Think of Venetian canals (rii) and your neurons likely spring into action to produce a scene of old tall buildings backing onto a shady stretch of narrow water. Waterways from the middle ages.
It isn’t always the case. Outside our Lido apartment ran a more modern construction where a collection of sleek, highly polished water taxi’s were regularly berthed with space for others to pass with ease. A twentieth century equivalent.
During one of my “bus” journeys between Canalazzo and Lido a sudden movement towards the periphery of my vision make me look to the shoreline alongside the Gardens of Remembrance, a stretch of quiet park adjacent to the island of Sant’Elena at the very tip of the city. As my eyes focused on source of that movement I was surprised to see a middle-aged man dressed in nothing more than swimwear and sports shoes sprint to one of the numerous jetties, leap into the air and beginning swinging, somewhat ape-like, for no apparent reason. Why he felt the need to begin his exuberant exercise for the benefit of the vaporetto passengers I have no idea, but his haste to begin whilst in view of the vessel suggests it was deliberate. It takes all sorts.
Santa Maria della Vittoria is the dominant structure of Lido; at least when viewed from across the lagoon, where its position next to the main vaporetto stop with a green dome that shines in the sunlight and is illuminated at night has a degree of self-importance, but it’s an empty promise. The building is closed and boarded; a monument to the Italian dead of WW1 built in the Fascist style. Even Jeff Cotton’s* incredibly comprehensive guide to the Churches of Venice has little to say about the structure. What a waste.
*I encountered Jeff by chance, but have since discovered that he has not only written guides to the churches of Venice and Florence, but reviews of fiction where the cities are the main location. (He also covers London and Berlin). Well worth a visit and a browse.
I know, I know. I’ve used spot colour, a technique that I usually despise but first let me explain myself.
This is Giudecca, a long strip of land separated from the other central Venetian islands by the Giudecca Canal, but unlike Lido, close enough to form part of one of the six distinct districts (sestiere) of the city; in this case the Dorsoduro district. Its name is thought to be a corruption of Judaic, and indeed in southern Italy a number of towns have Jewish enclaves that bear this name, so you might expect a historic reason behind the adoption of the word, especially as the island was originally called Spinalunga. The trouble is that there is no record of a Jewish connection, and indeed the Jewish area of Venice is well-known to have been in Cannaregio, for the small island where the Jews were segregated for centuries is where the word Ghetto originates.
But back to Giudecca. The coloured elements are a temporary artwork entitled The Sky Over Nine Columns which appropriately in this city is covered in gold mosaic, and the official site explaining the background features a spot coloured image of them, so I felt it Ok to follow suit.
I’m trying to remember if every visit I’ve made to Italy has featured heavy rainfall.
A school trip to Rome in which the seven hills created torrents to rival the Tiber. Hurrying back to the hotel on honeymoon in Florence before a scorching afternoon in the Boboli Gardens. Taking shelter in a Siena deli and discovering panzanella for the first time. A wall of water advancing up Lake Como that has proved popular on YouTube.
I don’t think I was soaked on the Amalfi coast, but perhaps my memory is failing.
In Thomas Mann‘s classic novella of ruinous passion on the island of Lido, the protagonist, Gustav von Aschenbach is a writer in his early fifties who takes a suite in the Grand Hotel des Bains on the Lido. Written early in the 20th Century, the hotel must then have been at, or close to, its zenith.
The hotel continues to dominate the manicured sands of the private beaches that must surely once have been owned by the establishment, but the grand old lady now shares von Aschenbach’s fate, having closed its doors only a few years ago. A future as a luxury apartment complex awaits. Might be a good setting for a novel.
You think of transportation in Venice and the men in boaters and striped shirts spring first to mind, or perhaps the vaporetti or water taxis? In most of the city the only wheels you see are on the carts of porters and the suitcases of fellow tourists. Lido is different, and indeed on of the guide books I’d read warned visitors of the hazard presented by the island’s drivers.
It’s possible that I’m inured to Italian driving, but to me the island’s roads seemed pretty innocuous. There were hundreds of bicycles in use however and several places for visitors to hire them. For the residents though it seemed a popular choice day or night, and it was after dark that the notorious bravado of the Italian road user became apparent. Lighting doesn’t seem to have caught on yet.