Saturday, 22 October 2016

Letter from Venice (17) 22-10-16

Sketches

In the morning there isn’t a trace of mist and the sea is very calm. From the Fondamante Nove I can make out the snow-capped Dolomites clearly depicted in a huge arc filling the skyline from east to west behind Murano. Their quiet presence is a faery backdrop perhaps only 100 kilometres away.

Towards lunchtime I sit in the archway of the waterside café at the Ca’ Pesaro and soon become aware that two egrets have taken off from the side of the Grand Canal. They bank and turn into a canal issuing into the larger one and disappear over a bridge.

On my way home I walk along the Canal di Canareggio in bright sunlight and sit on the water’s edge with my feet on a landing step to smoke a cigar while waiting for the 5.2. I am at the Tre Archi Boat Station towards the North end of this canal which leads out into the Northern Lagoon. Looking to its mouth I can see the road and rail bridge which emerges from Santa Lucia station and links Venice to the mainland. You usually see cormorants alone on the water or in small groups. Suddenly around a hundred birds cross the mouth of the canal in a long string, from the direction of the road bridge flying towards the east a few feet above the water. Above them descending airplanes approach Marco Polo. I board the 5.2 and move into the fore cabin. It is unusual to stand in the cabin at the front but a Muslim couple, who are clearly keen to see all that the journey unfolds out of the small front window, do so. He is bearded, hefty and wears a baseball cap, jeans, and a denim shirt to cover his bulk. She wears a hijab and a pure cotton navy gown with long sleeves and two gold stripes at the cuffs, up her arms and down the front edge. She wears large sunglasses of the sort Italian women wear. I see the lovely tower of the Madonna dell’Orto come into view above the buildings to the right. It is graceful and brick-built with a top section which has a white triple arcade on each side. Above this is a white marble balustrade which is surmounted by a pale orange brick dome, in its turn, surmounted by a statue of the Madonna who wears a cast iron halo filled with stars.

Later, in the evening, a canopy of umbrellas flows over a bridge in front of me. In the dark, glancing sideways from the next bridge, I make out the distant figure of a gondolier depicted against a white wall while his boat and the water are black on black as he disappears around a corner, silently apart from a light splash. Looking back into it the shopping street I am descending is all lights and sound.

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