I am on a train trail, plane, train and no automobiles (and a bit of boat thrown in), starting off in Venice, then train to Florence, then Rome. Three romantic cities and three journalists instead of three coins probably ending up in the Trevi on our last stop. The view from my room is exquisite.
Staying at the Londras Palace overlooking the water in Venice, with a phenomenal guide, woman - didn't get her name but I will - who told us about the history of Venice, how it was run more like a business, mostly capitalist, a bit of dictatorship and a smidgen of socialism. In fact, a bit how Maggie Thatcher wanted to turn the UK into where everyone was a merchant, everyone. Everyone knew everyone else's business - so think of living in a village mentality - but they are all bright, astute, and by the sounds of the history highly sexed - so perhaps more like a rural village than one might think. Everyone hid behind a mask, there were loads of spies everywhere, and everything happened in threes - one person checked up on another, who checked up on another who checked up on another. Venetians invented threesomes. See what I mean about the rural village connection? There were loads of Casanovas - and the female equivalent, and if you were homosexual, the seducer was executed - not the one who had been forced into it. It was rape, although rape wasn't a death penalty. Go figure.
Venice is slowly sinking. I saw it with my own eyes. There are what looks like tables everywhere but these are the things you stand and walk along to get into some of the buildings. Something that happens once every thirty years is now happening daily so it is a place YOU MUST GO TO BEFORE IT GOES. I think the powers should unite - or at least the top 5% of multi zillionaires or whatever they are now and try to rescue it although there are a lot more needy causes, it's just that this place is unique and incredible for so many reasons. The forward thinking, the thinking before their time, resonates everywhere from their art, to the way they did business, to politics. The Doge, - the man in charge, wasn't paid, was elected from different families, only allowed to stay a year and had done every other job before he got that one and then would move on. It prevented corruption but people got things done because they knew if they were being missold anything. The Merchants of Venice in all walks of life here. Yes, and everyone walks so there aren't many gyms. And they weren't invaded till 1797, by Napoleon, who did a lot of damage, but until then they were excommunicated fifteen times from the Roman church as they wanted their own system, watching what they were doing in Rome and realisingthe Church had too much power and was corrupt. They invented prison (the French did not although they say they did) and the 'correction system'. Although it was capitalist, in many ways it also encapsulated the idea of socialism that the reality of socialism rarely achieves. Equality, food and water for everyone and everyone had a job and no one 'merchant' person was better than the other. As I said, interesting and before it's time. Makes me thinks aliens came here too.
Visited the Doge's Palace which opened for the first time ever only yesterday. Incredible. Must must see. And the Main thoroughfare known as 'tourist highway' where you are literally knocked over by tourists. Come to the city in January. It is doable, cold, bright, but no crowds. In short, bliss. Last time I visited was over twenty five years ago, and it was crammed with groups following brollies and stunk and was hot. January is bliss, just before carnival (although the mask wasn't invented for carnival, it was invented to 'hide behind'. Will write more in articles but this city is heady mix of intelligent, creative, forward thinking, inspired (rather than inspiring) and very potently decadent. It's an exquisite whispering sinning city, but it knows at what cost. As though it's slowly enduring it's karma. Perhaps that's why it's sinking.
Murano glass is everywhere but buy a hot chocolate (hot liquid chocolate, none of the powdered crap) on St Marco's Square, DO NOT SIT DOWN in a cafe. If you sit down you will be charged 10 euros. If you drink and stand up you will be charged one. Be like a horse. Which reminds me, it soon will be Year of the Horse. And a good one. More to follow.