Travel rule number one: bring a coat.
Travel rule number two: if your forget your coat, don’t.
Travel rule number three: if you seriously forgot a coat and it’s raining outside, buy a coat.
To the consumer Venice is an endless string of shopping opportunities. But when you need something specific, like a carton of eggs or a rain coat, suddenly you’re in the center of a crowded piazza and what you really need is just out of reach.
A few days ago, when I realized my mistake in forgetting to pack a coat, I tried to buy one at Coin, the Italian department store. Since it was a beautiful cloudless day, sun dresses and bikinis were the bulk the inventory there. The same was true for the next several boutique-type stores I walked into. Even though it was fun to admire myself in designer trench coats, I decided I was out of my league and started at the other end of the shopping spectrum- kiosks. That was a dead end too, mostly because I couldn’t bring myself to spend 30 euro on a University of Venezia sweatshirt.
I had almost given up my hunt for the perfect layer and resigned myself to wearing three t-shirts out during the day when I peeked in the window of Italo Sport. The door was locked and I started to walk away when the shop guy opened it and motioned for me to come in. There, at the back of a dirty and dimly-lit one-aisle store was a rack of waterproof jackets for 40 euro each. I picked a black one, bought it, and wore it out. I don’t think I’ve been that excited to make a purchase since Black Friday.
During my hunt I noticed that Venetian (and often not Venetian) vendors are people of opportunity, masters of supply and demand. When the weather was nice they were peddling light-up toys and sunglasses. When the acqua-alta sirens sounded they stocked up on umbrellas and shoe-shaped plastic bags. Suddenly there were long-sleeved sweaters on display in the shop windows. Maybe I just didn’t notice it before, but almost every mannequin had a pea coat or a sport jacket on.
Today, the sun is back and the umbrella vendors are gone. Or they’re the same vendors and now they’re back to roses and knock-off handbags. There’s a myth of Venice in there someplace but I’m too busy zipping and unzipping my new jacket to tell what it is.