In an earlier post, I promised you Venice. La Serenissima. It has been and is still a place of endless fascination and inspiration to painters, sculptors, writers, filmmakers--the entire spectrum of creative arts in fact. I love its smallness, the way that getting lost in its twisting, shifting streets becomes adventure--getting lost almost anywhere else induces in me panic and a sense of helplessness. Not in Venice, though.
This was my third visit--for the last day of Carnevale. On the first two occasions I was a gaper, a gawper--too overwhelmed and entranced to do anything other than stare and gasp at the beauty of light and proportion--and certainly too enchanted to even think of taking notes. This time I was better prepared, and these are some of the things I saw in particular detail, small visions of Venetian life which, now written down, will be fixed forever in my memory, far better than any static photograph.
One old man, moving very slowly about his unknown business over the Frari bridge, elegant and stately in expensively cut coat and muffled against the bright cold. His freckled face had the look of a benign toad under a black homburg hat, set just so on his large head.
A small, fast-gossiping herd of very tiny and shrunken old women. Fur coats and hats, seemingly coloured the exact shade of their dyed and thinning hair, set over bird legs tripping off a vaporetto on high-heeled but sturdy shoes, polished to a high shine.
An incongruity of Native Americans whooping an energetic war-dance on the Riva degli Schiavoni, complete with feathered headdresses, deer hoof rattles, and S. Giorgio Maggiore looming out of the laguna at their backs.
A masked, costumed and incognito 'celebrity'--surrounded by hard-eyed minders with radios, earpieces and suspicious underarm bulges. On his own, he would never have been noticed. Who was he? Perhaps 'Hello' will know....
The mystery of the dressed-up, yet unmasked. Why? I wanted to ask them? Why not add that one last essential piece of costume?
With the mad tricorned crowd, dancing (slightly drunk on grappa and love) to the music of a faux-Abba band at midnight in the Piazza San Marco.
Everywhere, confetti underfoot--red, blue, pink, green, yellow, white, orange--the visible outward sign of a Venetian hangover.
A busyness of small yellow minitruck trains pulling trolleys of dismantled greenery--loaded by whistling workmen onto lorries perched precariously on flatbed barges.
The proud winged green lion of Carnevale--a colossus towering above the crowds on Monday, now, on Tuesday, denuded of his greenery and reduced to three pieces of white and green stained polystyrene pussycat, each looking slightly ashamed of itself.
The sound of suitcase wheels on stone bridges.
The Bridge of Sospiri--muffled in sky blue hoarding and diminished to an advertising accessory.
The unexpected gift of glasses of homemade myrtille--strong and sweet as rubies--from walrus-whiskered waiter Fulvio in Al Covo--where the fritto misto is unsurpassed and Diane's Panna Cotta a revelation of velvety sweetness and delight.
The Bellini Madonna in the Basilica dei Frari. No photograph can ever do justice to her shining calm and beauty.
And finally...Franciscus Travaginus, Regiae Accademiae Britanicae, who lies in the same Basilica under a worn and yellowing cracked marble slab, opposite Saints Michele and Francisco. I wish him a peaceful rest under the hushed and wondering feet which pass over him in their multitudes every day, never even noticing he is there.