Prologue (this time, it's in English)
I wrote this page in English for a wider audience, what would be the point of writing on the Internet, right?!
So, let me see if the number of readers grows. Now, if only I had the time to put up some decent stats in my site...
This time, I was in Venice for a full dive into the ocean of contemporary art, and specifically to accompany my daughter in a visit at the Biennale d'Arte (Art Biennal) of Venice, entitled "May You Live In Interesting Times".
There are many biennals nowadays, yet the one in Venice was the first and for many the term refers to the well-known Italian expo.
we came back with an impressive -and heavy- amount of books and leaflets!
The exposition is quite overwhelming: art works are mainly in the Arsenal ("l'Arsenale") and the Gardens ("i Giardini della Biennale"), plus, if it weren't enough already, a lot more are scattered around Venice, including the docks, where some of the most gigantic could find much more space to occupy.
The apartment we occupied was a piece of art itself.
The floor mostly of glamorous parquet, the kitchen that fills one side of the large dining room
is made of black steel and gorgeous wood; the light was perfect and the lamp
at the centre of the room is chosen to contrast the rest of the room and yet it blends the right way
But why not to exploit the trip for something else, such as looking for the "true Venice", the Venice of the Venetians? Time was scarce, so this is just a gentle dip into a topic that would require weeks.
The tourists, what a plague!
The lady on the ferryboat is among the locals who got tired of tourists: "Years ago, at least there were times of the year when Venice was almost empty, now there's floods of people in every season. And all this street food, the licences granted without limit... where should they eat it? Venice has no room for benches and alike. I'm so angry at this administration, giving away all those licences..."
She's 82 and somewhat melancholic about her city. Till some time ago, she used to walk like most true Venetians, but "given my age, now I have to use the boat".
"You see, our number is going down. In the building where I live, we're just three of us now; the remaining apartments have been bought by tenants just to rent them".
Indeed, sometimes Venice seems to have lost its soul, with the streets filled with people walking in search for some not-so-dull souvenirs, amassed around San Marco and the sorroundings, not to mention the horrible view of the giant ships approaching the city from the sea. Moreover, it's never been easy to live in Venice, which has special needs. The constant fight against the water, humidity, has a cost; taxes are high, giant structures are required for a long-term survival of a city that was slowly sinking. Maybe you've heard of the "MOSE", a constellation of dams to keep the water at bay (pun not intended): it costed billions of euros. Taxes, issues of all sorts, high prices... there has always been the temptation to leave the island for the main land in search for a better quality of life, yet Venice is magic and when it is your place it is hard to make a change. At a slow pace, the number of leavers, or just descendants who come to take phisical possession of the apartments of their parents, is getting lower. It is a lot more profitable to rent them, most often via a specialized agency.
It is undeniable that everybody has a right to visit this unique gem, but the old lady points out, after putting her glasses back in the right position: "there are the good tourists, who come to see the museums and the art, and there are those who are just here to drink and to take a photo of theirselves [she doesn't say 'selfies']. And they are noisy, drunk in the night, they often throw litter around, they leave the empty bottles everywhere. When they don't break them on the floor."
In search of Venice, in pictures
In spite of that, you can still find the good old people of Venice in some quarters, and more on the minor islands, which are less appealing for apartments to rent but also for living. This is largely due to the annoyance (and cost) of water-based transport, since there are limited options for entertainment and culture and going back and forth from the main island or La Giudecca, etc. takes time and the comfort of boat trips largely depends on the weather. Actually, a number of Venetians moved from the islands to Mestre, for budget-related reasons and also because from there it is possible to travel to the mainland by just jumping into your car.
colourful clothes hang out of the houses, for drying. This is a common scene in some
areas of Venice just like it is in other Italian cities. You won't find these in
Piazza San Marco but neither you have to be far away to see some
Murano is probably the most attractive of the islands, and yet, in August, it is almost deserted once you take a detour from the main streets where the "Murano Glass" shops and labs are concentrated. There you can hear the local dialect, which is inintelligible for a citizen from Rome like me, just like you can listen to it when the gondola rowers speak when they cross each other the canals.
If you assume that living in Venice means to be rich or something like that, you're generally wrong. There are areas where people with a low income live, you can tell from the architecture of the buildings; at times a sign says that they are part of a project to house poor people. The good thing is that the look of these buildings is not bad at all and is consistent (you can never give this for granted, in Italy -sigh); the places are very clean just like in Venice.
In these areas you feel like projected in a painting by De Chirico, where silence rules.
a scene à la De Chirico in Venice. In spite of what some Venetians may tell you,
it is still possible to enjoy loneliness in many parts of the city. But stay away from the
large canals: the traffic and noise are unbelievable!
No matter the social status, though, the Venetians take care of their place, and probably realize how special it is.
They're rather dutiful, for intance, in bagging and tagging the waste that must be separeted for recycling, not a trivial task where transport of all kind, including waste transport, is waterborne and there are days of the week when to put paper in the right place, another day for plastics, etc.
boxes for the sale of fruits and vegetables, after market close time
I couldn't resist. The light was beautiful, the picture was right. And it somewhat represents
my search: the markets where Venitians buy groceries, it is everyday life but someway, in here, it is special!
While strolling in the Gardens (Giardini della Biennale, in Sant'Elena) I stumbled on this scene: an old man was decorating a colourful box attached to a tree. We had already noticed the box, the previous day: it is a free book exchange facility where you can take a book and read it (or more than one), or leave yours, just like there are many all over the world now -a great idea, indeed!
The man was adding a sort of red round button on the naively crowded walls of the box, sporting all sorts of strange little objects. I bet it's all made by him.
So, even in the hottest part of summer there is activity for the locals, but give a look inside the box and you'll find that many books are in English. Indeed, we saw the box been used by other people, both citizens and tourists like us, a number of times in the day.
I wonder how many foreigners have decided to settle here for their golden retirement, I must admit I fancied doing so. Though I'd not be there in the hot part of the summer, Venice and its islands can still gift a magic atmosphere, sad and beautiful, mysterious but still familiar, if you take the time to leave the tourist tracks and check the barracks hidden around the dockings where boats are repaired, the calle without shops, the islands where the main activity is agricolture. I even found myslef eating berries and figues a few steps away from one of the tourist paths and the lagoon, where some wild plants grow unattended and offer their fruits to the curious traveller.
Some times you see the work of the hands of the Venetians, small decorations here and there, not many but I don't miss the confusion of the posters, ugly writings and stickers I see everywhere in Rome, for instance.
someone has put this joyful, wooden sun on the wall of the building.
But you don't need to run far away to find the true Venice and true Venetians, though. I came to realize that these people have for the most accomplished the original vocation of the city: they are at sea, they are the women and men who check your tickets when you jump on the ferries, they carry goods from the main land with small boats, or they run the taxis (waterborne, again), or -obviously- row in gondolas. Not to mention the services that gravitate around the boats maintanance.
It is undeniably true that Venice is suffering from overcrowding and, even more, an excessive number of boats going back and forth the lagoon, but there is a soul that resists and adapts itself, striving for identity. Again, it is true that many have moved to Mestre or alike, where life is cheaper, and work as commuters (theirselves are served by ferries in the first place), but they still are the Venetians.
this street singer is taking a nap, presumably after hours of entertainment.
Don't ask me the name of the instrument on his lap, I have no idea. The wood the
instrument is made of and the stones of the wall have wonderful colours
If you're looking for peace, remember that the main routes are filled with tourists but the calles just a few yards away are not, try for yourself, there is still quietness there and on the islands.
in this small lane ("calle"), there were no tourists, and the air was fresh thanks to the shadows
Some pictures and... long exposure shots, why not?
Some more images are here.
On the first day I had this idea that I could take some good pictures with long exposures.
I made a just few attempts, here is a minimal selection of three pictures.
I couldn't really force the effect I wanted here: there was too much light and
even with the lowest ISO setting and the ND filter I wasn't able to have an exposure long enough.
I forced the hand a bit, and I got a strange yellowish dominant, though
colours in Venice are always -and I can I swear it twice: "alweays"- spectacular.
At times, they are vivid, some other times chalky and delicate. I like to see the sky
change over the buildings and islands facing the lagoon. From the photographic point of
view, I took this one to check if I could render the colours the way I saw them, which
is never for granted. For what I remember, the tints are faithful, the reproduction is OK
this woman, a tourist I guess, was in the right place at the right moment
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