Richard Herring: VeniceÂ’s biggest challenge was not pushing my wife into the canal
Friday 26 Apr 2013
I always thought I might get married one day. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine IÂ’d be married for a whole year. But itÂ’s been going so well I think I might stick with it for another 12 months.
To celebrate our anniversary (or, to be more accurate, to reward my wife for sticking with me for so long), we took a mini-break to Venice.
Which was a big risk.
Whenever we are near a body of water together I have an almost irresistible compunction to push her into it. Because it would be momentarily funny but then massively annoying and inconvenient for us both.
The fact that sheÂ’d be furious and weÂ’d have to go home so she could change and it would ruin our marriage is what makes it funny for me.
Luckily, self-preservation has made me resist so far but would I be so strong in a town where the streets are paved with water?
As it turns out, the real challenge in Venice is to get through three days without once absent-mindedly singing Â‘Just-a One CornettoÂ’.
The European Union offers a prize of Â€1million to anyone who can achieve that. But no one has ever won. Even people who have lived in Venice all their lives, have never seen the advert and canÂ’t speak English find themselves doing it daily.
I had sung the refrain within the first half hour. WasnÂ’t it Oscar Wilde who said: Â‘I can resist anything but the temptation to sing Â“Just-a One CornettoÂ” in VeniceÂ’?
Ironically, they donÂ’t even sell Cornettos there, which seems like a huge oversight. They would clean up. Or maybe I couldnÂ’t find a Cornetto in Venice because witless British tourists buy them up the minute they hit the freezer shelves.
It might cost Â€80 to ride in a gondola for 30 minutes, but those millionaire gondoliers earn their money, having to pretend to laugh at a joke that they canÂ’t possibly understand 30 times a day.
One of the must-see sights of the town is supposedly the Bridge of Size. But I walked over it and, I have to be honest, itÂ’s not that big at all.
You might say that the title doesnÂ’t specify the size and that the Bridge of Size is of a size (to be specific, the exact size that it is). But if someone says something is Â‘of sizeÂ’ then you expect it to be big and it isnÂ’t. ItÂ’s one of the smallest bridges in Venice (but not so small to make remarking on its tininess worthwhile).
The Rialto Bridge is massive. ThatÂ’s the one they should call the Bridge of Size.
I cracked this joke so many times during our stay that my wife not only sighed quite a lot but also asked me to push her into a canal to break the monotony.
But Venice is not all about offensive stereotypes, wilfully misunderstanding the word Â‘sighsÂ’ and being overcharged for absolutely everything. ItÂ’s a beautiful and historic city: we saw the DogeÂ’s Palace; listened to an orchestra playing Vivaldi; ate spaghetti black with squid ink; and drank Bellinis in HemingwayÂ’s favourite bar.
But my favourite moment was witnessing a pretty Japanese girl having her photo taken by her boyfriend in front of the breath-taking Saint MarkÂ’s Basilica.
She stood on tiptoe and pirouetted as if she was a fairy taking flight. She couldnÂ’t bear to think that the remarkable building might steal focus from her.
SheÂ’s probably quite a high-maintenance girlfriend. And one woman who might benefit from being pushed into a canal.