If I Never Saw Venice Again…

My preoccupation with Venice is a bit obsessional. But I do like a good cause – something I can get behind. Something that inspires me and I can see the results of when I make the effort. I like the rallying cry from the city. You can see, and hear, the murmer of revolution in those 900 year old wings. It is potentially an exciting time. Venice is no stranger to fighting for its liberation. So why should now be any different?

And I suppose my Venexiane ancestry only serves to fuel the fire that is my interest in preserving the city and the welfare of its indigenous population. I am well behind the need to curb tourist numbers, to ban the ‘grandi navi’ (cruise ships), even to a charge for entering the Piazza San Marco if it controls numbers and the money is properly invested back into the city for the benefit of its people.

Which is ironic because for all my bleating on about protecting Venice, every time I go there I am essentially a tourist.  I try not to be one of the mob. I try to shop at the right places, to follow the rules, to be sympathetic to the problems of the cittidini and imagine how I would feel if I lived there and I had to put up with the hoards. But I know that by agreeing with the city’s cries for help, I could be pricing myself out of ever seeing my ancestral homeland again.

Lord Byron once said of his Carabinieri dealings, as they struggled in vain to liberate Italy from the Austrians in the 1820s:

‘It is no great matter, supposing that Italy could be liberated, who or what is sacrificed.’

And I concur.

 

Full Immersion

This Italian learning malarky is taking over my life. I believe in full immersion in anything that I do and I’m the kind of person that if I don’t keep at it every single day I forget things really fast.  I live in England so of course most things are English and you have to work hard to make sure you’re coming across your learner language on a regular basis.

My language exchange group has broken up for the summer, so a bunch of us have migrated over to Whatsapp. So there’s 7 conversations going on already.

I joined Hello Talk this week. I’ve steered clear of the chat apps so far because they take up so much time. But I thought I’d give this one a go. Day one and I’m already having 6 separate conversations. Ironing out my issues with getting ‘sto’ and ‘io sono’ correct (something I was doing fine with but suddenly seems to have slipped) and mastering my sentence structure is coming along nicely thanks to the vigilence of the users there but I am reminded how far I still have to go.

I am rarely corrected on Whatsapp, Facebook or Twitter so I’m guessing readers are just being polite and are understanding what I’m on about. Impatience is a major personality hangup of mine. So 6 months in to my Italian language learning and I just don’t think I’m good enough. I’m also obsessed with getting the grammar right. The basic present tense is fine for holiday ‘conversazione’ but I want to write blogs and comment on important Facebook groups and get it right.

I am a perfectionist and whilst this isn’t a bad trait it can get in the way of your enjoyment of something when all you want is to talk like a native – which of course I will never be – 5 generations removed as I am from my Italian roots. The Italian blood is still obviously there but I don’t find languages easy. I gave up French as soon as I could in school and its been 27 years since I’ve tried a languge again. And here we are.

But I have the added positive trait of being one of those people that if I really want something I don’t stop until I’ve got it. I’m also slightly comforted that in the 42 years my g-g-g-grandfather (that’s bis-bis-bis-nonno to my Italian readers) lived in England he never fully mastered English.

Mia Prima Italiana blog – uh oh

Buongiorno a tutte. Quindi, io deciso che, ora mia Italiana è migliorare, che era tempo scritto alcune blogs in Italiano. Perchè ora ho stato imparare Italiano per cinque mesi. E era mia vacanza a Venezia solo due settiamane fa, che mi ha aiutato di veramente capisco la lingua e cosa voglio. E anche trovo che mia linguaggio Italiano, particolarmente parlare, non è che male. Credimi, ero sorpreso!

Mia paura di parlano scomparso quando arrivo a Venezia. Era mi solamente là con non aiuto. E molto persone a Venezia non parlano Inglese. Quindi, devo parlo Italiana. E questo era il perfetto modo per me imparare e pratica. Quindi, grazie Venezia – ti amo!

Mia problema ora che sono qui in Inghilterra è tenere parlano Italiano dove là sono tante Inglese persone e dove quasi tutto è Inglese.

Io ho Duolingo, Rai24 (radio e televisore), Youtube (WeilaTom, ItalianoAutomatico e Learn Italian with Lucrezia) ma vivere con Italiani in un posto che è totalmente Italiani è il meglio modo di imparare la linguaggio. Solo essere là significati che tu sei sempre pensiere in Italiano e parlante Italiano perchè hai non scelta. Questo è una cosa buona! Ovviamente.

E era un sopresso per me che era non difficile. Io sentato più stupido parlante Inglese che provare parlare Italiano. E quando trovi parlare Italiano le persone rispondono e loro sono molto gentile. Se fai il sforzo le persone sono felice aiuto. Per me è buono maniere provare. E anche mia vacanza era meglio per questo.

In Inglese noi chiamo questo ‘a light bulb moment’. Sono non sicura come questo traduci….ma….. ‘un lampadina momento’????? Forse.

Comunque, grazie per leggere questo – mia prima blog in Italiano.

Ciao ciao mie amicie!

 

 

Home

It’s day two back in Manchester. I think I’ve come down from the trip. Leaving Venice was hard, as ever. But I kept reminding myself that in less than four months I will be back again. And that helped.

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From the moment I got back I’ve been revising my research and my photos for the second edition of my book, firing off a few emails and planning for September. It keeps me focused. Amongst other things I’ve had a look at the financial damage from 6 days in the city. The general consensus is that Venice is expensive. But is it? If you want it to be, if you’re gullible, you can allow yourself to be stitched up left, right and centre by tourist traps. But you don’t have to be. The tourist stuff isn’t hidden and it doesn’t take much effort to find better places. If you’re lazy, serve you right.

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So, what did I spend? In total, from start to finish I blew a respectable £759.83. That includes flight, travel insurance (for the whole year not just the trip), airport parking, my Airbnb, the Alilaguna return to the airport, my souvenier spending and my food, drink, travel and entry fees to attractions whilst I was there.

I spent £62 on souvenirs from Forcalaio Matteo, £19 at Libreria Acqua Alta and £8 on a flag. Yes, I know, my one actual tourist purchase but I had to have a flag for the wall at home.

Travel in the city cost £11 – a day return to Murano and two trips at the San Toma traghetto.

I  paid £6 for a walk up to the top of the Bovolo which was much nicer than the San Marco Campanile.

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£208 went on food, drink and snacks including the rip off food at the airport (because by that time I had stopped caring). I didn’t eat at expensive restaurants. But I didn’t eat at any obvious tourists spots either. Dinner averaged £18 which would get me a course, wine or Aperol and coffee. Lunch was usually cichetti and an Aperol Spritz and they varied from 7 – 12 Euros depending on how central you were. Al Timon up near Fondamenta Nove was the cheapest. Cichetti is always very good and suits my eating habits perfectly.

Breakfast was always cappuccino and a croissant on the run at £2.20 and I managed a few icecreams and a few swift espressos on the run as well. A generous double cone will cost you £2.50 and an espresso will set you back just 1 Euro. Try getting that in London.

So I averaged about £30 a day on food and the food is good.

I don’t think that’s too bad for a week. I could have eaten for far less, but why go to a city with a wonderful food culture and eat microwave meals for the price of a cichetti? I adore fish and anything that comes from the sea. I love pasta, I love pizza. Basically I always eat Italian when at home anyway. This is just a far better and more authentic version. And because I was careful to go to good places that were recommended I feel like I’ve put a little back in. I don’t feel guilty is what I’m saying.

So here’s a roundup of everywhere I went (bar one or two cafes I forgot to note).

Al Timon
Museo Wagner
Casino Venezia (Wagner Concerto)
Bacaro del Gelato
Chiesa di San Felice
Chiesa di Santo Stefano
Basillica dei Frari
Murano (everywhere!)
Gelateria Ca’ d’Oro
Traghetto di San Toma
Cantina do Mori
Goppion Caffetteria
Palazza Mocenigo Casa Nuova
Squero di San Trovaso
Gelateria Nico
Scala Contarini del Bovolo
Teatro La Fenice
Libreria Acqua Alta
Biblioteca Fondazione Querini Stampalia
Le Forcole di Saverio Pastor
Osteria Ruga di Jaffe
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
Conca D’Oro
Bacarando ai Corrazzieri
Serra Dei Giardini
Rialto
Basegò
Ri.gu. S.a.s

So you think Venice is still expensive? I beg to differ because you won’t find the Venice experience anywhere else in the world.

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Venezia – 6 Giorno

Giovedì 11 maggio

Although today was my last day my flight wasn’t until 9pm. Which meant I had most of the day to enjoy. Thanks to online check in running the gauntlet at small airports is a breeze giving me back valuable holiday time.

I started my day with my last breakfast at Caffetteria Goppion which became my regular morning stop off. It’s just a few minutes walk from where I have been staying and I’m starving by the time I leave home in the morning. I love standing amongst the locals downing cappuccino and croissants standing at the counter. I didn’t use English once.

Then on to the San Toma Traghetto stop. A gondola ride was beyond me this visit but the Traghetto at €2 a go is a great second choice and just as nostalgic for me as it’s where Tita’s father worked in the 1830s.

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Then on to the Libreria Aqua Alta. Which as well as being a huge novelty means I get to touch an actual real life full size gondola. It also turned up a few surprises. Leafing through a box of old Venice images I came across one of the church on Murano my family had used. I mean, that’s pretty obscure. And so I bought it.

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I slightly lost track of my spending. The last day means overpriced food on the run at airports and tourist hotspots. But I only have so many Euros left in my purse so working out what I’ve spent isn’t that difficult. I’ll do a full run down soon.

Leaving Venice is the only time I get sad coming home. Because Venice isn’t a holiday. It’s about connecting with heritage and feeling at one with a place. It’s the only time I feel like I’ve found the place I belong. It’s why I’ve moved so many times and never settled. Nowhere feels like somewhere I could imagine spending the rest of my life.

I was wondering how it would feel coming back after 10 years. But not only did it feel like I’d never been away, but leaving it again was just as hard. Even so, it’s really difficult to decide where my loyalties lie. On the one hand Venice is heritage and it is, for me, far more beautiful than England. But Tita spent more of his life here in the UK than he did in Italy. I think, had he wanted to return, he would have. England is where he lived and died. He is buried here. Venice always feels like home. But England is home. It’s a tough call.

Even so, sat at one of Venice’s tourist spots at the bottom of the Rialto, supping what appears to be a pint of Aperol spritz, as I wring those important last moments from my trip before I head back on the Alilaguna, I feel like my heart is breaking, as it has every time I’ve left La Serenissima.

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My one small consolation is that in less than four months I will be back again and I have plenty of work to do before I return. Even so, I am ‘non felice’. So here I am, back in Manchester. I seriously considered not getting on that plane today. But you can’t do that sort of thing anymore. Being here again has only confirmed what I already knew. That my heart, like my ancestry, comes from this place and it belongs in this place.

I’ve thought a lot about the tourism issue since I’ve been here. It’s been in the newspapers, I’ve observed it and I’ve talked to a lot of tourists throughout this trip. Tourism is about making money and generating income. As a tourist, if you do not spend money in your destinations of choice what use are you? It’s not all about taking. You have to give something back. Your footfall is not enough. And I think that is the bulk of Venice’s problem. Many of the tourists do not leave their money in the city.

 

Venezia – 5 Giorno

Mercoledì 10 maggio

Questo è la mia ultima sera a Venezia. E io dimentico scritto qualcosa in Italiano per tu! Mi dispiace per il mio amicie Italiani!

Quindi, io scrivo questo a cena – la mia ultima cena a Venezia. Sembra che non abbia mai lasciato Venezia. Io sono a casa. Ma, io trovato molto nuovo cose. Amo baccalà. Amo cichetti. Amo Aperol spritz. Anche che la mia lingua Italiana e meglio che pensato. Bravo per me!

Questa era la mia prima viaggio a Venezia solo. Anche la mia prima vacanza solo. E davvero questo è il migliore modo vedere a Venezia. Questo modo posso fare quello che voglio. Posso sedermi per ore e osservazione la gondole, anche l’acqua. Anche posso camminare dappertutto lentamente.  Per me questo e il perfetto modo vedere a Venezia.

E di corso io sono qui per la mia famiglia storia. Posso pensare e scrivere e prendere i foti per il mio richerca. Domani è la mia ultima giorno a Venezia. Devo completare il mio foti e vedere tutti i posti importante che io aspettato vedere per 10 anni.

Quindi, quella è il mio ‘blog’ in Italiano. Ora per l’inglese. Ciao ciao i miei caro amicie Italiani!

Today was my last full day in Venice. I spent the morning on a tour of Teatro La Fenice. Then to the Scala del Contarini Bovolo which is a fantastic alternative to the San Marco Campanile. It’s not as high but far prettier, more tranquil and I only saw two other people at the top. Then to the San Toma Traghetto where my g-g-g-grandfather’s father Vicenzo worked after he had retired as an active gondolier.

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After lunch I met Alberto Toso Fei. It’s been probably just over 10 years since we last met in Venice. Like mine, Alberto’s family come from Murano and we both have a passion for Venice, its history and Tita’s story. In Alberto I see the enthusiasm and the passion I have for my ancestry and his enthusiasm and interest in what I do inspires me to carry on. We have stayed in touch all this time and I suspect our paths are likely to cross many times yet.

In the evening I returned to the Ca’Vendramin for the Wagner concerto, which turned out to operatic, and then I had dinner in San Polo where I ended up sitting next to a couple from Broadstairs in Kent. It is indeed a very small world.

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I stayed out as long as I could. I love nights in Venice. This is when the history really comes alive for me. But I had to come home. My last sunset in Venice has come and gone and in the morning I have to pack my case so that I can go and make the most of my last day here.

Venezia – 4 Giorno

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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