The alarm rang at 5am. It took my brain a second or so to grind the gears to a start and then in a swift motion I jumped out from under the warm folds of the duvet and plunged into the brisk morning air. I always figured that was the best way to rouse my body into a standing position, having tried slow persuasion in the past and failing miserably.
I stuck my hand out through the balcony door to test the weather. It didn’t recoil in the cold. I decided that was a good start.
Crawling into my shorts, I swung a long sleeve tee over shoulder and reached for my camera bag. The tripod had insisted on a game of hide and seek in the dark – and won. I wasn’t in the mood for its morning shenanigans, so if it didn’t want to come, it’d just be missing out.
I slid down the stairs, past the landlady’s room, cracked the main door open and like a criminal, completed my prison break.
It was on my last trip to Venice, negotiating her cobblestoned alleys to catch a night train out, that I realized how beautiful she was at night. And it was on that very train out, my thoughts lingering on her seductive canals, that I had an idea. I promised myself I’d get some alone time with her if ever I passed this way again.
With the sun threatening to crash our rendezvous, I wasted no time wooing her. Bella cosa tosto è rapita.
It was too dark to fumble with the map, but I knew if I headed south I’d hit the Grand Canal and from there I’d just have to follow it east to the Rialto Bridge.
At 6 in the morning, nothing was opened. There was a whisper of a breeze though it didn’t disturb the waters. It slept, where it lay, a mirror became. The buildings turned their gaze downwards, as if ashamed of some ignominious secret, blushing orange from the streetlamps, they mulled over their own reflections.
Once in a while a boat will roll by disturbing the other sleeping boats, rocking against the walls they were moored to, like cats rubbing up against a warm leg. Then slowly but surely the rocking would lull them back to the stillness of sleep.
A few bridges on, the first hint life stirring. The grumbling motor of the first water taxis was followed by trudging footsteps on a wooden pier. As I rounded the corner to the Rialto Bridge, the ferry slogged past me. Later, I would leave my camera shutter open as another Water Taxi painted a streak on a photo.
All of the alighted passengers were workers of Venice. Armed with newspapers and iPods, the working crowd walked with purpose into the only café (or what the Italians call a bar) opened and I followed them in.
A balding barrister with a paunch and moustache was behind the counter serving them espressos and cornetti. Everyone was having their breakfast in piedi (standing up). Eye contact was precious rare in the room and brown liquid was quickly gulped down, before they continued their journey to their respective work place.
I hung around with my own latte, watching boat after boat expel waves of coffee drinkers from it’s belly, till the sun peeked over the rooftops and the first tourists emerged from their holiday caves.
I thanked my coffee maker for a fine brew and headed into the sunrise.