There is nothing more to be said that was not better said before but I built a shrewd battle plan…I will go to NOWHERE! I will not walk in any contraption – church, theatre, famous villa, chapels desacralized into concert halls, museums, palaces or striptease show. I will even shun the theater crush helmet translating in one’s most atonal idiom the beautiful vernacular. I will stroll on the streets, slide along the canals, cross the bridges, circle around the wells, emerge into piazzas, ramble along the shore (lungomare), step on quays like an owner, take some Vaporetto rides rarely and take some notes. I will photograph façades and walking bodies, ignoring who they are and where I am. I will move like a ghost. Here we are. The town itself is an activated churchyard with ghosts at will.
Notwithstanding that, Venice and its people were and are involved in a giant ongoing theatrical performance. Ghosts might like fun too…Each act was a stage act, the Doge was marrying the sea and throwing a gold ring into the waters, the churches and palaces used marble only for facades, columns, doorways and windows corniches…the rest was sheer bricks, stucco, and paint …It was like silk, lace, and velvet covering the forward façade and organs while the behind was starkly naked like that of some Old World monkey! Stage-setting and disguise was and is the rule… the stupendous red hair of professional ladies painted by the outstanding local high masters – a Titian, a Tintoretto, a Tiepolo, a Giorgione…was the product of an urine-based shampooing; the vault disappeared from the domes of their churches, to be replaced by a vertiginous deep and high sky-up dive: the epiphany of the DIVINE! The amazing ascents of Christ and Virgin, were not represented but performed….
Today we have the Art Biennale, where WHO IS WHO (POOR stay away, you are both kitsch and dumb) is coming and the most famous movies Lion d’Or FESTIVAL so rich with braless smashing stars, such as the glamorous Kendall, that one doesn’t need afterward any pharmacological support for life, even die-hard gay may have a change of heart.
To conclude, should La Serenissima decide for a commemorative coin, the first zechino, a gold ducat was mint in 1284, I will chose The Saint Mark’s lion on head as a symbol of power, continuity, and resilience and undoubtedly, the MASK on the tail. The mask was the MAGIC WAND at work during the dominant outbursts of collective emotions and rituals: the theatrical performance, the carnival, and the plague curse.*
And now the time is ripe to give you a shortlist of what I still remember from my meanderings. The locals love dogs, especially small ones they keep on a leash. I think their dogs are permanently constipated because the streets are conspicuously stark clean; a trip of the owners to Paris will make them understand what a free dog life means…I haven’t seen cats at all but mighty seagulls who look like predators and are nothing other than garbage cleaners are ubiquitous. Their choking call is mightily distasteful in this marvelous silent reserve where one is free of engine vrooming and growling and roaring.
It is quite inexplicable that they built so many fine walled wells, not less than bridges, located in enticing piazzettas ….How they were able to find sweet water in a salted muddy lagoon it kills me…and what they did with so much water …people started to wash only by the end of the XIX century…It was probably an architectural cum theatrical fad… Painted masks and decorative glass making are the most vivid testimony of Venice glory of yore…you find at any price and in an infinite range of quality, the cheapest are Chinese imitations, that a normal bloke cannot identify otherwise than by their price. Originals are very expensive of course. Souvenirs, fakes, and originals bear the made in Italy trademark. I found the Rialto seafood market quite shabby and poor for a man who worshiped the Japanese fish markets where I was going like a devout to an activist church. As in many other places Chinese are breaking into traditional markets – masks, glass, leather and everything. Their percentage is smaller than Chinese post-doctorate students in the US, but trust them they will expand continuously without making waves. I admire them, industrious people alas they are not very communicative. The one near San Marco Place, dressed like a king, whom I asked for a public toilet, snorted as he never thought of organic functions. On the other hand the Chinese groups are madly shouting, men have ridiculously dyed hair and matrons are pawning in flashy clothes like they are delicious starlets or fresh models. Elderly people playing young is spurious… Indians and Pakistanis are peacefully coexisting within small business: souvenirs, souvenirs…. Give to Indians the necessary time and they will go into banking, hotel ownership, law. The food at my financial level, and I am an expert in eating well in popular restaurants, is terrible. I do not accuse the Philippino cooks…. they began as waiters before going in front of the stove …but they commit ruthlessly Napolitan pizza of the lowest quality imaginable…tourists who eat pizza in Venice, rich or poor, I did once, should be flogged! There are also Blacks in the city, some in the construction, others in the street cleaning and a few are porters, a great job that I haven’t seen from my child time. You cannot bring stuff to the destination here other than in a kind of wheelbarrow. Some of the young black people who didn’t find work used to have two baseball caps one on the head and one in the hand for coins…I found the technique innovative. They abstain from giving you the French beggars’ snorted “merci” after which you are failing to open heart and purse. With this occasion, I distinguished between two techniques of begging, rising pity and rising fear…well, it is not an easy trade…Vicious slanderers pretend that Romanians, the second foreign ethnic group (Indians are the first) are either into vegetables or prostitution. I cannot care less; I am too old for each one of these trades. I hesitate to go against the rules and see Arlequino Furioso of Goldoni but I succeed in abstaining pretexting disturbing rumors that may come from the tourists’ floor…Two funny contraptions attracted my attention and deserve further inquiry. The first was a one-room wood cylinder tucked into water having something to do with the gondoliers’ guild. What I do not know. The second was a kind of iron platform not very large on the top of some buildings …a kind old lady told me dryly that they are open-air laundry driers…Well, the place is very wet…and the weather capricious even on the same day…
Are you looking for a nice cemetery? On the Isola di San Michele you will find a very select and elegant one. For some who want to go into the depth, I even added an enticing video.** Excellent company: Brodsky, Pound, Stravinsky, Doppler, Rolfe, et al., they are all there to stay. It seems tailored to order for Eco, Bio, and urbanistic minded people. Unfortunately, it is full. However, if there is some vivid interest I may speak with the janitor. He was my most preferred trappola’ partner. This is a Venetian 16c. trick-taking card game on which I was beating him often and hard. Out of this sprang friendship
and mutual respect, and rarely, some nervousness too. It is a well-acknowledged fact, that if carefully approached, janitors can do miracles. I don’t have any personal interest, myself I will go for spreading ashes. Otherwise, if someone wants to enjoy a plunging view on the sea I warmly recommend the Staglieno Cemetery of Genova.
Death AND Venice? Once, during their time of glory, they were tough soldiers, ruthless rulers, and famous assassins, dagger, and poison at will, a silent kind of ninja. Now they are industrious people, doing lots of nice things except children, but deep in my subconscious something is nagging me: Where for God’s sake is the money? They do not give the feeling, by looking at the state of their houses, wooden shades, etc to roll on gold! With millions of tourists each year? With a carnival, movies’ festival, biennale? Strange! It is true that they must every five years make a house’s facelift. And if your home is a palace? It hurts… Poor rich people….
So after that I admired the narrow and winding streets and canals, and felt the lagoon shooting into the permeable earth, like a giant octopus, rectangular tentacles which according to perspective rules in some cases seemed to shrunk into uncertain points, I decided to end my meaningless trip at Burano. To beef my will I threw some joyful glances to the Great Canal’s palaces and a last ecstatic look to the marvelous Palladio’s San Giorgio Maggiore, a summit of quietude and harmony. Amazing character this Antonio Palladio who practically rejected the Renaissance emphasis to become one of the most mentally sane architects of all time. Its influence is felt still today all over Europe, and a lot in the United States. The One Hundred Eleventh Congress of the United States of America named Palladio the “Father of American Architecture”. Life can be funny sometimes, alas many are too stuffed to realize!
One cannot feel Palladio’s influence on the island of Burano which is a dunces’ trap. They are in the underwear, selling I mean, something embroidered and each one of the cubic abodes is painted in another acid color. “Cobra” star saturated hues rule supreme. The mice, well, me and other tourists, are
rambling along the streets and canals, which often are sandwich-like, a canal flanked by two streets. The mice are exhausted and confused. In a state of stupor, they slide into a hole, where a snake swallows if not them their money and gives instead a piece of useless fabric. I find for myself near the quay, we cannot swim back, a fine place and I shoot photos of the crawling crowds coming from everywhere like flotsam brought by a high tide. I cannot pass my life photographing gardens, palaces and landscapes. People deserve some attention too, even if they are mostly exhausted and unkempt. And then, there arrived a bunch of round-bellied, hyper happy Russian oligarchs accompanied by some flashing, blond sirens. What a great display of long tanned legs. God bless, the fancy embroidered underwear is not lost for everybody!
With infinite respect and humble excuses for progressive lack of “correctness” of my language, allow me to accompany my pleas with some of the most beautiful accords ever written here and elsewhere and played by :Alexandra Conunova
*PS. See, courtesy of the Imperator: https://theculturetrip.com/europe/italy/articles/a-guide-to-the-masks-of-venice
**PS (Isola della San Michelle-fragment) vic stefanu