On St. Mark’s Piazza in Venice the September day I was there, the tide was in. Across the square the water was ankle high, and in some places deeper. Tourists from around the world searched for a way to get across from the old offices of the Republic (16th century Renaissance) to the new ones (17th century High Renaissance) where they could buy expensive gifts, have a drink at a table dressed in white linen while the band played, make their way to the Doge’s Palace, or view the Grand Canal shining in the afternoon sun. There, in the nearly ancient shadow of the Campanile and St. Mark’s Basilica, children splashed in the big puddle. A toddler stripped his clothes off. Middle aged tourists – some of them uncomfortable and others amused – removed their sox and shoes, rolled up their pants and forded the Venetian lake. Naked feet at the illustrious center of the world’s most beautiful city.
I’ve seen tourists remove their shoes at mosques, I’ve even been one of them, but this wasn’t so much a sign of reverence as a simple determination to be in Venice – to be intimate with it the way Hindu feet are with the Ganges, the way ears are with great music.
Venice is wet. She may even be drowning. Someday elegant rafts may troll St. Mark’s Piazza. But no one will ever stop visiting. There’s just too much magic there to stay away.