Precursor

It is exactly three weeks until Venice part two begins. And to be honest I’m a little bit scared. May was my first spring visit to the city ever and probably also my best experience. Since then I have kept abreast of the problems in the city and visiting in high season has me on edge.

Ok, so this is a little background to my second trip of the year and why I am picking the worst possible time of year to visit (apart from Carnevale). You may remember my week long excusion at the beginning of May. I tracked my spending, where I went and wrote about all the historical connections I had to the city. This was my first holiday alone, my first trip abroad alone. It was the beginning of a new era for me.

September is not going to be the same thing again. My budget hasn’t changed. The difference is that when I land at Marco Polo airport on the afternoon of 5th September, I am meeting my parents who will have simultaneously arrived from London on another flight.

I am setting myself up as their guide for the week, not just to make their life a little easier since I know my way about, but also as a guiding light so that they spend their money properly and remain Venezia savvy. And of course I would be lying if I said I was doing this entirely out of the goodness of my heart for Venice and for my parents. Because, to be honest, they have hired an apartment. And it has a spare bedroom. And I’m going to be in it. A little more on the apartment situation in another post once I get there, because that also came with its own set of concerns.

Exactly 48 years ago, my parents spent a few days in Venice on their honeymoon with absolutely no idea that our family history came from there. Last November I managed to persuade them that a return was inevitable and long overdue. So here we are.

So this will be an interesting exercise. Spending money isn’t hard. Spending it wisely and ethically is the key to doing it right. The week has already been timetabled including island visits, the right kinds of restaurants, a carefully researched Gondola experience, museums and other experiences. I’m spending a morning with Row Venice….well you get the picture.

This will be a chance for me to see first hand just how bad things have become. Imagine May but with more people and much warmer conditions. Am I ready? Yes and no. I am desperate to be back there, but also more than a little bit worried about what I will find.

 

 

The Guilt Complex

I am struggling with a conflict of loyalties.

In 5 weeks I return to Venice. At the height of season. I haven’t done that in 11 years. Not my choice. It’s my parents holiday and I want to be there to help them make the best of the venue. Ok, I lied, I really WANT to go back to Venice and I wouldn’t care when it was. It’s Venice.

I read a lot about what’s happening there at the moment. About how the cittidini are at breaking point. I look at the disgusting way tourists behave and the distressing disrespect so many people have for one of our most historical places on earth, and for all my care and consideration that I have put in place for my second visit, I can’t help feeling like I am just another part of the problem.

I don’t want to contribute to it. And for all my bleating on about my Venexiane ancestry, I really am not one of them. It was four generations ago that my g-g-g-grandfather was born and raised and worked in Murano and Venice. I am a charlatan. The only way I will ever be able to consider myself even close to being ‘one of them’ will be to live there. And that, I am sorry to say, is not going to happen any time soon, no matter what way I look at it.

So I don’t know how to reconcile myself. I hope that I am different from the millions that stream into Venice every year. I know that in some ways I am very different. In others perhaps not.  And I am thankful that I will be able to help two more people, my parents, who are one generation closer to their Venexiane DNA than I am, to be as conscientious as me.

And I hope that in some small way that gives something back. Because I don’t want to be THAT tourist.

Venezia – 3 Giorno – On This Day In Venice

Lunedi 8 maggio

On this day in 1798 on the island of Murano, my great great great grandfather, probably best known as Lord Byron’s gondolier and bodyguard, was born. The fact that I am in Venice this week was not a part of my plan, it’s just the way the dates fell on my AirBNB booking.

After breakfast at Goppion, where I met two tourists (one of whom teaches English on mainland Italy), I headed off to Fondamenta Nove to catch the vaporetto to Murano to meet my new cousin.

Paola Falcier is a writer and Murano resident whom I met on the internet a couple of months back. We were both researching our Murano Falcier ancestors and there was a reasonable chance we were related. As it happens, we’re not directly, but we’ve stayed in touch and she’s been a willing victim via Whatsapp as I improve my Italian. We’re still hopeful of finding a connection somewhere. The research continues.

We did a huge circuit of Murano taking in the Fondamenta Venier, which used to be the Fondamenta degli Angoli which is where my Falcieri family lived and where Tita and his siblings were all born.

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We also visited all the churches, a glass factory, the cemetery and I was introduced to a whole host of friends and relatives who had all heard of my impending arrival.

My ancestors on Murano (Falcier, Nichetti, Gaggio and Caurlin) were liberally spread across the southern part of the island and were hanging out around San Stefano, San Pietro and San Ciprioni but there are also connections to San Donato. Between  1814 and 1818 Tita’s father, who had drifted between being a wine seller and a boatman, had picked up his wife and children and decamped to Venice where they had taken up residence at the Palazzo Mocenigo Casa Nuova as ‘gondolieri de casada’ to Lucia Mocenigo, famous of Andrea di Robliant’s books, and later residence for 3 years of Lord Byron after he left the Frezzeria. Why they moved I have no idea. I am guessing they had contacts, probably a family member, already there.

After we parted I headed off to Al Timon. I had found a language exchange group via ‘Meet Up’ and, even though I had spent all day with Paola speaking almost nothing but very broken Italian, I had the chance over cichetti and Aperol to give it another go with my host Michele.

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After this I cut the day short. Paola reckons we clocked up about 8 miles today and tomorrow is another full day. My visit is now half way through. This makes me a bit sad, but I have plenty left to do.

For now, Tita, wherever you are, Buon Compleanno.

What Did I Spend?

Today was quite a cheap day. Breakfast at Goppion was 2.60 Euros and I only picked at cake and cappuccino during the day. Water is freely available throughout Venice at the various fountains so you have no excuse for dehydrating here. Cichetti and two Aperol at Al Timon cost me 10 Euros.

The vaporetto return to Murano Colonna from Fondamenta Nove in Cannaregio cost 10 Euros.

Di Venezia Con Amore

Forgive the impersonal nature of this blog post. Today I arrive in Venice – actually I’ll be somewhere over mainland Europe when this drops onto your timeline. I don’t know when I will get internet access so this is damage limitation, by way of a quick pre-published introduction to say hello from here. If you are in Venice, drop me a line. I am open to all sort of interesting liasons over prosecco, cichetti and anywhere else dreamy and romantic as ever Venice is.

The aim over the next six days is to document my time here with observations, the kinds of photographs you don’t normally see (I promise no Grande Canale panoramics), thoughts on prices, where to eat, artesans, people and the history I see as I trace my ancestors back and forth. I will also be tracking my spending, to see just how true it is that Venice is an overpriced tourist trap. I am very budget conscious so this will be an interesting exercise.

Ciao. Ci vediamo dopo…from somewhere over Europe.

Bradenham Manor – A Home For 16 Years

I probably write too much about Venice (as if that could ever be an actual thing).  For those of you who do not know Venice, this might make my recent timeline boring. For those of you who do, you will get it. Even so, it is time for another subject.

Towards the end of April I retraced my steps back to Bradenham Manor in Buckinghamshire, once the home for 20 years of Isaac D’Israeli and his family, and where Tita eventually landed himself in 1832 and for the next 16 years. It is also where he met his future wife.

Bradenham is a beautiful building nestled in the Chiltern Vale. It is also possessed of a uniquely tranquil ambience that everyone notices when they enter. This of course is in direct contrast to the recent and extraordinary adjustment in the internal furnishings of this country manor cum training centre. We are all at a loss.

Even so, Bradenham for me represents a poignant time in my family history. I have visited it before, but not since reading the many letters from and to Sa Disraeli. Most of them are written from the house, and often about the goings on in it. It has a formed a substantial part of my book rewrite, and for obvious reasons once you see it.

Her letters are an indispensible gem in our knowledge of Tita Falcieri’s life not just at the manor, but also what was going on back in Italy and also in London. I’m saving all the interesting bits for the book rewrite. But I have included here a few of the quirkier photographs I took when I was last there.

I was blessed with the opportunity to wander about the house at leisure. It is a jumbled assortment of rooms, corridors and staircases, confused further by the numerous alterations over its life which make it a challenging but fascinating jigsaw And this of course makes it a lot of fun to explore.

Towards the end of the day as things began to wind down I sat and read the chapter from my book that deals with Bradenham and read a few scenes from the script, the section also set at Bradenham. And it really is quite an extraordinary feeling – reading of events that took place in the very rooms where you are now sitting.

#IfVeniceDies

If something lives, it can die. If it was built, it can fall down. In that respect Venice is like anywhere else.

But our perception of Venice’s fragility is largely down to its uniqueness and the passion its people has for preserving it. Where else can you walk amongst 900 year old buildings that are still in daily use. Here in the UK, we just knock them down and build ugly ghosts in their place or they house museum collections. We have no passion for preserving cities or towns in this way.

Venice, being bordered as it is by water, has an insular community which makes it ripe for preservation. The community is hardened to the problems, it isn’t complacent. It’s had to stand up to itself for centuries. Why should now be any different.

The population of Manchester, where I currently live, is 9 times that of Venice. Just think about that for one moment.

If Venice Dies is not just about Venice, although in this instance, it is. It applies to all our historical cities – those which have anything left to show as historical. Venice’s design is it’s biggest ally and also it’s biggest downfall – depending on how you look at it. As someone who has always lived in the UK, I have observed the slow erosion of our architectural and cultural history. Venice represents a paradise. I can go here and walk quite literally in the footsteps of my ancestors and know that they would probably recognise a large proportion of what Venice is now.

But I can appreciate it is not for everyone, and for those that live and have to make a living there it must be hard. Tourism is eating away at solid jobs, at tradition, at artesan crafts, at inherited trades. But Venice has a friend and that is the inhabitants. Venice has survived and it’s down to Venice to pull itself through. And it can do it because it makes a passionate stand. 54,000 people afterall, isn’t nothing.

Back To The Grind

My three weeks just south of London have come to an end. In case you’re out of the loop I’ve been housesitting a Boston Terrier named Malibu for a few weeks. My parents don’t live that far away so I’ve been making the most of the proximity to catch up with them and meet my brand new nephew. I’ve also taken myself into London for a couple of days of research at the British Library (that’s the image at the top of this post in case you are wondering).

Manchester for those of you that don’t know the geography is a 5 hour drive from my parents, so I rarely come down this way. And when I do, it’s usually via the medium of other tasks. It’s a lot to justify especially when you run your own business.

Primarily the reason was to get away from my day job and finish revising the second edition of my book which needed a lot of new material putting in. My time here has gone remarkably slowly, and though I don’t feel like I’ve done an awful lot with my time I have achieved what I came here to do – finish the book.

It’s gained a lot of pages and I’ve thrown a few out. And this edition will come with pictures once I’ve forked out for the copyright and got some artefacts properly photographed. There are lots of exciting things to show you and I hope you will be inspired. I doubt the copy will be out by the time I go to Venice in May. But rest assured the link will be up when it’s done.

In the meantime I have continued to plough away at my Italian lessons. And I’ve gained myself a Manchester based Italian penpal via WhatsApp. I’ve also managed to expand my Italian family tree and my grasp of the language seems to be coming on well.

So yes I suppose it has been a good few weeks. Back in Manchester it’s time to return to business. And in just five weeks I will be in Venice. After 10 years absence I am finally back at the ancestral home. And it cannot come soon enough.