Q: Italy is a very social country, and the walking nature of Venice makes that city even more particularly social. How are you maintaining your Italian sociability from your apartment?
I open my window, and I see an empty calle and the meandering walk of an elderly man with his dog. I hear the cry of a baby and the small chats of my neighbors. Between the pomegranate colored buildings, two kids are playing with their scooters while wearing sanitary masks. In the house in front of mine, they put the laundry outside to dry. I can’t avoid noticing, probably for the first time, how well they care for their flowers on the terrace and how the small lemon tree is now blooming in this triumphant and evil Spring. I live in Cannaregio Sestiere, a residential area of the city where I am lucky to still experience the real, everyday life of Venetians.
I am a very social person myself. I double kiss my friends on the cheeks and hug them. This self-isolation has been very tough for me – for all of us. I have long conversations with my friends online, but my colorful neighborhood is also a big help. Although I am not originally from Venice, my neighbors recognize me and wave at me when we meet in the street or through the windows I keep open while I work from my desk. Berto, a boatman, walks his two Cocker Spaniels every day and salutes me. He must think I pretend to work because I just sit at a computer the whole day. Every morning he giggles, saying “a lot of work today for you, too…eh?!”
Q: What do you feel is different with respect to nature in Venice?
While taking walks, I am surprised by the clean and pure atmosphere, the color of the canals that have never been so blue-green since I first moved to Venice in 2011. One day I spotted a bird I have never seen in the lagoon before, swimming and playing in the waves of the calm water, usually turbulent from boat traffic. What I love the most about this quarantine is sitting on a bench and looking out at the bay. The bridge of Libertà on the left and the empty airport in the distance in front of me. The colors are stunning: the calm, grey-green of the water that creeps into a burnt orange of the fine line of the horizon and fades into an amazing violet and pink sky.
Q: What do you miss the most about Venetian life? What will you do first when things reopen?
I will definitely go for an aperitivo with my friends and a stroll around the Fondamenta della Misericordia to hear the deep voices of the grocery shop clerks, the yells of the newsagent, and the murmurs of elderly ladies with their shopping cart. I can’t wait to hear the cry of the babies and the music coming out of the open doors of restaurants and bars. I will ask for a double olive in my Spritz Bianco to celebrate!
Q: What do you think has changed? What do you hope will continue from this period once this is behind us?
Venice has changed a lot in the last few years, so much so that at times it was hard to recognize. Sometimes I wonder if Venice, as well as Mother Nature, wanted to punish us with this virus, so she may start breathing again without us. Whenever this is over, I hope we can get rid of the noise of the cruise ships and mass tourism, and bring back the authenticity and spontaneity that made Venice so unique since the Middle Ages. I really hope that we will be able to keep learning from the meaning of this moment and try to put into practice some adjustments to our behavior as citizens and human beings.
Q: What do you think is next for our city?
I want to have positive thoughts about the future of Venice. I am sure things will change, and we will do better to preserve the nature of the historical centers of the cities of Europe and treat them in a more sustainable and respectful way. We must treasure and preserve the authenticity of a place that makes it different from others. And needless to say, Venice is unique.