Monday, July 17, 2017

Navigating the Festa del Redentore 2017

When the unregulated crowds of the city become all too much there's still some relief to be found on the water. Even, or especially, during the Festa del Redentore.

We didn't eat dinner on our boat, as many people do for the Festa, but puttered up and down the Grand Canal and a rii or two, taking in the sights, our son blasting (in a very small way) his favorite dance tunes from a little battery-powered wi-fi speaker, smaller than a soda can. It wasn't the booming stereophonic splash he fantasizes about making in his teen years--no more than our boat was the fast, stylish, red cofano he imagines piloting during that glorious period of life--but it was the closest he'd ever yet come to realizing such things and he was thrilled. We idled all around the mass of larger boats--pretty much every boat is larger than ours--anchored in the basin of San Marco. As I was driving our boat I took no photos.

To get the best vantage point in the bacino for the fireworks we should have settled ourselves into a spot there at least an hour before the 11:30 pm start time. But after heading back down the Grand Canal for a while we returned at 11 to find a lot of other boats jostling in the dark to find places within the designated zone delimited by police boats, their blue lights flashing, their officers filling the air with referee's whistles and shouts, directing traffic.

You'd have been excused for expecting chaos at this point, this being Italy, but it all went surprisingly smoothly. Next year I'll know to motor into the first open spot we see and ask to tie ourselves up to a boat already anchored there--or, as the case may be, itself tethered side-by-side to a series of boats roped together in place. But I dillied, then I dallied, and by the time I worked up the nerve to venture indecisively into a smallish open space it had become smaller still and I found myself on the verge of nosing or backing into any number of already anchored boats--each of whose occupants, fortunately, responded to the imminent prospect of my broadsiding their own craft with quick hands and good-natured forbearance.

I retreated back into the mouth of the Grand Canal in the screech-filled darkness. We saw a broad opening in the water alongside three boats tied together neat the Punta della Dogana. We approached--they said they were waiting for another friend's boat to arrive. We retreated.

Well, why even bother to tie ourselves to another boat, when we could simply drop anchor where we were?

This we did. Then we set about taking down the tall poles and festoons with which we'd decorated our boat, as they'd block our view of the fireworks. Then we settled in to wait excitedly for the first explosion of light.

But, wait a minute, were we moving? The wind was blowing hard out of the east, the current was strong, but maybe it was just an illusion created by the movement of another boat nearby motoring to a new spot.

No, we were definitely moving.

We were no longer near the tip of the Punta della Dogana as we had been. Those anchored boats that had once been our near neighbors were growing distant as memories. Our anchor, not exactly massive, must have been dragging, if not skipping, over the bottom of the Grand Canal. At this rate we'd end up foundered on the dock of Ca' Barbaro by the time the 45-minute firework extravaganza was done.

I tugged our engine to life again and we motored alongside a boat solidly in place near the spot from which we'd just drifted. We asked its occupants to tie up to them, they kindly agreed.

We settled ourselves in again inside our boat, finally secure in our spot amid a little flotilla. Another boat arrived and asked to tie itself to ours, to which we of course agreed. A short stone's throw away, from the fondamenta of the Punta della Dogana, a couple of guys shouted out the offer of a jug of sangria to anyone who'd motor over and take them on board for the pyrotechnics, but it was too late for that, and no one really had room anyway (or if they did it was "solo per le donne," as one boatload of young men replied), and in a minute the fireworks began.

Our view was partially obscured by the Punta della Dogana, but it didn't matter. At that point there was no place else we'd rather have been.


For an account of what it's like to watch the fireworks explode directly above your head from a friend's boat in the center of the bacino di San Marco see this post: Festa del Redentore 2014: Seeing, Feeling, Breathing Fireworks. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Spectacle Piled On Spectacle: Festa del Redentore, Early This Morning

My son watches fireworks explode above the Punta della Dogana and a sculpture by Damien Hirst in the first minutes of today.

More on the festivities tomorrow.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Boat's-Eye Peek at Tonights's Festa del Redentore

Foreground, our festooned boat; background, the Giudecca, festooned with lights
For the first time we've taken our own small, decorated-for-the-occasion boat out and about before tonight's fireworks. More images tomorrow--unless I'm too busy driving to take them.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Summer Sunday in Piazza San Marco, 4 Views



During the Venetian Republic the arcade pictured above running along the Piazzatta side of the Palazzo Ducale was known as the Broglio, "where", according to Robert C. Davis and Garry R. Marvin's book Venice: The Tourist Maze, "the Republic's patriciate gathered to promenade, make legislative deals, and sell their votes to the highest bidder." By the 1950s and 1960s, the same authors note, it had become a primary setting for the traditional Venetian evening stroll (called the listòn in Venetian, the passegiatta in Italian). For the last half century, though, it, like the rest of the Piazza San Marco area, has belonged to tourists, offering some all-too-rare public seating for the footsore, weary, or heat-stricken.  

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Contemporary Song About Living in Venice

As the crowd of more than 2,000 of Venetian residents was departing from the Arsenale last Sunday (as recounted in my last post) this group of performers was seeing them off. I'm afraid that I missed the opening of the performance, and though I've been meaning to find out more information about the performers and their song, I'm in the Dolomites right now and happy to have a short break from Venice and its challenges. If anyone would like to provide such information (and maybe the lyrics to the song) in the comments section below, I'll incorporate them into this post. 

The song is about the frustrations of living in Venice, and is a lively and darkly comic account of the heartbreak felt by Venetians as they watch their city destroyed by the short-sighted and cynical pursuit of--as is repeated at one point--"schei, schei, schei!"  Or "money", in Venetian.

I think it's a marvelous performance, and more than just a litany of complaints, it, too, like last Sunday's march, embodies a determination to make themselves heard and seen, even by a city administration which is stubbornly and self-interestedly deaf and blind.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Venetians Take to the Streets to Declare "Voglio Vivere a Venezia"

Marchers set off from their meeting place in front of the Arsenale

Today, on the same day that UNESCO holds its annual meeting in Krakow, and on the second anniversary of Luigi Brugnaro's taking power as mayor of Venice, thousands of Venetian residents gathered in front of the Arsenale and marched up the Riva degli Schiavoni to remind the former organization that the city from which it recently delayed (for another two years) its threat to place it on its List of Endangered World Heritage sites is still under siege from uncontrolled tourism and reckless development, and to remind the latter politician merely that they continue to exist.

That thousands of Venetian residents periodically feel compelled to take to the streets in order to remind what is called the city's "first citizen" of their existence gives you a fairly good idea of how little attention they feel the mayor pays to the city's inhabitants.

After a previous such march the mayor declared that he himself would be "at the head of the next one," thereby overlooking the rather significant point that he'd have no place in a march of the city's residents as he is not, in fact, a resident of the city, nor even the province.

In any case, in spite of his prior vow, he was nowhere to be seen at today's manifestazione, entitled "Voglio vivere a Venezia". The city's actual residents seem to hold very little interest for him; it's the commercial possibilities of the city's "brand" (a word he's fond of using) that he focuses on and, contrary to what he sometimes suggests, the latter rarely seem to benefit the latter. 

A succinct overview of the concerns that motivated the march is provided in today's edition of La Stampa.     

What struck me most about the march was how odd it is to see residents outnumbering tourists in the streets.

And those tourists lucky enough to be in town today truly had a rare experience here--the kind of rare Venetian experience so many tourists hope for, and are promised by various travel agencies or guides or publicity materials.

In a small zone of city, for a short time, these tourists weren't just surrounded exclusively by other tourists. There was local life, loud and boisterous, right before their eyes, filling the riva! This kind of ratio of residents to tourists in the streets is almost never encountered in most places in the city.

But based upon the remarks I overheard, most of these visiting fortunate few were nonplussed, at best.

"Oh, no, no, that's not possible," one young man said to his his two companions, as they walked up beside me and he saw the crowd spread across the riva and filling the bridge (and beyond) ahead of him. He put his hand to his head, as if a headache was coming on, and said, "Great! Now where do we go?"

This is the kind of question, and sight, and headache, that every resident of Venice knows all too well.

Except in the case of residents, the path ahead of us is always blocked by a truly astonishing number of tourists, marching (or, more often, trudging) behind their own upraised standard (usually a small flag or umbrella held by a tour guide).

How pleasant it was, just for a short hour or so, to witness the situation reversed.

But of course it couldn't last. As the marchers got nearer to Piazza San Marco, the crowds of tourists disgorged onto the riva by the large launches that ferry them from various places around the lagoon to the historic center began to rival the number of residents.

And had the march continued into Piazza San Marco itself, residents might very well have found themselves surrounded by an occupying force of equal or greater number.

But the march stopped a couple of bridges short of the Piazza--which hasn't been a place for residents for about half a century.  

A mass of tourists waiting on the riva to board their launch considers the mass of residents filling a nearby bridge

It's not unusual for the Riva degli Schiavonni to be crowded like this at noon on any given day; but it's usually crowded with tourists, not residents

These two lucky tourists have the rarest of Venetian experiences: finding their planned route through the city thwarted by a mass of residents (they soon resorted to GPS to try to figure out another)

This crowd is not part of the march; just the usual army of tourists walking down Riva degli Schiavoni toward Piazza San Marco