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 live in a complex with a lot of other people. My neighbors are typically unsocial, minding their own business. But now, in quarantine, their attitude has changed radically. We talk from our balconies, asking how everyone is doing and if anyone needs help or more wine or flour.
My husband is doing some work around the house (at my suggestion, of course) and two older men in our building (a former carpenter and bricklayer) have offered to help him, showing him proper techniques and how to use their vintage tools. The three of them are hilarious together, arguing in the very typical Venetian way when discussing the proper way to do a job.
Concerning my friends and family, we are so lucky to live in a technological age where we can connect over Zoom, Skype, or Whatsapp. My friends and I organize a weekly apertivo virtuale (virtual happy hour). It isn’t the same as being together, but at least a week can share a drink and I can talk to someone other than my husband!
Q: What do you feel is different with respect to nature in Venice?
Spring is the moment when Venice starts to wake up, boats are “in the water” again, and people go to restaurants reopening on the islands, sharing wine with friends, fishing, or starting to work on their tans., before the crowds of tourists arrive. Seeing Venice static, empty, waiting for better days brings a feeling of melancholy. Realizing my city is so strong yet so vulnerable at the same time is painful. It’s hard to explain.
Q: What do you miss the most about Venetian life? What will you do first when things reopen?
So many things! Drinking my third coffee of the morning in the bar on my way to the office or returning home on my husband’s water taxi along the canal behind Giudecca, admiring a beautiful sunset and feeling a deep Venetian pride in my heart. I even miss the older women arbitrarily screaming on the vaporetto — it doesn’t matter at who or why, only important that they yell! I miss apertivo time. It’s an institution in Venice, unlike anywhere else in Italy. It is a state of mind, a moment after work or on the weekend for relaxing and rediscovering yourself. You can order your spritz (I prefer mine bitter, with Bitter Campari) and forget your problems while you talk with friends about everything and nothing all at once. I am also looking forward to taking our boat out with friends for dinner at Notturno, a small, local restaurant in the Laguna Nord part of Venice. It faces the lagoon, where you can admire the barenas, and enjoy real local cuisine like patè d’otregan or insalata di seppie condite con erbette di barena.
Q: What do you think has changed? What do you hope will continue from this period once this is behind us?
Venice is eternal. She is always the same, but this moment is a sigh of relief, a moment to prepare her great beauty to be admired once again. I wish many things for the future of my city– for tourism that respects our home and our people, and visitors that want to understand Venice, not just see it for a few hours. We don’t need cruises and masses of people crowding our streets. These monstrous ships are destroying the lagoon and the city itself. It is true when people say “Venice is for everyone,” but we must make efforts to preserve Venice for everyone in the future – our children, grandchildren, and beyond. But if we continue like before, future generations won’t have the pleasure of visiting and falling in love with her. Nothing will change if we don’t alter the way we perceive our city. It is not an attraction or a plein air museum. It is a city. It is my hometown. It is unique in its beauty, its nature, and its way of life. Living in Venice is not always easy. Most of the time it is a love-hate relationship, but love always conquers. Venice is a dream, and I am proud to wake up here every morning.