“I’d like a ticket on the 10 o’clock train to Venezia, please.”
“Hmmm,” the man in the ticket window began. “I don’t think the train is going to Venezia this morning.”
I stepped back from the window to look up at the schedule to make sure I hadn’t misread it. The man looked at me and could see my confusion.
“They don’t feel like going today,” he continued. “Perhaps you could try again tomorrow.”
I love Italy. At that moment, it reminded me of the airport on Mykonos in Greece a few years earlier when I was waiting for my friend Nikki to fly in from Athens.
“Why don’t you come back in about three hours,” a similar man behind that ticket counter told me. “The air traffic controllers. They are on strike. They wanted a longer lunch today.”
But back to my Italian station agent. He went back to doing… well… nothing I guess, and I walked back out into the streets of Milan, satisfied that at least my dry run to get to Venice that day was a success.
I actually do love train travel in Europe. Where, at least on most days, you can walk up to the ticket counter and a few hours later find yourself in another beautiful city. Finding myself in Venice, however, would have to wait another day.
Venice is lovely. A little touristy, but what do you expect from one of the most famous cities in the world. When I did finally arrive the next day, I decided, as I usually do, to walk the city to get to know it better. I’m probably one of the few visitors to Venice who spent the entire visit without any time on the canals. But walking is kind of my thing. The best way to get lost and discover the things you’d never see doing things the normal way.
My hotel was near the Piazza San Marco, on the other side of the city from the train I had just gotten off. it was a lovely walk. I really didn’t know where I was going, except that I knew one of the main tourist attractions was the Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal, in the center of the city. So I followed the signs in that general direction.
Once at the bridge, I then followed the signs to the other famous spot in Venice, Piazza San Marco. Easy.
It was 1999, so I had my two favorite film cameras with me. My 1983 Nikon F3 and my 1968 Hasselblad. Those two cameras have put on a lot of mileage with me over the years, and they’re still in beautiful working order to this day.
I remember that March day was very overcast and I was pushing my film a couple of stops to get a proper exposure. It made for some beautiful grainy images there. Ah, film.
When I finally reached Piazza San Marco, I stood there for a bit, my F3 and 28mm lens ready, looking for my composition to unfold before me. Sometimes it takes a few minutes for the people to be walking just where I want them in the frame. Sometimes longer. I’ve waited an hour in Paris for the right moment.
And just as I was liking what I was seeing, a bird flew right up into the center of the sky in my frame. Because of the low light, I was shooting with a fairly slow shutter speed. But I love how it turned out. Almost of ghost of a bird. Perfect.
I’m glad the train took the day off the day before.