Sunday, 23 October 2016

Letter from Venice (19) 23-10-16

In my home town today – Sunday - my wife is running in the Great South Run. I wish her well and set out for the Scuola San Giovanni Evangelista. I arrive at exactly the moment when the door is being opened and comment to the female custodian on how cold it is. She agrees and then tells me what a struggle she had to get on to Venice this morning because of the Marathon. I had seen posters for this but had forgotten about it. I ask her more. She says it starts on the Brenta Canal on the mainland and that the runners run across the road and rail bridge and then along the Fondamenta Zattere by the water’s edge. She wasn’t sure where they went next but assumed they turned into the city at that point. I do a brief tour around the Scuola which has a beautiful Renaissance double staircase deigned by Codussi. Afterwards I head straight down across town to the Zattere to see the Marathon. On the wonderful fondamenta the runners’ route is taped off and includes the use of the long wooden ramps usually used by people with wheelchairs, buggies and shopping trollies to cross the bridges over the canal entrances that intersect the sea promenade. A café near the Zattere landing stage has two rows of tables directly in front of it. This is where I install myself with an americano with the taped off route right in front of me. There are a lot of Police and Protezione Civile about in high vis jackets but no sign of any runners. After around half an hour I hear the sound of a helicopter hovering above the Giudecca. Most of the café’s tables are on a projecting pontoon beyond the taped off race route and I have noticed that a few customers have begun to sit there in spite of the difficulty the waiters might have with crossing the lines. This is also going to be a problem for embarking and disembarking passengers at the boat station. Two of the waiters seem to be having a heated discussion precisely about the wisdom of serving across the lines of runners. The younger one who is in favour of the business it represents wins the argument to the consternation of the other one. I make a quick decision and cross over to the pontoon. I have noticed that a Protezione Civile man has been acting as a traffic warden and is opening and closing the tape to allow trade to go on. Shortly after making my decision the first runner arrives thudding over the wooden ramps of the nearby bridge. He helpfully bears the number one on his chest and looks to me like a Kenyan or Ethiopian. He is miles ahead and further runners with names like Masai and Ngare arrive three or four minutes later. It’s about ten minutes before the first white runner appears and that is only after the first female runner has passed, she also an African I guess. I watch for half an hour or so and then board a 5.1 at the landing stage. The boat follows the promenade about thirty yards offshore, moving faster than the runners but giving a great view of them in both directions along it. The question raised by the woman at the Scuola earlier as to where they would go into the city is answered as the mouth of the Grand Canal begins to appear. They don’t go into the city. Instead a high metal footbridge has been built overnight on large pontoons across the mouth of the Grand Canal and the runners run straight over to the Giardini Reali and then past San Marco along the Molo and the Riva degli Schiavoni down to the Giardini Pubblichi. There are three arches under the footbridge and, although I assume that the Vaporetti 1 and 2 which ply up and down the Canal must have been suspended, I soon see that the Number 1 is slipping gingerly through the central arch under the runners. The water taxis are using the two lower arches either side. The number 2 which would only normally continue for one stop reaches the footbridge and then doubles back. I alight at San Zaccaria and am able to scramble under a scaffolding ramp at the nearest bridge and make my way up into the heart of Castello and home.

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