Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Letter from Venice (11) 12-10-16

I watch two canottieri from a local club pass quickly across the field of my vision. They are dressed alike in a powder blue uniform and row vigorously, in rhythm with each other, standing like gondolieri. The vessel they are in is a wooden canoe, slightly narrower and shorter than a gondolier, and flat-bottomed. They are 80 yards out on the sea, standing inside the boat rather than on the raised aft like the gondolieri. Behind them I make out the dark blue smudge of the Dolomites.

Last night, unable to sleep, I found I could recite the following in the correct sequence – the divinely named Celestia (closest to me), Ospedale, Fondamenta Nove, Orto, San Alvise, Tre Archi, Crea, Guglie, Riva de Biasio, Ferrovia, Piazzale di Roma, Santa Marta, San Basilio, Zattere, Spirito Santo and then, along the Giudecca, Sacca Fisola (a name sounding revoltingly anatomical), Molino Stucky, Palanca, Redentore, Zitelle, San Giorgio, San Zaccharia, Arsenale, Giardini, Sant’Elena, San Pietro di Castello, Certosa ( a separate island), Bacini and back to Celestia. These make a perfect circuit on the number 4 and 5 boat routes round the periphery of the whole of Venice. The fact that I can recite them in order is indicative of the fact that I am beginning to get a sense of the city as an integrated whole. By now I have also been on foot in all six of the Sestieri although I didn’t know the name of one of them. I am getting a sense of how it all joins together and of its proportions. Joseph Brodsky reckons that it takes about an hour to walk from one end to the other. I am also feeling that it is a city in which, putting the vast tourist population aside, real inhabitants live. I have discovered sporting clubs – Venezia FC in the third division (but they have been in Serie A several times) actually have a ground hidden away at one end of the island, the only one in the league reached principally by boat – old peoples’ homes, schools, universities and hospitals. Yesterday I found there was a municipal library nearby which I will visit tomorrow. I know how to sort and on what days to hang the different types of rubbish from the front door. I have a sense of locality. I have also noticed the blindingly obvious. People here speak Italian which means that this wonder of the world is in Italy as opposed to being a startlingly unique location fallen from the skies and independent of everything else in the world. It shares a territory with Rome, Milan and Florence and, so, is grounded (as much as it can be) within a single polity. As a result of this discovery I advert sluggishly to the fact that I can attempt to improve my Italian here as well as anywhere on the mainland.

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