hopefully with less dramatic circumstances). Of course, one of things I’m most looking forward to is going for walks through those labyrinthine streets, particularly early in the morning, and taking photos. Before the tourists arrive, it’s wonderful seeing the locals getting off the boats and going for an espresso before starting work.
I’ll be staying at the same apartment as last time, close to the Rialto and the market where I went each day to buy fish, fruit and vegetables. I go to Caffè Florian on St. Mark’s Square as often as possible, get an ice cream from Grom or from Rosa Salva opposite the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo (although ice cream in Venice seems to be good everywhere) and love to walk along Fondamente Nove before taking the boat across to Isola San Michele. Last time I was in Venice, I even got the chance to go to the Film Festival on the Lido to see Terence Malick’s beautiful but baffling ‘To the Wonder’. Thinking about it made me want to revisit some old photos with great stars which is probably the next best thing if you can’t come with me.
Maria Callas at the festival in 1957
Alain Delon getting some close-ups of pigeons
Michaelangelo Antonioni and Monica Vitti in 1964
Warren Beatty and girlfriend in front of the Excelsior Hotel in 1965
Paul Newman, 1963
Gene Tierney having a go at rowing a gondola in 1951
Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher on Burano
Toshiro Mifune on St. Mark’s with a few feathered friends
Marcello Mastroianni with Anna Karina in 1967
Sophia Loren at the Festival in 1955
Claire Bloom and Rod Steiger in 1963
Orson Welles and Jean Cocteau in 1948