Sun, 12 Nov 2023
True to form we’ve arrived in Venice the day before a festival, Vogalonga, we were unaware of three days previously. A chunk of the first day is spent sat on a Vapareto stop on the Grand Canal watching people rowing. It is not as best we can tell a race, at least by the time we sit down. It is somewhat chaotic and the police on a motor boat in charge of marshalling the participants do a lot of blowing whistles and pointing to the side of the canal appropriate for the direction of travel. In retrospect this seems hilarious as the rest of the time boats weave about the canal based on where there is space. I guess locals get more leeway than tourists allowed onto the canal for an annual outing.
The next day we again head to a Vapareto stop to make our own way along the canal. Like much of the rest of Venice the Grand Canal is very Venicey. Plenty of places manage to meet expectations in little photogenic pockets, Venice is all pocket.
It’s in the most rammed with people bits that it feels the least something else and the most everywhere else. St Mark’s, if you ignore the canal in one corner, is not unlike many other palatial Italian squares. Not that it is unimpressive, more that it is less exceptional. Similarly, the shop lined alleys directly off the square recall other old Italian centres.
The drop off in density of people as you wander away from The Sights is also in keeping with elsewhere. We do less of this than we might due to reasons, but wandering down the little alleys is hugely enjoyable. It is, again, not entirely dissimilar but for the canals. Obviously the canals are the whole point of Venice but they are constantly delightful. Partly aesthetically but almost more so for watching Venetians canaling.
There is something slightly idiotic about going to a place and marvelling at what is obvious and everyday, but the novelty of watching a supermarket get a delivery to its loading dock adds a level of background delight not present elsewhere. Partly this is because I am not a water person so find boats vaguely magical. They do not move in a way that makes sense to me, both ponderous yet unexpectedly nimble.
It is this misplaced sense of wonder that makes a day spent hopping on and off Vapereto seem more extraordinary than it really should. I can understand that it is just a bus service but it is boats so using them to travel a few hundred meters somehow feels too trivial, too casual. Boats should require ceremony and planning. It is hard to feel decadent squashed in with tourists, schoolchildren and commuters, and yet it does. I am not rational about boats.
As well as Vogalonga our visit coincides with the architecture biennial so there is a great deal of art nonsense which we largely ignore. I’d assumed that the biennial was fairly limited in both scope and time but it seems semi permanent and has offshoots all over the city. Down yet another tiny alley we chance on the shed housing the Scottish entry which, as with much of it we’ve passed, is more art installation than architecture. It is a bit weird to be reading about Ravenscraig by a canal.
A bit weird is the overall vibe. Not disconcertingly so but there is much of Venice that when you stop and think doesn’t make a lot of sense. It is wilfully impractical in many ways but makes it seem reasonable and normal when you are in the bubble.
posted at: 17:50 #