I remember my first trip to Venice very clearly. It was 2003. I was recording a segment of ’50 Places to See Before You Die’ for the BBC. It was a whirlwind trip. 3 days, one Italian camera crew and one English born Venetian guide – Patricia Weston Liani.
Most of what I wanted to see was kept at arms length due to a tight schedule and I knew next to nothing about Venice except the basics of my ancestral roots there. Ironically we were here for the BBC not for me, but it was a precious first trip and I still remember it clearly.
It included just what you would expect for a tourism heavy programme. We landed at the Basilica. Filmed in the San Marco Piazza and went on a gondola ride right up the Palazzo Mocenigo where Byron had lived and Tita had worked with his family.
They recorded my every reaction. I’m sure they wanted tears, but I didn’t give it to them. Inside though there were a hundred emotions raging through me that only I really understood. Really my first trip should have been alone. I was here for very personal reasons. Everything about the place spoke to me and I had no time to answer back.
But I can’t complain. We arrived from Marco Polo on a private motorboat, were put up at a very nice hotel and everything was expenses paid. I was in heaven.We even bumped into my English cousins who happened to be staying in the same hotel as me. Which was very odd.
I went back every year after that – another four visits of a week each. It was never enough. And I never went alone. Always with people who yearned for the tourist traps. Then circumstances changed and I stopped being able to afford the trips.
This year I am going back twice. It’s been 10 years. And I am going alone for the first one. This will be the first time I can genuinely just wander to my hearts content, avoid the hotspots and spend hours just gazing at the water as it laps the traghetto.