When you first arrive in Venice ook across the grand canal in awe at all the boats and people, the first building you see is the church San Simon Piccolo. There are a good amount of stunning, old churches to see in Venice. We went to as many as we could and asked them all if visitors were allowed to go up in the towers. We always got the same (and understandable) answer- no.
This was the last church we visited while in Venice. We walked through, appreciating the beautiful building and all the art. We passed a man who was renting out lanterns so people could go below and see the crypt.
“Two euros,” he said.
“How much is it if we go down without renting lanterns?” Jason asked. We had our own lights, and as a budget backpacker you only spend money on the necessary stuff (like wine and pizza).
The guy, he hardly spoke any English, laughed and waved a hand. He handed us the lanterns and told us to go down.
We did, happily, both really excited at the idea of seeing a crypt. We walked down the stairs and entered the black abyss. Holding up the lanterns, we went through the entryway, holding them up to the wall and seeing the old words and pictures.
It was completely dark but I don’t think there was a certain spot that we didn’t see. As if we were the very first people discovering the crypt, we held out our lights and saw the depictions of angels, demons, skeletons, went into every room and saw the tombs and little doorways.
After a thorough tour we walked back up. The man seemed to appear out of nowhere, as if he somehow knew we were coming back upstairs that very moment. We enthusiastically thanked him, expressing how neat we thought that was. He motioned for us to follow him through a different door than we had come. He spoke in Italian, the only word I understood was “quattro”.
He motioned for us to go up. Quattro is four. He was telling us to go up four stories. All day we had been inquiring if we could go up a church tower, and here this man was leading us to one without us even asking.
We communicated to him that we understood and he left us there. We went through a storage room then arrived to a small old room with old, rickety stairs going up through a square hole in the ceiling. Some of the steps were broken and the rest no doubt old, so we went up cautiously. It was obvious that not just everyone got to go up there.
Up four stories. Then we reached the top of the bell tower.
What an opportunity! We were thrilled to be up there. While we were the clock struck an hour and we heard all the bells ring across the city while breathing in the amazing view and feeling we got from being up there. The bells in our tower didn’t ring, we guessed that they were too old, but we softly drummed our fingers on them and contributed to the song that sang out across all of Venice.
Why had he let us go up? We won’t ever know for sure, but he must’ve known how much we would appreciate it- and that we certainly did.
We were beaming when we went back down the old steps.
Once again, somehow just on time, the man greeted us as we reached the bottom. We were speaking different languages but the general tone of the conversation was enthusiasm and kindness and we all understood that just fine. He patted us on the back, offered us each a strawberry, then before we knew it we were back outside going down the steps to the glorious city we had just witnessed from above.
Travel is full of random people and the endless possibilities they provide. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- what an honor to experience these beautiful, unique moments.