I deposited my luggage and left the hotel to explore, having just one afternoon to myself before I was to meet my artist at the dark and lonely docks, which, I might add, was a deliciously creepy experience in and of itself.
On the north-west side of the canal, away from the more touristic Piazza San Marco, my feet tapped and clicked through the alleyways; I was on the hunt for a little local dive and my only criteria was a place with nobody like me - no tourists. I wanted to see and hear and be among Italians.
But I was quick to learn that there are no Italians in Venice - there are Venetians! Who live in the "Republic of Venice"!
I observed as one after another they came, stood by the bar, and drank a glass of wine. Once a man roared out his frustrations with being a gondolier - "damn tourists"! A smile from the waiter as he filled my glass, a wink. I wasn't about to open my mouth and let anyone in on my identity. But as I finished my salad and stood to leave, this patriarch caught my eye and addressed me directly in his native tongue.
"Beautiful woman (bless his Italian soul), I am not Italian, just so you know. I am Venetian from the Republic of Venice! Do you understand? I've lived here all my life, born and raised and now old and grey. This is my country. Venice! The Republic of Venezia! Write that in your newspaper!"
I snapped his picture and he kissed me good-bye. And now I am writing it in my newspaper for all to read. Long live loyalty. Long live individuality and uniqueness. Long live Venezia!