Venezia people watching.

I came to Venezia expecting it to be a slightly less polished version of EuroDisney, a Hogwarts-styled theme park caught in a flood, inhabited only by visitors brandishing iPhones and Instagram accounts named “Eat-Pray-Love89”. As it turned out, that wasn’t to be the case and we found the delicate, sing-along sounding Venetian accent echoing pretty much everywhere we went.
Please note I’ve written sounding. Venetians – and the Veneti, those from the wider Veneto region – are amongst Italy’s most prolific swearers, so much so that cursing could be considered a form of art over there. Pets, uncles, deities, mothers, retarded nephews; nothing is safe from a torrential burst of profanities in Veneto, and it’s done with such naturalness, spontaneity and flair that even the most upright of the toffs wouldn’t be able to take offence at that. And if he did, then he’d better return whence he’d come from.
Epithets aside, people-watching in Venezia turned out to be remarkably more interesting than I’d ever thought, and it took us along routes we’d never thought. We might’ve been sitting in Calle Scaleta, looking at the house whence one Marco Polo left for his China, and we’d casually eavesdrop on the conversation taking place in the cicchetteria where we were drinking spritz, about the acqua alta SMS not being sent, or the app not sending notifications for yesterday’s tide surge.
We took the poor man’s gondola, the No. 1 ACTV vaporetto along the Canal Grande, after having witnessed, amongst hysteric bursts of laughter, a blonde youth cursing the helmsman of the boat he’d just missed (together with his dog, the boat and the omnipotent) in a remarkably feat of freestyle dissing. We chugged along the Canale, past manors where Mazzini, Wagner and Byron lived, died or both. Around us, city life took to the waters: gondole, speedboats, even the fire brigade cruised along the Canale. At the helm of their boats Venetians developed even more swagger, more savoir-faire, than the impressive amount already displayed by their countrymen whilst at the wheel of an Audi – on the fast lane, that goes without saying – of the A4 motorway.
Once back on the ground we stalked a Romanian couple’s nuptial photoshoot. It turned out the groom wasn’t too keen on being photographed by anyone but the contracted artist.
Terra firma – as firm as it could be on these islands made of tree trunks stuck into the lagoon – was also where the water commuters ended when they weren’t busy sailing, smooth and cool like Don Johnson in Miami Vice. Even without their feet wet, I had to concede, they looked no less at ease.
Murano and Burano, off Venezia proper, were provincial Italy meets the lagoon. Men stopped for an impromptu chat whilst their dogs sniffed around at their feet. Suited and booted art dealers stood outside their gallerias, awaiting the impending stream of tourist to come. Pensioners stood on the doorstep of their homes, whilst tourists snapped photos of one another on the bridges linking one pavement to the other. In the corners, tacky adverts – because all ads in smalltown Italy have an element of tackiness in them – flapped in the wind together with the day’s laundry.
Back in Venezia, men ambled along the windswept walkways running besides the Canale della Giudecca. Kids, too, made an appearance; free from the day’s lessons at school they ran around on hoverboards or, more traditionally, they played football in the square.

In the meantime, by the fish market, a small dog was finding all this way too dramatic.

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7 Responses to Venezia people watching.

  1. J.D. Riso says:

    You’re making me want to visit Venezia again, Fabrizio. After this summer’s trip to Nice and Monaco, I vehemently swore off such well trod places. The description of the florid swearing is enough to entice me. However, I wouldn’t understand any of it. I’ve noticed how certain places seem to cultivate such curious talents. The French have a way of writing spontaneous, yet eerily appropriate philosophical musings in empty spaces. Not too long ago, I saw “La reponse est en toi” (the answer is within you) written on a broken doorbell. Blew my mind. These are the types of subtle cultural quirks that fascinate me. That last photo of the dog is hilarious.

    • awtytravels says:

      Hey Julie, sorry for the delay in coming back to you. Thanks for reading, and thanks for the comment! You’re right, specific places in Italy or France (but, dare I say it, Budapest also applies, what do you think?) have a penchant for those cultural quirks like the broken doorbell which, frankly, is splendid.
      Thanks for the dog photo, is a bit out of focus but I just pointed and shot, didn’t know how long he’d be there and I really wanted to catch the moment!

  2. lexklein says:

    Does Venice have the sad air in person that it gives off in photos? I LOVE your people and boat shots (and the warm, worn paint on the buildings), but the wet air always seems to me to drape something melancholy on the city. The guy in the big straw hat fiddling with a phone or camera is my favorite today (although the fitness poster is a close second!).

    • awtytravels says:

      Hi Lexi, sorry for the delay! I didn’t perceive Venezia to be melancholic, even though if you read a few examples of the literature made there you’d wonder if it could ever be happy. The guy with the straw hat is an off-duty gondoliere, and I was really happy to have caught him like this.. I could’ve probably done a better job of it but I didn’t really want to disturb him… And the fitness poster, well, it’s really small-town Italy.

  3. Dave Ply says:

    It would seem that visiting Venezia has a whole new dimension when you speak the local language. I marvel at your multi-lingualism – where did you learn your English? You write it better than many native English speakers I know of. Or is English first and Italian second?

    • awtytravels says:

      Hi Dave, thanks a lot! It’s Italian first, English second… as for where I’ve studied it, it was mainly the state schools since being aged 6, but it’s been almost 10 years that I’ve used English every day… That helps I suppose.

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