Wonder Down a Side Street (Italy #11)

The TripAdvisor post maintains that Venezia is a very walkable city, "but you are bound to get lost, even with a map."

The advice - surrender to it. Enjoy the maze of side streets and alleys. Lift your eyes from Google Maps and discover.

One of the main differences between my wife and I surfaces when we travel. Venice provides the perfect case study.

She happily launches herself into the maze, turning down whatever alley or side street commands attention. I need to get a feel for the layout and identify touch points. So, often while she unpacks or rests, I will venture out, a basic map in hand.

So, here is the train station. This route leads to San Marco square. Over there lies the Rialto. The Grand Canal winds through it all, and these stops are essential for us.

Some commentators chart the retirement phase of life in four movements: the celebration of release (aka a long holiday); a sense of wondering about purpose, even depression; experimentation and exploration; and, finally, discovering a new sense of meaning or purpose. Like most things in life, we seldom move through them in a linear fashion.

In Venice and life, I launch into the experimentation/exploration stage.

Wild and crazy, I may not be, but I resolve to pay attention to what surrounds me and enjoy Venice's twists and turns. Who knows what shop, beauty, artisan, and connection lies in the next stretch?

Having crossed a bridge over the Rio di San Polo, I glance to my right. Displayed in the store window are driving gloves, the colour of my Fiat 124. A signal, a call, a divine enticement.

The gloves come in my size, so the deal is made. 

During the process, I, as is my custom, inquired about the business. The salesperson owns the shop. Her family has been in the glove-making business in Napoli for generations. Covid hit them hard, and they had to close their other location. And since good staff remain hard to find and keep, she greets shoppers. 

In turn, she inquires as to our home country.

In response to "Canada," she says she has relatives in Canada.

"At Trail," she says. 

Her answer does not register for, in my struggle with English seasoned with Italian, I do not hear. I am primed for some other response. I expect "Toronto." 

"No. Trail," she says. "The family emigrated there to work."

"I know," I say.  “Trail is my home town.” 

Italians and Italian influence were a big part of my early life. Immigration surged in the 1940s and 1950s, and Italians have been a considerable part of the workforce at the Trail smelter since the early 1900s. At one time, those of Italian descent comprised 20% of the population of the fourth-largest city in British Columbia. Images of Italian girls - and boys - populate my internal images of the high school Happy Days of the 1960s.

She reaches for her phone and pulls up the Contacts app.  

"There," she says, pointing to a name and an address.

"Do you know my cousin?"

Sadly, I do not. I have been away too long.

I often tease my wife, asking how many people she will have to talk with in any lineup before she discovers one from Winnipeg. Surprisingly few.

Now, I have a connection.

"Fanny Gloveshas become a point of reference for me physically and emotionally. In some mysterious way, I feel more at home. I will return to Venice and Fanny.

I know where they are.

What makes you feel most "at home" in a new situation?


  1. ‘Lost Souls of Lakewood – The History and Mystery of Blaylock Mansion’ by Charlie Hodge (a friend of mine) is a book you might like – a lot of Trail history in it.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: