The last years I go regularly to Venice – and always love it. It’s the place where the word ‘unique’ comes to be defined. The mystic scenery, the labyrinth of canals and bridges, the magnificent monuments and museums, the permanent carnival masks overwhelm me. It took me a while to realize that what Venice has, is equally important to what it doesn’t have: cars, traffic and polution. I am in a marvellous European city, a true capital of culture, without the disadvantages of any city – instead, I feel the Adriatic breeze.
Venice is of course a tourist city – but it invests in an eccentric type of tourism (I call it ‘cultured wannabe’). It doesn’t offer white beaches, crazy bars and parties but rather, a commercialized type of high culture. The best examples are the opera and baroque music performances in small theatres. After having listened to evergreen classics for an hour, one feels like attending a pop concert. How long can one listen to a combination of Albinoni’s Adaggio, Pachelbel’s Canon, Vivaldi’s 4 Seasons – or to highlights of Nights of Figaro, Don Giovanni, Traviata, Rigoletto, etc. Still, I like Venice even for that: it gives a holiday alternative not offered anywhere else. And as we shall see, there might be a historic reason behind that.
Although I go there because of my job, the timing is perfect: mid-autumn, when the big crowds have gone and the city hasn’t tuned up into winter rhythms. I enjoy a normally-breathing Venice with family-like opera performances, its canals not packed by gondolas and at times – especially at nights - the only presence in the bridges and ‘calle’ (the narrow streets) may be the fog.
Last time I found myself there two weeks ago, after a crazy trip to Austria – and I didn’t think it would be of any significance. As it turned out, we didn’t even have time to visit the city, we went straight to the harbour to catch our boat. But Venice can’t disappoint me… I was astonished looking at my beloved city from a whole new perspective: from the 9th floor of the boat, being at the same level with the cupolas of St. Mark and sail across the shore until the boat reached the open sea. Thus the title 'Venezia Superne' (Venice from Above).
Looking at the people on bridges through the camera zoom, I felt I am watching a live version of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. In the initial scene a helicopter carries Jesus over Rome and children, workers and sunbathing ladies salute him.
We didn’t have Jesus or Marcello Matroianni on the boat - it must have been the Italian aura that combined the old cinema image with the ‘live’ one.
For some reason I couldn’t find Felini’s s scene in Youtube - you can see it here.
My old impression of ‘high commercialized culture’ in Venice was somewhat explained as tourists appeared vis-a-vis to magnificent monuments. Nowadays Venice may be investing on a sense of experiencing the legendary ‘Grand Tour’: that romanticized trip to Paris, Venice, Rome and Athens for discovering European civilization.
Descendants of 18th century Anglo-Saxons, now in swimming suits, follow the course of their forefathers by organized trips. The romantic feeling was still on the boat, albeit with a twist. A 15-year-old German girl ordered in anticipation ‘eine frappe’, a modern Greek cultural trait, and was making eyes - even to me, though I was three times her age.
Another love of mine in Venice is its rooftops, a forest of deteriorated indian red – now beneath my eyes.
Admittedly, I look every now and then at the prices of small houses in Venice, with a secret hope. My desire grows bigger when see these small terraces, nothing luxurious but so personal and ‘right’. If ‘one’s house is one’s castle’ this should be its voluptuous embrasure – or the Lombardo version of ‘Chim Chim Cheree’ with the lyrics ‘on the rooftops of Venice, boy, what a sight!’
You know that medieval Venice had as symbol the lion, after its patron St. Mark. Last photo from the boat and it may not be a coincidence that its seagulls seem so …hawk-wannabe!
To any Greek who is wondering about the language: the particular text is linked to my Flickr account, where I put most of my ...creativity lately - and people there come from various countries...