Venice: An Addiction that Cannot Be Cured
An extract from First Spritz Is Free – Confessions of Venice Addicts, a free E-Book by Kathleen Ann Gonzalez
A few months ago Kathleen Ann Gonzalez , author of A Beautiful Woman in Venice, wrote to me asking if I would like to be part of a new project which she was developing: to gather a series of essays from a wide range of Venice lovers, where they would talk about their love for Venice, why they could not get enough of the city and how the city made them feel.
I immediately liked the idea, since Kathleen was going to put this E-book available for free online for everyone to enjoy.
I quickly discovered that many important Venice experts and lovers were involved, ranging from novelists, bloggers, musicians, photographers, chefs, tour guides, historians, and more – many of whom I am glad to call friends. In all 32 contributors!
In Kathleen’s own words:
Venice is timeless. Venice is changing. Venice inspires and seduces and stimulates. We call ourselves Venetophiles, and we’re addicted to this beautiful and ancient city in the middle of a lagoon.
To be honest I feel a bit in awe of the writing by all the other people who contributed and I feel very humble to have been able to share with them this beautiful project!
I hope you enjoy my little essay and will go and immediately to download the FREE EBOOK, so you can read all the other wonderful chapters!
“Venice: An Addiction that Cannot Be Cured!” by Monica Cesarato
A hot, sweltering, typical summer day in Italy in 1972.
My father’s Vespa dashes fast along the Ponte della Libertà, the nearly four kilometer bridge built by Mussolini in 1933, connecting the terraferma to the beautiful city of Venice.
Standing upright on the footrest at the front, nestled between my father’s arms while he rides, peeking on my right, I can just make out the outlines of Porto Marghera, one of the largest coastal industrial areas in Europe, so imposing with its high chimneys and towers.
To my left I can see a train whizzing by, all windows open, passengers trying to catch a breath of fresh air, disheveled hair and red faces: trains in Italy in the ’70s did not come with air conditioning!
My mother is a pillion at the back, wearing a headscarf, her straying pitch-black hair locks escaping the grip of the silk cloth. My dad, so dashing with his thick moustaches, looks like a motorbike racer. None of us is wearing a safety helmet, of course!
The windshield stops the hot air and the thousands of mosquitoes from crashing into my face, and I am so thankful for that: I tasted ants and mosquitoes a few weeks back, did not like them much!
I laugh, exhilarated by the sight which appears to my eyes and the sensation of speed—in all fairness, knowing my dad, he probably was going very slow, but to me it felt like we were going as fast as a Ferrari Testarossa!
And then I can see it in all its beauty, breathtaking, standing on water, like a heron: there it is, Venice!
Summer 1972: I was only three years old, but already the city entered into my bloodstream, like a good disease, a delightful virus which would never leave me, would never be cured, no matter how far I went and how long for!
In the years to come I would cross over that bridge a thousand times, over and over: first with my uncle, in his old Fiat 500, when he took me fishing for seppie, Venetian cuttlefish, which we would then eat grilled on the barbeque with all the family; then on the local bus on my way to high school, the Tourism and Language Institute, where I would learn about the history and importance of Venice; and many years later, each and every time I went to the city for one of my food tours or cooking classes.
And every single time was, and is, like the first time: my eyes linger first to the right to catch glimpses of Marghera, then to my left to look at the railway line and the passing trains. And every time I see the outlines of the city looking ahead, it’s like that first summer day! A grin comes naturally to my face, and I feel like I am going home. (I can’t start laughing, otherwise the people on the bus will think I am crazy, but I do laugh if I am driving there on my own, so you know!)
I am not Venetian, technically speaking, as I was not born and raised in Venice itself, but on the mainland, in the countryside, only five kilometers away. Venetian people classify us as campagnoli, countryside people, therefore my true home is not really Venice. But to me, it is: I always felt like I belong there, like I am meant to be there.
I remember once, I was walking around with a couple of friends and I started caressing the decaying walls of a building in a small calle and it felt like I was caressing a friend.
I still live in the countryside, but I am very lucky because I get to be in Venice very often during the week, due to my work as a food guide and cooking instructor, teaching people the delights of Venetian food. But to be honest, I try to find other excuses to go into the city, if I do not have to be there for work.
There are periods when I do not have to go into the city for days on end, so I make up excuses to make my way there, even if it is only for a few hours!
I am truly addicted!
Not sure why, since most of the time the city is jam-packed with trampling tourists and horrible souvenir shops, which, in summer, believe me, coupled with the afa, the terrible humidity which permeates the whole city, is a huge deterrent!
But the ancient buildings, the green canals, the harsh and colorful people, their beautiful boats, the amazing Venetian food and wine: all of it is truly intoxicating.
I can never get enough of it.
Even on the days when the crowds of tourists are way too many; when for one reason or another the vaporetti are not running and you have to walk all across the city and more; when your clients don’t turn up and they do not even bother telling you; when it rains cats and dogs and you forgot your umbrellas in some osteria or the fog is so thick and cold, you could cut it with a knife; when the heat is so intense you can hardly breathe and all you can do is melt away in sweat, even then I simply can’t get enough of this amazing city.
I cannot get enough of hearing the old ladies chatting and gossiping away in the Venetian language, holding their bags full of the fresh fish and goodies they got at the historic Rialto Market; cannot get enough of watching the skilful gondoliers, dodging their way through the canals, swearing at each other and always looking like they are about to start a fight, when all they are doing is telling each other what they did on the weekend; cannot get enough of popping my head in the shops of my many artisan friends, stealing away some of their time in chats, while peeking at their next stunning creation; cannot get enough of going from bàcaro to bàcaro, eating the traditional cicchetti, sampling some new ones and being the tester/taster for the owners, asking for my opinion on a new wine or cocktail; cannot get enough of listening to my writer, poet, and historian friends, telling me about the legends and traditions of the Republic of Venice, bringing back to life the buildings, water wells, and columns which are spread all over town; cannot get enough of simply walking into the Campo de Gheto Novo and wondering how the Jews of Venice ever managed to live in such a restricted area, in such terrible conditions.
I simply cannot get enough of living Venice!
Venice: a city that you either love or hate, simple as that—and I love it!
Thank you again Kathleen for all the hard work you put into creating this wonderful book – and thank you to all the other contributors – let’s keep the love for Venice going!