It’s 5.58pm on 3 April. Precisely ten years ago Emma and I stood on this very spot, in similar spring early evening sunshine. And I asked her to marry me.
Last night, Maria discreetly packed a suitcase for Emma and this morning a cab took us to the airport. Emma had no idea of our destination.
Now we are standing before the church of San Giovanni Grisostomo, tucked away in a corner of Cannaregio. Ten years ago and today, Emma spent an hour looking in awe at Giovanni Bellini’s altarpiece of Saints Jerome, Christopher and Louis. Intellectual, labourer and aristocrat, representing the universality of the Catholic Church, I recall Emma informing me all those years ago, adding provocatively that it was easier to believe that if you were a wealthy merchant capable of commissioning such a painting than if you were an impoverished labourer.
Standing in the square now and looking at the church, Emma takes my hand. She turns to face me.
“Thank you. Ten years,” she says. “And three children. Sleepless nights,” I add.
“Yes, a long journey. We’re not the people we once were,” says Emma.
Then she leans forwards, places the finger tips of one hand on my cheek and kisses me tenderly on the lips.
“But I do still love you,” she says.
“And I love you.”
“Come on,” I say, leading Emma in the direction of the Rialto Bridge. “Did you know that…”
“Yes, I know that bellinis were invented at Harry’s Bar and named in honour of my guy,” teases Emma.
“You told me once before,” she replies.
Ten years ago we celebrated our engagement with bellinis at Harry’s Bar. But tonight we shall not drink at Harry’s Bar. Tonight I have rented a 16th century palace on the Grand Canal.