One of my favorite things about travel is that oftentimes I discover something new about myself.
I was sitting at a cafe in Venice, Italy enjoying a rare solitary moment. I had risen early to explore the quiet neighborhoods before my kids got up and the city was bustling with tourists. In that moment I flashed back to my first trip ever to Italy. The taste of the pizza was still fresh in my mind. The heat and humidity felt the same. In my 20’s, however, it was at 2 am with high heels on my feet, a mini skirt and friends laughing away. That was a fun trip. Even then we got lost in a strange city and found ourselves creating amazing experiences from it. That was how we ended up in the most random pizzeria, having the most amazing pizza. Two of them.
Those days have passed. I knew I would not be staying up past midnight and that was okay. I was a different traveler now, wanting to experience different things.
A Solitary Wanderer
I was still awake in the early hours. I donned my sneakers, draped my camera on me and wandered. The first morning was at 5am. The concierge at the front desk gently reminded me that everything was closed. I smiled and said that was okay. Then he told me about a great cafe that opened at 6am with fresh baked pastries. 4 bridges to the left, past 2 piazzas. Look for the church. Of course, Venice was filled with hundreds of churches but the idea of wandering was heaven.
I walked straight to Piazza San Marco and soaked it all in. We were there the evening before, pushing through the crowds, trying to fight that overwhelming feeling of standing in a place with thousands of other people. This morning, I was standing with less than a dozen people. I took my time walking through and headed to the water. The canal was peaceful with no waves from passing water taxis or the disturbance of the gondolas. I sat in front of a row of gondolas and watched the sunrise. I’ve always loved the cotton candy skies of Maui but to see the color of the skies go from purple to pink with that golden haze mixed in was absolutely breathtaking. That pink light cast a gorgeous glow on the Santa Maria Della Salute and the surrounding buildings.
I knew, in that moment, that I found my travel style. I am a Solitary Wanderer, content to be by myself and letting my two feet and inspiration guide me. I left the waterfront and headed in the direction the concierge told me. To the left, 4 bridges and 2 piazzas over. Okay, got it. As I walked, I observed the world around me. Boats started to deliver packages to the local restaurants and stores. Other boats started to collect the trash. The streets were swept clean and the gondolas were polished to gleaming. It was the first time I got to witness how this city functioned. Just the prior evening, my husband and I had asked each other how a city with such narrow streets and surrounded by water didn’t smell dank or dingy. These were all things I never would have seen in the shoulder to shoulder crowds of the day.
It was pushing on 7am by the time I found the large piazza. It was in fact 4 bridges and 2 piazzas over. The bakery he recommended was open with the smell of fresh coffee coming out. Neighbors greeted each other in passing as they walked their dogs with folded newspapers tucked under their arm. There was not one souvenir vendor in sight. Benches were used to read the morning paper and there was so much space to be had. I was completely enchanted. I was sitting outside at an Italian cafe enjoying an amazing cappuccino & a cream pastry. Heaven. I was meant for this life.
By 8am, I was back in the hotel room, listening to the laughs of the kids through the door. Having enjoyed the 3 hours of wandering, I was ready to take on the day and see Venice through their eyes and take them to my own early discoveries. I knew I’d have another 3 hours the next morning and perhaps the morning after that. I didn’t even feel guilty when I found myself sleeping by 9pm.
What kind of traveler are you??