Last year I spent a period as a visiting professor at the University of Trento, in the northeast of the Italian peninsula. It was a good experience, but I talk about that in another post.
The fact is that Trento is about 180 km away from Venice, about two hours by train. One of the weekends I was there, I decided it was a good opportunity to visit Venice again, one of those cities that captivate you and make you always remember the memories you have lived there. And I went to spend my Sunday. The plan was perfect: if it was a sunny day I would enjoy the landscape traveling by train, I could eat the pasta that I like the most, and I would step the old alleys of the city of Casanova and Marco Polo.
Things were not exactly like that. The day rose grey and cloudy and the trains were late, and despite being Sunday, they were going very crowded. It was arriving in Venice and starting to rain. It is true that, probably, the romanticism of the city gets stronger when it rains, and this makes you remember the Charles Aznavour’s song, when he wandered the streets of the Veneto city trying to drown his evils of love and reminded us how sad Venice can be.
Frankly, when you expect to spend a comfortable and sunny Sunday, this is not the mood you have left. Things got worse when I arrived at Piazza San Marco and I first experienced the phenomenon of acqua alta. This rise in the tide completely floods the square and other adjacent streets. The public services of the city, since it is a situation that they live relatively often, condition a kind of elevated walkways, about 20 cm. from the ground, so that pedestrians can pass. That Sunday, however, they were useless, since the water exceeded them. They recommended I should wait, go to have lunch and come back in a couple of hours, since they calculated then the water would have left the square. It is what the tides have.
I did not miss the good pasta. In a small square, very close to what had been the house of Carlo Goldoni, I ate some girasoli di fior di zucca that were really worth while the rain was stopping. After an espresso comme il faut, I returned to San Marco and I could see it in its entire splendour. At the end of the day, it hadn't gone so bad.
I remember all this now because the Italian government has isolated the region of Lombardy and other provinces, including that of Venice, by the epidemic of COVID-19. It is likely that there are those who believe that this will be good for the city, since it will stop the arrival of tourists, and help in its delicate sustainability. Might be, I do not know. But it will surely be a sadder city, more distressed, without the mirror of lovers putting their expectations on spending unforgettable days. When Aznavour sang, “How sad Venice can be when mist is in your eyes and you can hardly see as visions fill the skies”, he was thinking of his disappointment in love, but it seems to me that, isolated, the city must have a similar feeling.
And despite everything, Venice will get it. As it has always got. As it always will.