Venice in twenty-twenty

Perhaps it’s still not time for the Lagoon City to take stock. Some call it the most beautiful city in the world, before reaching for the famous cliché, which now verges on a cabaret gag: “Venice is beautiful, but I’d never live there”. Some love Venice unconditionally. Some think loving Venice means capturing the city with a camera. Some love Venice, but not overly because they have to work there and everything’s a bit more inconvenient, a bit more difficult. A bit more expensive.

It’s true: Venice is a city of contradictions, extremes and exaggeration. It’s also a place where, over the centuries, “Vivere di Gusto” (living a life of taste) has taken on an almost religious dimension. In the past, the local passion for the good life went as far as the brink of dissoluteness and beyond, making the high society scene the stuff of legends, albeit by a well-heeled minority. But still leaving permanent marks such as the Carnival, which remains more deeply felt here than elsewhere; goldolas and barchigli; bàcari and cichèti, which are the result of those times of endless merrymaking. 

But looking back at these recent months is enough to realize just which and how many facets this city has, already bright like a diamond and mysterious as the philosopher’s stone in its own right. Nature, due to human intervention, has put a high tax on Venetians: first, squashing it with its force, then hiding behind the arrival of outsiders, the joy and delight of the lagoon. This year has revealed the best and the worst: first with the elemental expressions of air and water as never seen before, making Venice deserted. Then actually thanks to the lack of the usual crowds, we were given a solitary, silent and resplendent Venice, sad and beautiful at the same time.

And then there was the assault by those who didn’t want to miss it, traveling in their own cars, hence flooding piazzale Roma, Tronchetto and Ponte della Libertà with red-hot metal and pouring rivers of visitors into Venice for an hour or a day.

But what’s really missing in Venice, to rebuilt a strictly Venetian idea of the good life, and living it slowly: in Venice you can’t rush, you can’t be in a hurry to see, do and go. Venice must be experienced drop by drop, fragment by fragment, frame by frame. The ombra de vin that Venice offers you must be sipped and the morsel savored in its fullness.

You’ll never know enough about Venice for it to bore you. But don’t consume it, it’s unique.

Desire is a product of lacking knowledge.

[T.Mann, Death in Venice]