24 October 2006

Venezia

Welcome to Waterworld. A siren bleats from the far distance and then a speedboat ambulance bounces by. Builders unload bricks and cement from miniature barges. The vapporetti ferry boats trundle from stop to stop like underground trains. Market traders unload brightly coloured baskets of fresh fruit and vegetables from bobbing boats as water taxis glide by, cutting the lagoon. The municipal garbage boat collects bags of refuse and gondoliers ply their trade, squeezing sackfuls of euros from gormless Japanese tourists.

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The Grand Canal 11.35am Oct 24th 2006
This is Venezia. Venice. Still a rather unique place. Round every corner there's a photo opportunity and round every corner there's a piece of history. It's there in the walls. It's there in the bends of the side canals and little alleyways that weave away from the Grand Canal like a spider's web of human enterprise and memory. Once Venice was home to over 200,000 people, long before the idea of a state called Italy was ever dreamt of. It was the new Byzantium. Where the East met Europe. Protected and threatened by the sea, it drew its wealth from the ships that arrived there from all over the known world. And there was wealth to spare. Riches to build fantastic churches, bell towers, hospitals and palaces and money to pay the finest artists, sculptors, architects and musicians. Venice was filthy commerce but it was also reaching out for something pure, something better.
Me and Shirley have just returned from three days there, partly celebrating twenty five years of marriage. That first night we walked in the back alleys of the Canareggio area and noticed how quiet it was. No cars. No thunderous trucks or motorbikes - not even any bicycles. Intense Italian conversations between neighbours resounded about the ancient walls and then faded away. Somewhere in the maze a dog barked. Strangely we never heard TV sets or loud music disturbing the night. It was so quiet and peaceful.
You can get visually punch drunk on art so we restricted ourselves to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Some amazing pieces of modern art there - Picasso, Paul Klee, Joan Miro, Henry Moore, Jackson Pollock, Dali and Gino Severin's "Sea=Dancer" (much beloved by Steve of "Occupied Country"). So that was a highlight of the trip and so was the visit to Burano, two miles north of Venice. The feel of this other lagoon island was very different.

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Burano above and gondolier below

There the houses were less grand but mostly brightly coloured. It seemed like a place where fisherfolk once eked out a simple living.
As we made our way homeward to the P. de Roma bus square at the end of the causeway that connects Venice with the mainland, some of the streets, shops and restaurants were awash as another high tide reached its peak. Stoical Venetians demonstrated why they possess rubber boots - wading through their flood waters and perhaps wondering how many flood tides their incredible little city can take before nature reclaims it - that would be a very sad loss. Venezia is a very special place and in those three days I found myself shaking my head very often and muttering "Amazing!" - not something I am prone to doing at all.
Below - down and out Venetian sleeping in the street

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Oh and for British readers of this blog, I'm going to really impress you by boasting that on our first night in Venice we went to a bank cash machine lobby and met (drum roll) no not Posh Spice and David Beckham, not Mick Jagger and his latest hoe but (wait for it!) John Stapleton and his lady Lynn Faulds Wood - long time TV consumers' rights campaigners. As Lynn couldn't get any cash out of the machine with her Allied Irish Bank card, I suggested they make a programme about plastic bank cards abroad - charges, communication problems, conversion rates etc.. Fortunately we had better luck with the cash machine but when John asked to borrow a hundred euros I declined in typically colourful Yorkshire patois. They slunk off into the night as famous people do.

12 comments:

  1. What a lovely post. I've long wanted to go to Venice. (These days the possibility rests on Keith's legs!) Congratulations to you both too.
    Just one little carp - 'Me and Shirley'!!! And you a teacher too.
    (Hmmm. Must do better.);)

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  2. Thanks Jennyta!
    "Me and Shirley" was a deliberate choice - reflecting the informality of ordinary conversation and also my northern roots. "Shirley and I" would have made us seem like royalty and it would have also put the woman before the man - quite improper in my view.
    By the way Jenny Tarbuck, a carp is a fish and you could go to Venice with a friend if Keith's legs are iffy because you're right, there's lots of walking to do in Venice. Don't see Rome and die, see Venice...

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  3. Lucky, lucky you- such a great city. Thanks for the pictures.

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  4. Canneregio was home to the jewish district that gave us the very term 'ghetto' and also as I recall the tomb of Tintoretto himself, far from the clicking crowds of st marco: the real venice. I just hope that lynn 'it's a potential deathtrap!' foulds wood doesn't make a tv show about how all these canals are a health and safety risk and should be filled in immediately and the churches must be boarded up in case somebody gets a neck injury looking up at the painted ceilings, and as for all that seafood: shellfish are a potential deathtrap! Looks like you had a great couple of days and happy anniversary. Your photos make Venice look almost as nice as whitby but without the fish and chips

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  5. Happy Anniversary!!!
    Venice looks to be a wonderfully romantic place. I love especially the row of colorful houses.

    How much would I love to go to the museum... *heavy sigh* there is never enough time for me in art museums. It always seems to be closing time.

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  6. I want to know about the colourful Yorkshire patois! What was it? "Sod off, ye git, or I'll smoke ye a kipper ye wilna forget?"

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  7. Thanks for the post! I've been to Rome and Florence, but not Venice. I wish I could just jaunt over for a holiday...

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  8. Wow!

    Sounds like you guys had a fantastic time!

    Happy Anniversary.

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  9. Venice. Isn't that where you can get a cheap cornetto? :)
    Congrats to you both. Twenty five years eh? That's over two life sentences.

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  10. Lovely pictures YP. But, have to inform you - that's no down and out Venetian lying there. Guess where I went on holiday this year?

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  11. Mr Reidski - You know I thought there was something odd about that guy. Although you can't see it on the photo, he was wearing a Reid tartan kilt and fish net tights. If only I'd known it was you I'd have bought you a square meal and given you a bit of wise advice about how to act with decorum in foreign lands.
    Mr Krip - You can buy lovely ice cream in Venice it's true.
    Brad - You have guessed pretty accurately how I addressed the TV personality dude.
    By George & Rugrat - Thanks for the anniversary greetings. Much appreciated.
    Arthur - I think the Venetian word "Ghetto" originally meant foundry or some such thing - it was where the original Jews worked.

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  12. Nice spot.
    Visit my virtual review on Venice : http://tramezzinimag.blogspot.com

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