Martedi 9 maggio
Today began with another family connection. The Ca’Vendramin where Pietro Falcieri worked as the portiere for 30 years until he died in 1887. He was here when Wagner made his last visit and when he died here in 1883. I stood at the doors he would have presided over and where his small grandson Augusto would have played.
I had a chat with another English tourist who was here until next January (how lucky is she?). We talked about the tourist problems in Venice though I couldn’t help notice how keen she was on anything that was free. On the other hand she was renting an apartment for the duration of her stay, cooking at home and behaving like a citizen. Whilst eating out helps the restaurants, shopping at supermarkets is what the city needs. These are things citizens do and they are necessary if Venice is going to be able to offer anything to residents in the years to come. What we don’t want is for the city to only be populated by tourist businesses. This is bad for the venexiani cittadini.
Next I ambled down to Dorsoduro. First the San Trovaso Squero. Squero are a rare sight here in Venice these days. There used to be hundreds. Now there are just two boat yards maintaining all of Venice’s gondolas.
The weather was fantastic today. On the way to my next destination I stopped to chat to an artist – Milton Williams – exhibiting alongside Jason deCairns Taylor for the Biennale 2017. He said he wished he had a videocamera. He’d watched me walking dreamily along double cone in hand from Gelateria Nico, in no rush to be anywhere. We talked about the comparisons between the 10 year gap in my visits and then I headed off in my search for Forcolaio Matteo.
I’m not big on souvenirs but I always come back with something gondola inspired. We had a brief chat in my beginners Italian and I told him about my family history. At least he recognised the family name. Then, on to the Basilica and to watch the boats and the water. Heaven is on earth. There’s a mermaid there that’s worth a visit.
Next I went over to San Marco. Enroute I stopped in Campiello Barbaro and got chatting to two Canadian students on a mammoth tour of Europe. Two more people left with a bit of my family history burned into their brains and my business card in their pocket.
At San Marco, actually Castello but it’s very close, I wanted to check out the apartment my parents have rented in September for our next visit. It’s an area I know well and nothing has changed. I found a restaurant I used to go to years ago. So I stopped for dinner for old times sake. A hearty dinner came to €22.50. I’d missed lunch today in favour of an early dinner and grown accustomed to taking my coffee on the run.
Afterwards I just wandered for hours. I slowly ambled back through San Marco Piazza. It’s quieter in the evenings and a good time to take a look at all the expensive designer shops. I do like to window shop.
I was more than half way through my six days and time was running out. I’d hardly touched the surface. My brain still hasn’t really cottoned on that I am here. Every so often I’d get waves of realisation. And of course, that very soon inevitably I will have to leave.
In fact today was full of memories. The Basilica is where I first stepped off the boat in Venice in 2003 with the BBC. And I looked down towards the Bridge of Sighs where I got into my first gondola with Roberto on that first trip.