Describing Venice to someone who has not been is impossible. Describing Her to one who has is unnecessary.
Words forsake Her. She saturates all the senses as if they are one. Perhaps this is why I often use the language of music when speaking of her to others; the lingua franca, a secret tongue shared by initiates.
And like music, Venice delights those first-comers whose enviable naïveté allows them the special wonder of ignorance to her order.
She is a sonata that opens coolly with the approach by boat from San Giuliano. I always want to wait to see her. Delay amplifies the pleasure for me. I close my eyes and listen to the rhythmic slap of water against the hull and tell the captain to steer north of the Grand Canal to enter Cannaregio between the Church and the University. This is not the way taken by tourists. It proves to the captain that I am initiated.
At the mouth of the Cannaregio canal, Venice is not a riot of color. She is pink and brown and white. She is working class. She is anchored.
I open my eyes near the Ponte dei Tre Archi. As we approach, there are only seven capstones visible. The tide is high and the captain motions for us to lower our heads as we pass under. Apricots, pale yellows and sun-bleached blues develop. Filigreed balconies with flower pots blossom as we approach Ponte delle Guglie, the last bridge before the Grand Canal. I duck under and look right, admiring the Palazzo Labia. The proud façade is rarely seen by first-comers. It does not feature in the pamphlets, yet it is among my favorites.