Sunday, 30 October 2016

Letter from Venice (24) 30-10-16

I thread my way from the Guggenheim Gallery were I have spent the morning to the Santo Spirito boat station on the Zattere emerging from between buildings, blinking into the sunlight, the ozone and the exhilaration of the Fondamenta. As Proust’s sapphires glitter and dance on the water in the gently warming sunshine of late October, I sit on a church step and reflect that my favourite places in Venice are the Zattere and the promenade which skirts the Giardini Pubblichi. Both face south, the former across the 300 yards-wide Giudecca Canal and the latter straight onto the Lagoon. To say that it is the travelling and not the arrival at the destination is a clichĂ© but one that has meaning in Venice. No matter which church or gallery one is hurrying to or from the journey always provides pleasures equal to what these destinations provide.

I board the 5.1 which is overfull and stand on deck behind the wheelhouse, my legs pressed against the sliding exit bars. Bouncing on the waves towards San Marco the breeze and the light are intoxicating. At San Zaccaria I step off the boat momentarily to allow large numbers of passengers to alight and then reboard, this time descending into the aft cabin, hoping to get an outside seat in the stern. I am out of luck so I stand at the front of the cabin. An Italian woman wearing a jade green turban of sorts and orange-framed glasses sits reading secreted on the wooden shelf in the luggage area. She smiles broadly and tugs at her standing friend, a woman with a white, short-haired lap dog with big dark eyes which clings to her shoulder. The reading woman wants to read a passage to her friend which has particularly delighted her. She does so gleefully, wagging her finger emphatically and making her friend laugh when she reaches the best part before returning to her silent reading. There is something divine in the sight of a human being reading as it represents her engagement with recorded consciousness and that most wonderful thing – meaning - in a concrete and visible form. A few days earlier, in San NicolĂ  in Treviso, I had seen a fresco showing a medieval monk wearing glasses as he pored over a manuscript. This is the first depiction in the world of a human wearing glasses and gave me similar thoughts.

I alight at Celestia and, as I am passing Palladio's San Francesco della Vigna, 50 metres from home, I dip into the side door emerging a few minutes later through the front door, having glimpsed again its Veronese, Tiepolo, and Negroponte paintings and Tullio Lombardo carving. All of this right on my doorstep for no charge reinforces the sense that, wherever you are, fretting about destinations is fruitless and unnecessary in this place.

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