To build a city where it is impossible to build a city is madness in itself, but to build there one of the most elegant and grandest of cities is the madness of genius.
— Alexander Herzen

Of all the places I have ever wanted to visit in Italy, Venice has always been at the top of my list. Growing up, my family would listen to these stories on tape (yes, tape) when we went on road trips.

There was this one story we listened to all the time, called Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery. It was about a girl who learned to play violin and went to some fancy school in Venice. The story had tons of imagery about the city, and it always stuck with me. I had such a clear image in my head of what it was, just like someone who reads Harry Potter before seeing the movies has a Hogwarts in their noggin. In particular, the way St. Mark's Square was a place that was just perfect in my head. Through the descriptions, it was a huge, massive square with nice pidgins and almost nobody else around. A peaceful, beautiful place dubbed, "The Drawing Room of All Europe!".

Needless to say, I was thrilled to take our group there almost 2 years ago, and see this place for the first time. I was finally going to St. Mark's Square! Sadly, it did not live up to expectation at all.

The place was nothing like I had pictured in my head, nothing like hat booked described. It was not the biggest square ever. Big, yes, but not like I had pictured. There were birds all over as promised, along with their feces. Gross. They were also kinda mean, stealing a sandwich from one of our customers right out of his hand! Of all the disappointments, however, the biggest was the astounding number of people. We were practically shoulder to shoulder in that square, I felt claustrophobic and just....cramped! It was such a downer.

But then, something magical happened. I simply turned around the corner. 

I took the first exit I could find, which was behind me, and ducked down the first ally I could into this labyrinth of a city. Instantly, and I mean instantly, the noise and the crowds were gone. Ally after ally we ducked through, further and further into the belly of this old, beautiful beast. The city was absolutely inspiring. Old, leaning buildings standing on stilts above the water. Quiet narrow canals in place of streets, and absolutely stunning bridges popped up out of nowhere. In a second we were lost, but in the best way. 

Venice ended up being one of, if not my absolute favorite, spots in all of Italy (so far). In reflection, it could have been the worst spot. If I had not ducked into an alleyway, if I had just let my preconceived notions of what Venice should be linger with me, I would have walked away hating that place. But instead, I left my mind and my heart open to the whispers of the city. I let the city show me its secrets, I didn't try to force my own wishes upon it. Venice is supposed to be incredible for a reason, and it is our fault if we make assumptions about why that is. 

I will definitely go back one day, and explore more of that place. It will always hold a special place in my heart, because it opened the door of exploration, and what giving yourself to a foreign land really means. I hope all of you have, or can do the same one day. Go to a place where you have preconceived expectations, and let that place blow you away with something you never saw coming. It's a pretty neat experience.

What do you think of Venice?

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