7. Venice: San Giorgio & Torcello

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When Minerva pulled aside the curtain the next morning, the white-cold December sun glinting off the wet stone nearly blinded her. The day promised to be lovely, so she woke Albus and persuaded him to take an early walk to find breakfast.

The view from the Rialto Bridge was glorious. The blue-green ripples of the Grand Canal reflected the old buildings that lined it like an audience of stately elders, and the sounds of the old city waking up rang pleasantly in Minerva's ears.

They strolled through the market, already filling with black-clad ladies on the hunt for the freshest vegetables and seafood, and a few blocks further they found a café in the Campo San Silvestro. It was crowded with Monday-morning Venetians at the bar, downing their espressos before heading out to work. 

A man stood and offered a seat at one of the few tables to Minerva and Albus.

"Prego, signora," he said, gesturing for her to sit.

She hesitated, but Albus said, "Go ahead. I'll get us some coffees."

"Grazie," she said to the Italian man, and took the seat he had vacated as Albus headed to the bar.

She entertained herself by studying the café's other patrons and wondering what their days would hold. They were, by and large, men, seemingly a mixture of businessmen in black wool coats and fedoras and workingmen in heavy jackets and knit hats or flat, billed caps. A priest in a black cassock, short cape, and what looked like a tufted box perched atop his head, sat in a corner, sipping from a tiny cup and reading L'Osservatore Romano, frowning through round, wire-rimmed spectacles.

A pair of carabinieri, Italian policemen, entered, their crisp, brass-buttoned uniforms and bicorn hats drawing Minerva's eye. She smiled to see a young man slip out the door behind them, clearly opting to abandon his breakfast in favour of a discreet escape. It reminded her of the way her students sometimes attempted to avoid her in the corridors if they hadn't completed their homework or had performed poorly on an exam.

Albus arrived bearing their coffees and a plate of cornetti, which were warm and filled with vanilla cream.

"A decadent breakfast after last night's overindulgence," she said, eagerly tearing off a piece of pastry and popping it into her mouth. It was buttery and creamy, with a hint of lemon sugar.

Albus dunked his into his espresso and took a bite.

"Delicious," he said. He pretended to pout when a blob of cream from the end of his cornetto plopped onto the surface of the table. Minerva smirked and offered him her index finger. He took it in his mouth, taking a little longer than necessary to lick the cream from it.

"What's that?" Minerva asked, quirking her chin at the folded newspaper Albus had dropped onto the table with their breakfast.

"The International Herald Tribune. I liberated it from the bar while I was waiting for our coffees."

"Dare I ask what's been happening in the world since we've been on holiday?"

"This is a few days behind the times, of course," Albus said, taking his spectacles from his coat pocket and putting them on. He unfolded the paper and looked at the front page.

"It appears that Indonesian nationalists continue to expel Dutch nationals from Dutch New Guinea," he said.

"I imagine it won't be 'Dutch New Guinea' much longer."

He looked up at her over his glasses. "Indeed. The era of European colonialism seems to be drawing to a close."

"Is that a bad thing?"

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