Torcello greets me every year

Autumn is here. How can you tell? Because I go to Venice and Torcello. I do that every year now, but this year everything was quite different. It started with the fact that for the first time I didn’t drive, but flew. I have repeatedly praised how practical night trains are. But they are only practical as long as the trains have enough carriages. The Austrian Federal Railway is incomparably inventive in scaring away its passengers. This summer, however, they have outdone themselves. People reported en masse that when boarding the train they were told: "Unfortunately, the carriage with your booked couchette is not available today. But you are welcome to find a standing room in one of the other fully booked carriages and enjoy the 14-hour journey there. ÖBB regrets the inconvenience, but should you fill out a stack of forms, you will even be refunded the difference of the amount you have already paid sometime."

Since I wanted to forego this experience, I boarded the cheaper plane. A flight to Venice has many disadvantages, but also advantages. The biggest is certainly the landing.

The plane flies (somewhat awkwardly) over the sea to Chioggia and from there back along the mainland to the airport. This opens up an impressive view of the lagoon and Venice.

The well-equipped airport also has a terrace from which you can see the Venice skyline as well as the nearby islands of Burano and Torcello.

You can see them, but you can only reach them with difficulty. The airport is probably quite nice because it’s so hard to leave. At home I had tried to work out a route. By bus to Venice, then by vaporetto to the first change, then to Burano for the second change, or by another line to Murano, then a 15-minute walk to the next line to change again in Burano, etc. After half a day I gave up and ordered a water taxi. A holiday is a lifetime, and I don’t want to spend 2.5 hours driving around, changing vaporetti and hauling suitcases. The flight via Chioggia already felt like a diversion, but that was nothing compared to the boat trip from the airport to Torcello. About 4.5 km of water separate the two. So how long can such a trip take? A long time. The boat first has to go in the opposite direction to Murano, through the Canal Grande di Murano, then north again through the waterway that separates Mazzorbo from Mazzorbetto, all the way up to Torcello, which triples the distance. This tour is not a tourist trap, but the only permitted route. In good weather and calm seas, it’s a wonderful experience. I don’t have any photos to prove this, because – oh, how proud I am of myself – I left the camera at home. No, I didn’t forget to pack it. It was a very conscious decision to take only the sketching materials with me. Occasionally I have regretted it. I have been coming to Torcello for years and have always stayed in the same private house since my second visit. Nevertheless, the place always manages to surprise me. This time with a large family of pheasants that walked through the garden in the morning and in the evening. I have pheasants at home too, but not on this scale. I have never seen such large, fat specimens before. From a distance you could have mistaken them for small Stegosauria.

At lunchtime I watched lizards, in the evening pheasants, in between I went sketching. It was a very relaxed holiday again. New, however, were the weddings. Torcello is a popular location for them, but three in one week was exceptionally busy. One might have been a Biennale art project. The wedding reception did not take place in one of the two pubs near the church, as is usually the case, but in a private residence at the southern end of the island. To get there from the church, you have to go around a large part of the garden that belongs to the house where I always live. Apart from a well-paved embankment, there are only narrow gravel paths that lead into trails that end in the wild botany. This wedding was attended by around three hundred people, all dressed in cutaways and full-length evening gowns. It looked like a scene from Downton Abbey, except that this never-ending procession of wedding guests in their noble robes marched single file south through inhospitable marshland. It looked so bizarre that it must have been an art installation.

Finally, after all the visits to Italy, I was able to experience a strike. I have to explain that a strike is something exotic for me, because such things do not exist in Austria. This country has absolutely no strike tradition, in contrast to Italy, where public transport was paralysed on Friday. I hurried to get back from Venice to Torcello in time to enjoy the peace and quiet of a tourist-free afternoon. However, there were not less than usual. Italian strikes aren’t what they used to be either!

By the way, the tourists are getting weirder and weirder. Yes, I am aware of the problematic nature of my statement because I am also a tourist, but hopefully not one of the kind who loudly declares that there are sights on Torcello that are actually in Rome. I was speechless, however, when an elderly gentleman from the USA quite naturally opened a garden door with "private property" written next to it and entered to take pictures of the house and garden and then complained about restrictions such as a garden fence per se, because during his last visit to the island everything was freely accessible. And this from someone who comes from a country where, depending on the state, you can be shot for trespassing! Compared to that, the couple from Bavaria who wanted to picnic in the garden of my holiday home three years ago was really harmless. Terry Pratchett wrote: "tourist" meant "idiot". It’s meanwhile nearly impossible to disagree with that statement.

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