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Vonda

I am having a little love affair with Venice. This is my response to the many who question why I return to Venice again and again. Yes, I am in love with a city. It’s the most accurate way I can describe the way I feel. As women we are all familiar with the notion of love and of course the intense euphoria of falling in love. It happens differently every time. Sometimes it comes from a developing admiration. Sometimes it’s love at first sight. Sometimes it occurs softly and sweetly. Sometimes we perilously and helplessly fall in love. And sometimes, it hits us out of nowhere like a ton of bricks.

I will never forget the moment I realized I was smitten.  My husband and I were on our first trip to Italy with a tour group.  We had seen the beautiful and amazing sights in Rome, Florence, and many places in between, and I had been eagerly looking forward to the final two days we would spend in Venice. I already knew I would like it there, having always been enchanted by the idea of the magical floating city where streets are canals, and cars are boats.  The tour group had arranged hotel rooms on the mainland, and after settling in, we arrived, by vaporetto (water bus), at the actual island of Venice after dark.  My first sight of her was in the soft pink glow of her tinted street lights.  So it was that I began to take in her beauty one palazzo, bridge, and cobblestoned step at a time.  One by one she gradually revealed her charms to me, and so while my visit was absolutely delightful, I did not experience that overwhelming love at first sight as many do.  During our visit we shopped, ate, toured, and thoroughly enjoyed the city, just as I had anticipated. It was the perfect ending of a magnificent trip.

As our final night was drawing to a close, we were departing Venice, walking past the two large columns in St. Mark’s Square, when all at once I was crushed by my own ton of bricks.  A tidal wave of emotions suddenly swept me away, and I burst uncontrollably into tears, crying loudly, right there in the populated square, unconcerned as to the spectacle I was creating.  Now, I am a mature woman, and I had known all along when we would have to leave, which is why my reaction was so unforeseen and irrational.  Why was I reacting this way?  What was wrong with me?  All I knew was that it felt like the cruel practicalities of time and our schedule were heartlessly tearing me away, against my will.  I felt the desperate need to reach out for control and stability.  The bewildering truth was gradually dawning on me that I was exquisitely and intensely in the throes of a new passionate love.

Leaving seemed unbearable, so I dug my proverbial heels into the cobblestones; I just had to stay, at least for a while.  I found a place to sit and just lingered for what must have been hours, (time is of no consequence when you are falling in love) breathing in that damp musky scent that is unique to Venice, trying to somehow absorb her essence into my being and immerse myself in her.  After some time, exhausted of snot and tears, and of helplessly trying to soak up and retain some trace of her, practicality took over, and I collected myself, still convulsing with sobs, and said goodbye.  I walked drearily to the vaporetto and watched the dim lights of Venice blur into the mist as we chugged away.  I was already suffering acute separation anxiety and was intensely fearful that I would never see her again.

Back at home during the next few years, my personal life proceeded to become much more complicated and financially restricted, and it seemed increasingly less likely that I would ever be able to go back to Venice again.  But my longing to return only grew stronger and stronger. I felt drawn by invisible ropes; I just had to find a way to get back to Venice.  So I did what any woman in love would do–I found a way to return!

I made my first pilgrimage back alone a couple of years later and was reunited with my love. Her beauty was even more exquisite than I remembered, and my joy was complete as I again walked her cobblestoned streets and immersed myself in her essence, relishing her delights.  It was then that something unexpected occurred; a transformation took place; that was when I became A Beautiful Woman in Venice.  At first I thought I could get my fill of Venice.  But true love never fades, and my love for Venice does not diminish but grows and changes with my increased familiarity.  She has become a part of me, has changed me, and her magic continues to inspire me.

Since then there have been many visits to Venice, each one special in its own way.  It was on one of these trips I got the idea for a book called A Beautiful Woman in Venice.  I tried for months to write but soon discovered that I am not a writer, and I had no clue what I was doing.  I had read Kathleen Gonzalez’s “Free Gondola Ride” and decided to contact her.  We arranged the project so that she, being the author, is doing what she knows so well in properly writing and completing the book.  My part is to share “my Venice” with other women, including some perspective and information, but also to acknowledge the historic and inspirational Beautiful Women in Venice who walked those same cobblestones and breathed that same air, centuries ago.  I encourage you to allow Venice to enchant, mesmerize, captivate, and otherwise sweep you off your feet!  Discover your own love affair with the history, elegance, and ambiance.  Embrace the transformation; become A Beautiful Woman in Venice!”

Kathleen

I’ll say it–I’m a confessed Venetophile. My love for Venice began a mere five minutes into my first vaporetto ride down the Grand Canal in 1996. Since then, I’ve returned to Venice enough times that I’ve lost count–but not enough times that I’ve tired of it. Putting my knowledge of Venice to good use, I worked as the “Venice Consultant” for a company that was creating a video game about a teddy bear sleuthing in Venice. My first book, Free Gondola Ride, published in 2003, is about the gondoliers of Venice. The chapter about Max also appeared in the San Jose Mercury News travel section. Who knew that Free Gondola Ride would lead to my collaboration with Vonda, after she bought it and we became friends through our love for the city?

Most of the year I am a high school English teacher who travels every chance I get. But I also fit in time for writing. My second book, A Small Candle, is about Camp Everytown and how it helps to end prejudice in communities. I also have essays in three anthologies, and I have collaborated on a book about teaching high school English, published by Pearson in 2013.

My Venice guidebook, Seductive Venice: In Casanova’s Footsteps, follows Giacomo Casanova to over 90 locations he visited in Venice. It is also available in Italy. Published by Supernova Edizioni, it’s titled Casanova’s Venice: A Walking Guide, and contains the same text and maps, with the addition of drawings and photos. Casanova is so much more than just the famed lover; he was a writer, gambler, musician, theater manager, traveler, spy, and friend. Visiting the locations where he lived and loved brings the city to life in unexpected and exciting ways.

When I neared completion of Seductive Venice, I received a proposal from Vonda asking if I’d be interested in bringing to fruition her idea to write about Venetian women. I was immediately excited. In writing A Beautiful Woman in Venice, I again was able to live vicariously in Venice by researching its women. As I visited the sites where they were born or buried, where they worshiped or wed, where they painted or practiced their arts, I began to glimpse Venice through their eyes and imagine what their lives might have been like. I fell in love with each of these women for their courage, cleverness, and determination.

Vonda and I experienced an enriching collaboration and even met up in Venice during the process of writing the book and launching the tour company. A Beautiful Woman in Venice will be available in Italy in summer 2015 from Supernova Edizioni, and it is available now through my website. Find out what Lucrezia, Modesta, and Sarra wrote about; or whose hearts were set afire by Gaspara, Veronica, and Angela; or what beautiful arts were fashioned by Marietta, Hermonia, and Cencia; or what places of worship were inhabited by Lucia, Arcangela, and Cecilia; or how literary conversation was hosted by Isabella, Giustina, and Marina. These and many more women will win your heart with their stories.”

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