Stepping out of Venezia’s Santa Lucia train station, you are greeted by the sound of water gently lapping against the pavement from the city’s famous Grand Canal. A 10-minute wander takes you through a labyrinth of winding waterways, picturesque bridges and pastel-coloured buildings that seem to defy physics by staying afloat in their staggeringly beautiful surroundings.

After an aimless stroll through the sun-bleached city, soundtracked by the distant call of gondoliers and bustle from gelateria doorways, the leading question I have come here to ask Harvey St Clair begins to seem rather absurd: ‘why did you join Venezia FC’?

But despite the undeniable charm of the city and the allure of la dolce vita, the Scotland Under-21 international’s decision to turn down a senior contract at Chelsea in favour of a move to the unfashionable Italian second tier does demand further examination, if only for its sheer bravery and rarity among young Scottish footballers.

This wasn’t, after all, just the next step in the winding career path of a journeyman player. This was a 19-year-old leaving a club he had been with for 13 years, since his first trial aged six, moving to a new country and league without a minute of senior football to his name and only a handful of Italian phrases committed to memory.

St Clair first came to the attention of many football fans north of the border when he helped Scotland’s Under-21 side to fourth place in this year’s Toulon Tournament, coming off the bench against South Korea and Togo. But Chelsea supporters held high hopes for the forward, who scored three goals for the Blues’ Under-23 side as they beat the likes of Real Madrid and Porto to reach the final of the UEFA Youth League last season.

Remaining at Stamford Bridge would have been the easy choice for the teenager, with a mixture of youth football and loan spells likely to have been waiting had he stayed put. There is a refreshing simplicity to his response when challenged on the decision to begin this Venetian adventure, which speaks volumes of the courage, adventurous spirit and open-mindedness of this young man in a foreign land.

“I came to Venezia for an opportunity to play first-team football,” he explained. “For a new experience, a new challenge and to play with men at the end of the day.

“I want to progress as a footballer so for me it was a no brainer to come here. Chelsea offered me a new deal and I could’ve stayed, but I would’ve been playing Under-23s. I just felt it was best to come here.

“The way Venezia approached me was that they really wanted me to come. They have a big project here - a long-term project. It’s a very stable club and they showed real eagerness to get me.

“When I first heard about it I watched videos, searched on the internet about the team. I thought it was a great club and the new owner, [Joe] Tacopina, who has taken charge has a good project and it seemed like a very stable club. Obviously, Venice is a beautiful place and it seemed like a really nice club to come to.”

St Clair need not look too far for encouragement. Less than 70 miles down the motorway to the west, Liam Henderson is preparing for his first full season on the peninsula, having won legions of admirers in the second half of last season with Bari.

The Serie B outfit were declared bankrupt over the summer, leaving the playmaker without a club, but 2006 World Cup winner Fabio Grosso, Henderson’s coach at Bari, requested to Hellas Verona that the midfielder join him at the Stadio Bentegodi after taking charge of the recently-relegated side in June.

Serie A giants Fiorentina were among the clubs to have shown interest in the former Hibernian and Celtic man over the summer, before he was reunited with his former coach to aid in Hellas’ bid to return to the top-flight.

The exploits of Henderson, who was the first Scot to appear in senior men’s football in Italy since Graeme Souness 22 years ago, have not gone unnoticed by St Clair as he prepares to go head-to-head with his compatriot this season.

“I think he’s definitely left a pathway for other players who might think it’s not possible,” he said.

“He has shown that you can go abroad and do well, so I’ve definitely looked up to him and he’s done very well for himself. We’ll hopefully be battling this season - he’s the enemy now.

“We exchanged messages before I came here. He just wished me luck for the season, he only had positive things to say. I did the same, I just said good luck this season and that was it, just small talk.”

The move comes with a big lifestyle change for St Clair, but he appears enthused by the challenge as he greets the club’s press officer and his team-mates in Italian ahead of Venezia’s penultimate training session before their league opener against Spezia.

“I’ve been practising Italian a bit on my phone with an app and otherwise just listening to Italian music, trying to watch Italian videos and asking my team-mates a lot ‘how do you say this, how do you say that’,” he said. “It’s coming on slowly, but I’m picking it up a bit.”

The teenager has settled into a flat near the training ground in a tranquil part of the mainland Mestre area of the city, but as some of his grizzled Italian team-mates begin to arrive for the session they bring a reminder that the youngster is not only facing a battle against a new language, but his first experience of senior football in a division renowned for its physicality.

The circumstances would be enough to intimidate even the most seasoned pro, but St Clair’s positive attitude has impressed club staff, coaching team and players alike and his enthusiasm for his new life and surroundings is evident.

“My mum and dad came over for a bit at the start, just to settle me into the apartment which I’m staying in now,” he said. “They’ve gone now I’m settled in, but they helped a bit [with the adjustment].

“A lot of my team-mates do speak English, but there are a few who don’t speak any. I’m able to understand things on the pitch like drills and I can get through ok - I’ve learned quite a lot of football vocabulary but still have a lot to learn.”

The Italian game is renowned for its attention on tactical aspects of the game, and an increased focus on analysis has been one on-field adjustment St Clair has noticed.

“Before training we do a lot of video work, the manager will speak about what we’re going to do and even in pre-season games there’s a lot of video,” he said. There is a lot of tactical stuff, a lot of set pieces and corners. I don’t think it’s crazy tactical but it’s a little more detailed on that side of things.”

With three years on his deal and former Inter youth team coach Stefano Vecchi at the helm, a mentor with an excellent track record in youth development, there is already an atmosphere of optimism around the club over the Scot’s future in Italy.

The city he now calls home gave birth to one of the world’s most famous explorers, Marco Polo, and while St Clair’s bold journey may not hold many parallels to the adventures of the 14th-century merchant, his spirit of adventure and willingness to carve his own path to first-team football would almost certainly have been met with approval by Venice’s most renowned son.

Harvey St Clair fact file

Age: 19

Position: Forward

Born: London, 13 October 1998

Previous clubs: Chelsea U23 (29 apps, 4 goals)

International: Scotland U21 (2 apps)