The summer I turned 16, I spent three weeks studying English in the south coast of England. Of course studying was really just an excuse for the other activities like finding a summer romance. Mine was Italian, and incidentally, he was from from Venice. After the course finished, I returned to my native Finland and to the normal life of a small town teenager.
Summer generated boredom with long, jobless days, broken by the embarrassingly romantic texts my Italian boy was sending me. The boys I was used to hanging out with wouldn’t be caught dead saying the things he said. Ultimately what he says is: Why don’t you come to Venice for a holiday? I decided to go with a friend, because while I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to see this boy, I knew that I wanted to see Venice.
Upon our arrival in Milan we caught a night train to Venice and slept in a small cabin until morning. When it turned light but foggy outside, we arrived in Venice. Stepping out of the railway station at 6am is nothing short of breathtaking. Just seconds earlier, I was inside a railway station. And then… well then I’m inside a painting. There’s no other way to put it.I doubt whether it’s possible to visit Venice at 16 and not be enchanted by it.
Ten years and ten plus countries later it’s still the most magical thing I’ve ever seen. It’s a revelation to me that people actually live there; that it’s a city where people go grocery shopping and drive – their boats, that is – to work. Instead of buses or the metro we catch the vaporettos. Local kids are saving money for their first boats instead of cars. The most coveted job is the gondolier. They make good money.
Over the years, my trips to Venice have become slightly surreal. I have a few pictures in which I look impossibly young, almost like a child, although I’m sure that I felt very grown-up at the time. My only souvenir is a glass horse from Murano.Things I remember from Venice: it’s hot, hotter than any place I’ve been to before, and if it does stink then that’s beside the point. Chubby rats are loitering around the canals with their eyes glistening in the night. There are green wooden shutters in the room that I share with my friend, and closing them makes the room blissfully cool. When we go to bars I drink Campari with orange juice, because that’s what my parents drink, and after all I am 16 and haven’t got a clue what to order in an actual bar.
We go camping to a nearby island where we sit on the beach with a bunch of people, and somebody plays guitar. Many bakeries are closed because it’s August, and the simple tomato sauce with pasta is the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten.I wonder if the Venice I’d find at 26 would be as mesmerizing as the one I saw at 16. I wonder where I would eat and what I would photograph. Would I walk around hissing about how expensive everything is? Oh, and the boy? I don’t know anything about the boy. It really was more about Venice than it was about the boy. But I like the idea of running into him in Venice like a stranger, seeing him driving his gondola in the Venetian night. After all, I guess my 16-year-old self could have done worse for a summer romance. One of the best romantic restaurants in Venice.