ITALY | Sunday, 16 September 2007 | Views 
There really can't be too many places left in the world where the background noise of the motorcar has been thankfully banished leaving laughter and footsteps to drift up from narrow alleys and bells to resonate across the tiled roofs.
After arriving in Milan after two gruelling flights, Italy welcomed us in true Italian fashion with the bus driver to Statzione Centrale getting hopelessly lost and stopping on every street corner to ask grocers, schoolgirls, policemen and even us passengers for directions. Fortunately we weren't in a rush so we were able to laugh and bask in the sheer humanity of it.
A quick trip to the rooftop of the Domo reinvigorated the boys almost limitless energy and their exhaustion managed to channel itself into laughter rather than tantrums, not that the scowling faces on the train to Venice would agree, but to extinguish a child's laughter just to please some middle-aged frauline would be a sad day indeed.
Riu finally gave up the fight with sleep as we made our way through narrow alleys to our apartment for the week and had to be carried up six flights of stairs, which after perhaps 36 hours on the go with almost no sleep was a truly valiant effort for a boy not yet five. Our apartment is on the top floor in the Castello area overlooking the Campo S.Maria Formosa, an area that feels genuine with lots of local people and local shops.
If, like us, you love simply getting lost in a new place, trusting the journey to find its own way, then Venice is simply perfect as trying to get anywhere fast in this city is a bit of a nightmare. But with two boys and two strollers they are of an age where every time we came to a bridge over a canal they bounded out and over, never tiring to push the many tourists aside and meaning we could cover many kilometres on foot which is the only way to see Venice. Apparently these bridges used never to have handrails and more than a few people were lost over the edge at night.
The mountains of Murano glass everywhere looks cheap and nasty but if you look a bit harder there is some really nice work being done of a world class standard ... it's just hard to see the wod for the trees here. Also, having tried a bit of glass blowing since my last visit to Venice I'm aware of how fiendishly difficult this process is.
Venice is an expensive city but we have been getting up at 6am to head out minus the children and as the city awakes you begin to realise why. You encounter beefy guys pulling carts of everything from flour to cucumbers to beer as everything here has to be shipped in on tiny boats and then carted through the narrow streets to its destination. Building renovations in a city with a serious subsidence problem and near impossible access would be the stuff of nightmares.
So if the essence of travel is what remains of a place in your soul after you leave, what of Venice? I have been to Venice a couple of times before but this was the first time I have flown out. You simply don't realise when you are in the dense streets of the city how much of a microscopic speck of beauty and culture the city is, anchored in a drab lagoon. That it exists at all is bizarre, an ancient anomaly and a tribute to human ingenuity and tenacity.
But while a stunning tribute, it surely struggles to remain relevant in the twenty first century, unable to grow or develop and forever constrained by their history, their beauty and their location.
Tags: adventures, family, travel with children, venice