I glided into Venice at sunset aboard a slow moving water bus. It took an hour to get to Ponte di Rialto, the effective center of Veneto’s capital. The shadows of the romantic city contrasted the silhouettes of the factories in the distance. The sun sank, not into the horizon, but into the thick clouds above it, a candy red sun swallowed whole.

The next day the stores were bright and the shop keepers jaded. The narrow streets a sharp labyrinth of tourist traps; the hosts in front of the restaurants mercilessly trying to attract business.  I walked along emerald waters stuck to buildings trying to stay afloat. Visitors passed by with shirts that yelled Rome or Paris or FC Barcelona and snapped their cameras haphazardly while travel wallets swung from their necks.

I stopped in places at leisure. There was no reason to be selective, Venice can be explored in anyway but straight forward. Some souvenir shops were stocked with glass figurines and decorative light fixtures. Others were crammed with the hollow heads of masquerade masks. There were leather shops and little stores that sold fountain pens; wine filled plastic two liter bottles in exchange for a few euros. I passed by them all but the wine shop.

Bridges crossed over gondolas. I looked down at the most unromantic part of Venice. The narrow black boats packed the canals full of foreigners. No real Venetian would be caught dead in one it seemed. I’m not sure how many Venetians even live in Venice these days.

The city was undeniably gorgeous, but I preferred Venice at night when the streets eerily emptied and a stark silence humbled the ears. The moon was nearly full and the little boats sat in the canals perfectly still, calmly waiting for the bustle of the next day.