There is no need to emphasize that people aren’t dying in Venice more than in any other place. It is dangerous to be outspoken today but Venice people are dying infinitely less than people of similar size Mexican towns where they can enjoy, wrapped in plastic bags, outstanding mass graves. So, why death in Venice? Firstly, because it is a coined term (Thomas Mann pedophile courtesy) and these kinds of short mental formulas are always striking a chord. Here chord means a lot. Venice was a big string music producer and consumer, Vivaldi and Albinoni were born here to name only two giants while Boccherini was giving me yesterday paradise with the guitar concertos played by Pepe Romero fandango quintet. But I lost the track, let’s go back…So, secondly, because Venice is a kind of a corpse…The Exquisite Corpse…It is the shell of what it was…
When I decided to come here, the idea, like many of mine, sounded weird. Why? I try to travel to new places with the hope to milk a post out of it. Posts are for me quite a therapy and cost much less. Officially I think that it should be the fourth time that I hit the archipelago. True, the first trip happened some forty years ago. It sounds as remote as dinosaurs’ time. My pal, the Imperator, who was only a prince by then, was waiting near the elephant’s headquarter in Milan’s Zoo. We were both very young and in high spirits then and boarded the first favorable breeze which brought us, in no time, to the Isola de la Giudecca. To come back to dinosaurs their minuscule head contrasted so much with their enormous body that they must have had near to zero memory. It is not exactly my case, I remembered something here and there, but not too much … However, to write about Venice after Casanova and scores of sensitive and highly skilled writers is sheer nonsense. It is also an overworn subject totally unlike the concern for the POOR which from Jesus time till today never lost momentum. It even converted some smart guys and dolls, who rode it long enough and wise enough, into millionaires. The POOR is a mighty asset, fellows!
So all that counts about Venice was said? Maybe not! But why is Venice which was and still is, undoubtedly, a small city (30.000 Italians by now) is so great? Did you hear a lot about Tianjin 13 million, Karachi 16 million or even San Paulo 12 million except Pele of course? It is because in Venice GENIUS was dense and running wild down the streets, it is because the city was a pool (a lagoon ha!ha!) of talent, skills, smarts, and courage (cruelty included) for centuries.
They had Carlo Goldoni a genial playwright, who single-handed overpassed two centuries of old commedia dell’arte and built a treasure of thematic pieces. They were and some still are funny, relevant. and extremely influential until today. The Venetians were gifted sailors and merchants and for half a millennium the main channel for oriental goods to Europe. Hey, bankers too! They stayed a living and kicking entity, including a well developed vernacular idiom, for eleven centuries* without to be run over and with a quite stable form of government. Italy today? A joke! The head of the state (IL DOGE) was elected for life but from time to time they threw him to the DOGS and elected another one. Venetians took by sword and smarts a large chunk of the eastern shore of the Adriatic sea and by the time of the Byzantine collapse some of the big Greek islands, such as Crete, Cyprus and Corfu; brought there over one third of their tiny population and kept the proud natives under a heavy yoke, instilling “culture” and obedience in them, not in the most gracious way. They built more than fifty fortresses and fortified villages in Greece and in the islands of both seas, Aegean and Ionian. They had just to hold under the Turks’ thrust until the fleet with Venetians Marines arrived. I don’t believe that this militarist cum colonialist habits will find very much prizing today but we cannot erase the past, at least not immediately, and do not forget that the Turks who came after were much worse. You can check in Cyprus now… In 1207 Marco Polo got into China like a meteor. He wrote his story, Il Milione, in a Genovese jail after losing money and freedom. Did somebody ask him to come back to the war and pest plagued Europe? He remained till today a prow figure for all travelers who are roaming the world and hope As little by little will come out not everything was peachy. Human people are great creators and murderous bastards, will the “corrects” like it or not. Venice fleet was the Queen of the Adriatic Sea and the city was called La Serenissima. However in 1204 they incited the crusaders they transported on their ships (a wild bunch of religious murderous maniacs, on their way to trash the ancestors of Palestinians, very much similar to other wild religious murderous maniacs flourishing today) to sack the Christian Constantinople instead of getting the best of the Muslim Holy Land, etc, Mayhem followed. Adventures on top of adventures of a REPUBLIC of shrewd rich merchants with some aristocracy, a lot of tough militaries, free citizens, great spies, finely trained assassins and amazing builders who raised an urban splendor in a muddy ground on hidden stilts along a lagoon shore. They made more canals than streets and 400 bridges among which the famous Bridge of Sighs (ponte dei sospiri) and of the Rialto. They created the fine quality Lead Prisons, with bottle form cells, into which the future walled-in was launched through the bottleneck. Hop!** All this conferred to Venice a unique tale gloss, and often a fairytale aura. Artisans and luminaries by whom I understand scholars and many high standing artists were in charge of the fairy shine. Art as you know goes hand in hand with money. It is a tradition. The Murano island glass production is both cute and decorative after having had during centuries the monopoly of all Europe palace’ mirrors. The mirrors’ masters were confined on the island FOR LIFE.
And the Venice’ CARNIVAL (today a thriving industry) an uppermost blending of sensual, sexual and artistic ritual didn’t have rival until Rio times. It was the only time where rich and poor could mingle and probably they did.
Do not forget the churches, the palaces, the museums, the magnum Doges’ abode, the San Marco Basilica, the world-famous Piazza with the same name, the remains of the Jewish ghetto and the today Berlusconi chastity belt, the pharaonic MOSE project, supposed to control the height of the lagoon waters, (to tie the tide!!), that runs out of financial control by billions of dollars, which eventually may function with a massive dose of DIVINE INTERVENTION. … Enough is enough, if you know all that, you can stay home by now. I told you all that to embarrassedly reckon that most of the journey occurred in my HEAD.
Well, never say never. I feel that the Jewish Ghetto, I visited for the first time in four runs, deserves some lines, so funny and artificial it looked to me. Imagine a large rectangular plaza with an eccentric round glass pavilion for three annoyed bersaglieri on duty, a synagogue cum school for the Levantine community, first time in life I heard the adjective in that context, a casa de riposo – probably an old people shelter, thank you I am not interested, a kosher restaurant with prohibitive prices and central Europe cooking, eventually a museum with a mighty bunker entrance, not for me either and an antique’ shop which I boarded.
-The people I saw around do not look Italians to me, I said to open the conversation.
-They are not, they are medium-fat Ashkenazi Jews, Habad sect settlers was the cantankerous answer. And she proudly added: I am not Jewish!
-The original dwellers went to Auschwitz?
-Non, figurate, she said, they moved in rich homes in some posh boroughs. I gave her the fascist salute and ran away. What a liar?!
With sincere regards,
*PS. The Republic came to an end in 1797 thanks to the mad cannoneer and great statesman (you chose whatever adjective you like or both) Napoleon Bonaparte.
**PS. I am afraid that I got manifestly carried on. Even if I know that the Venice Prisons where of dungeon type, that means underground, I begin to hesitate about their oubliette quality i.e with the entrance from the ceiling. And because we are at the mea culpa chapter I feel compelled to emphasize that the republic behavior was as ferocious as their neighbors and coevals i.e. torture and deletion were, respectively, bestially perpetrated and actively encouraged. We are the people…
***Allow me, revered patron and protector, to insert at your intention and relief after all this funerary report another Boccherini clip played by a group of young talents: constellations musicales