Snow Silence — in Venice?

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’re being hammered by an early winter storm. The sky is clotted with fat flakes belonging on a vintage Christmas card, periodically overtaken by thick swirls that resemble splatting cake batter. Jagged white gashes highlight contours of piney evergreen branches. Except for the random snow plow, my world is still. And, more importantly, quite.

I thought “snow silence” was a mountain thing, but discovered last month that noise evaporates in a snowstorm — even at sea level!

I was in Venice, Italy, photographing and confirming facts pending the release of The Brothers’ Keepers (http://amzn.to/1yFZgzp) November 17. My hotel on the Grand Canal was next to the Aman Resort where George Clooney married a couple of days later. He was scheduled to invade arrive mid-way through my five-night stay and water taxis were already scarce. As our concierge said, “Clooney has a place in Como. Why not just get married there?” At least the paparazzi were excited about the wedding of the day year in the floating city.

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I went for a coffee and to people watch in St. Mark’s Square after a late lunch. The hour hammered from the bell tower as a line of clouds headed my direction. I spent the afternoon taking notes for things like this blog, then cut back through St. Mark’s around 6:00 p.m. — and was almost knocked over by a strong wind heralding the front line of the storm I spotted earlier.

I cut left near the famous jeweler, Nardis. Zigzagged for three blocks dodging early evening strollers, trip wires disguised as dogs and owners, and hawkers selling counterfeit handbags. Crossed two small squares and paused to consider a silk scarf in a boutique at the bottom of a bridge. I arrived at the hotel content to spend my evening reading and responding to emails.

P1020441Then it hit. I thought it was heavy rain. Peeping out the window, I discovered an inch of ice pellets covering everything. The torrent shifted between sleet and snow for forty-five minutes as Venice edged to a standstill.

In the lobby, men in morning suits (tuxedos and tails) lifted heavy antique furniture out of harm’s way, and rolled up rungs already soaked by two inches of water cascading through the double doors. More water poured down an elevator shaft.

Venice was turning to slush — but it was quiet, enveloped by a blanket of the same quiet I experience now on top of my mountain. I peeked toward the Grand Canal sixty feet away, and then toward the small square.

One set of footprints headed into the silent Venetian night, doubtlessly from a gondolier heading home.