She curls her body into a tight ball against the rain. Narrow streets pinch in on themselves until they become nothing but a haunting labyrinth of gloomy corners and dimly glowing cafes. The night shrouds this ancient city and the soft but steady patter of rain tempts out her dark soul.
This is the Venice that few people see.
…the narrow pathways constrict like veins…
After the throngs of tourists have burst through the narrow city streets, scrambling to get their picture of the Rialto Bridge or to buy the obligatory mask, glass and postcard, the narrow pathways constrict like veins. Normality – if there can ever be any – returns to Venice and it becomes yet again the place I fell in love with.
Au pairing is truly a blessing as well as a curse. On the one hand it can offer opportunities such as living in Venice for a month or so, and on the other it can make you feel like an over-worked and under-appreciated (let’s not mention under-paid) slave. But hey, who said there isn’t a price to pay for paradise.
…a seat above Venice’s answer to the M11…
And paradise it was. The family’s house not only had views of the Grand Canal, it practically ruled over the thing. Their apartment, a section of a 17th century palazzo, held a seat above Venice’s answer to the M11. From their chandelier adorned living room I could quite happily while a way an hour or so staring down at the gondolas, vaporetti and motor boats manoeuvring their way around the canal. They owned a couple of boats as well, along with a house in the Alps, not forgetting una cabana on the Lido. I could quite easily go on but to be honest, I don’t think it would be good for any our feelings of self-worth.
Even though I knew that I couldn’t take up permanent residence in the house and that one day I would have to pack my suitcase and return to normality, I still absorbed myself into my surroundings. Whether it’s Paris, Prague or Padua, au pairing offers you the opportunity to melt into the surroundings of your dreams. It allows you to do more than peek through a dusty window into a foreign house; it instead opens the door, and welcomes you in.
…the steady fall of rain smothered the city like a damp cloth…
Surprisingly, my favourite part about staying in Venice was not sunning myself on a speed boat, whilst flying at break-neck speed across the lagoon, nor was it eating linguine con vongole underneath the stars. In fact, what I loved most was slipping out of the house after the children had gone to bed. I would choose an evening when the steady fall of rain smothered the city like a damp cloth, pushing the tourists into restaurants or to bed, and leaving the twisting streets empty. It would be just me and the shadows. Me and the city I used to spend silent nights dreaming about. I would hear nothing but an occasional gondola gliding through a slender canal, the sound of the oars ethereal in the night.
Images courtesy of Constantin Jurcut and Luca Baroncini