The arrival in a stuffed bus by the bridge across the Laguna was exactly what it promised to be: as we transited from crumbly grey mainland towards the island of red buildings awaiting to welcome us with their elegantly worn angles, the sky was undecidedly Decembuarish and the water void of romantic shiplets. Piazzale Roma, are we there yet and where is there? Venice, we’d heard the name sung and buzzed so many times that we had come to expect to feel her as we saw her. One step on the bus, one by plane and back in the bus, and the first step on this new planet was definitely going to be a big one.
Piazzale Roma was a car park, a bus station and a tram stop, it was all things but a dainty canal. As in most mediocre science-fiction, we had to immerse ourselves into this new jungle to realise its novelty and for its beauty to come at us. Surely enough, we gave her the time for three-quarters of a calzone – the small, crunchy, directly-in-the-zone spinach and ricotta kind of time – and the Serenissima was right behind a large hotel particulier. Boom: light stone bridges and white catholic domes and many, many, many mask shops for carnevale and quand le voulez.
Even after having been surprised by a merry octolingual at the reception of our apartment and chilled in and out of thrill by the damp weather the next day, all the earrings and the panettone and the lovingly lover could not make me feel like fascinated Jane Hudson from David Lean’s 1995 film Summertime. The Venices I’d seen were all still from the spring and summer collections. I’d stopped believing in o sole mio gondola chauffeurs, but as with father Christmas the parents’ role takes Santa’s place, I hadn’t started questioning the origin of the gift.
My Venice feels like no one else’s. She is a maritime space in the middle of nowhere, with marshy edges coming out from under the palaces. You choose to get lost in her and can’t ever guess whether the people walking in front of you through the narrow backstreets around the arsenal, are locals or tourists or somewhere in between. In my Venice, no one is a local as much as the seagulls swooping down the canals and over the ambulance boats, over the Rialto and wading their feet by San Marco’s bell tower. You wonder if you’ll meet Johnny Something on this rich run-down set, remembering immediately after that this Venice is more the setting for canaletti.
We got into her flow early on or maybe halfway there, we gazed at everything there was to gaze at and probably none of it at all. Is a motif coming out of all this typing to and fro, were we just trailing around in circles?