Monday, 31 October 2016

Letter from Venice (26) 31-10-16

Late in the afternoon I decide to jump on a 4.2 to go and see the Molino Stucky which now houses the Hilton Hotel. At the pontoon I see a notice announcing free travel on the boats from today, Hallowe’en, until the 2nd November, to San Michele, the cemetery island. This is an annual dispensation designed to allow large numbers of Venetians to visit graves in this period of the celebration of the dead. On my way to the Vaporetto stop I see little children with pointed hats. In the door of the Coop stands a boy with a red-collared vampire cape.

After circling Venice from one o'clock to seven o'clock I alight at Sacca Fisola the westernmost island attached to the Giudecca by a long modern footbridge made of steel and wood . As I leave the landing stage I find myself in what feels like a council estate consisting of widely spaced blockhouses of around four stories. I walk a little way through them and then cross the footbridge. I am soon walking along the Fondamenta delle Convertite (the converted women) and passing the Penitenziario Femminile – the women’s prison which I am surprised to find on Venice. Lights are on inside. As I pass it costumed children run past me followed by three mothers wearing capes, fishnet stockings, cobwebs and Frankenstein make-up. They are engaged in an earnest conversation about something which has nothing to do with Hallowe’en. I turn onto the Fondamenta facing Venice and walk westwards along it. I pass a showroom for the modern Fortuny textile company. The showroom has columns covered in leather and walls covered in patterned textiles recalling the famous Fortuny designs. The edges of the walls are lined with brass studs.

I reach the Molino Stucky which was once a flour mill and is the largest single building in the whole lagoon. It is teutonic in character and the size of two or three cathedrals and now houses luxury flats and the top of the range Hilton Hotel. I enter the hotel which reeks money and lavish expense. A helpful male receptionist steps from behind his desk to direct me to the lift which will take me to the Skyline Bar, the only rooftop bar in town. I pass through a long atrium which is floored with acres of modern marble, has ATMs, a shop and illuminated display cabinets containing diamond-studded masks. In the lift I rise eight floors very quickly and emerge at the bar which is long and sparkling. It is flanked on either side by an open roof terrace. One looks west onto the distant mainland coast and the cruise liner port. The other looks east straight down the Giudecca towards San Marco. I elect to sit in the latter and, from a high chair, look out over the sea visible on both sides of the Giudecca. On both sides of the bar wherever there is a meeting of the sea and the land it is studded with lights. The waiters, male and female, wear white muslin shirts, light jeans and braces. Their friendliness and attire make me think of Palo Alto rather than of Italy. I order a coffee which costs me eight Euros but is worth it for the view. A wealthy Dutch family snack on cicchetti and have tall drinks in heavy green-tinted glasses with slices of lime, crushed ice and floral decorations. The ceiling of the terrace has magenta striplights and disco music is played through speakers. As I leave I take a look at the western terrace. I can almost touch a crenellated turret whose pale, scrubbed brickwork, as with that of the whole building, has been beautifully cleaned and repointed.

I descend to the boat station at Sacca Fisola and decide to get whichever number 4 boat comes first. It is the anti-clockwise 4.1 which means that, by the time I get off at Fondamente Nove, I have almost completed a complete circle of the city on a number 4. In the dark I sit on the slightly damp stern seats outside the cabin and am joined by a French family.

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