Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Letter from Venice (30) 16-11-16

The late November morning is icy cold but the sun is warming the promenade as it rises and the horizon is shrouded in mist. The Bar Angio, which I have chosen for a farewell americano, has its terrace on the final sweep after the Riva degli Schiavoni, the Riva San Biasio, which means that it looks back towards the great Venetian triumvirate from the east.

In the first cluster I can see the tips of all five domes of the Basilica, the lagoon-facing facade of the Palazzo Ducale and the gold tip and green roof of the Campanile rising behind them. Directly opposite San Giorgio presents its back and flank to me behind a palisade of masts, with its own campanile. Equidistant between them are two dove grey domes and stone cotton reels of the Salute gently softened by the morning haze. This softening makes me think of the gentleness of Italian manners I have encountered. Every time a vaporetto docks and ties up, the young man or woman opening the bar gate to allow embarcation will always step first onto the pontoon and take the arm of the elderly and people in the seats set aside for the infirm and aged rise instantaneously to give them up. These things are seamless and unthinking. When I was obliged to spend a week in the ancient hospital, having entered via accident and emergency in the clothes I stood up in, I was poorly equipped for a stay. An elderly porter arrived to wheel me, in the surgical gown I had been lent, to the radiography department. He refused to leave the ward until my feet were covered and knelt down to put my heavy black brogues on my naked feet. Later, as I sat in a chair to discuss my case with a Doctor, a nurse placed a clean pillowcase on the floor to rest my feet on. Such gestures are nothing other than natural and speak of an inbuilt disposition that Italians have towards others.

As I board the final 4.1 vaporetto the boat lurches as it leaves the landing stage and I tumble down the steps leading to the forward cabin, wrenching a shoulder I tore just before coming to Venice which, until now, therefore, I've been unable to have treated. I lean against the wall by the steps, experiencing a wave of pain in my shoulder. The young boatwoman who just untethered the boat is immediately at my side with her hand on my other shoulder asking me if I wish to sit down in the wheelhouse to recover. For a moment she becomes the genius of the place. I explain that this particular ailment existed before my tumble and I thank her before sitting in the cabin. As, for the final time during my stay, the boat pulls round the eastern end of the city, I see disappear, last of all behind the pine trees of Sant'Elena, the dome of the Salute.

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