Tuesday 5 November 2013


We arrived in the rain - a persistent drizzle, but not so bad that we were put off walking to the Rialto vaporetto stop (where we had an assignation with somebody who was to lead us to our home for the next few days), rather than shell out the fourteen euros for two one-way tickets to ride the waves for the eight minute journey down the Grand Canal. I don't remember the vaporetto charges being so exorbitant on previous visits. Maybe they were, and we just didn't tend to use them. That would at least explain why it is that we know the walking routes through Venice well enough to be able to rely on shanks pony. From the station at Santa Lucia, it was a leftward swing towards Cannaregio, then the full length of the Strada Nuova, and a rightish trajectory thereafter.  And eccolo!...the steps of the Rialto bridge, populated with a dense array of opened and dripping umbrellas that was more reminiscent of Renoir than of Canaletto.

The apartment is large and light, and nestled deep in that area midway between Rialto and San Marco which is dense with a patchwork of small courtyards, twisting alleyways, and obscure canals. From the kitchen and bedroom windows, the Campanile of the Basilica can be seen, softly illuminated after nightfall, and the various windows in the living room look down to a small courtyard and entrance to a sotoportego and out across a roofscape of mottled tiles, altanas, and the oddly complicated shapes of venetian chimnypots.

 Having raided the local stores and stocked the kitchen, we headed out in a damp dusk to track down  the renowned Libreria Acqua Alta, just the other side of Santa Maria Formosa. The Libreria is a place about which many people have raved, enthusing that it claims truthfully to be 'the most beautiful bookshop in the world'. It isn't. By a long way. As advertised, the warren of rooms was filled to overflowing with books, piled high in beached gondolas and bathtubs, and stacked precariously to left and right of the small amount of floor left navigable to those browsing. But, the books were tired and dog-eared and unloved. Everything was dirty and damp, and the covers of the books left one searching (in vain) for somewhere to wipe one's fingers afterwards. In two small courtyards, bales of books were piled forlornly, gently rotting in the rain, and the interior of the place smelt mildly of mould and neglected decay. The whole place is decadent in the extreme, and in the worst possible way - and I speak as somebody who has no problem whatsoever with the idea of decadance, having even been known to indulge, myself, on a good day. The Libreria, rather than being the treasure house that we'd been led to expect, was more like an elephants' graveyard, in a very advanced stage of decomposition. Fortunately, I did find one volume that was still worth rescuing - Emilia Valli's 'La Cucina di mare dell'Abruzzo e del Molise' - and so, book underarm and heading for resurrection, we headed out into the rain and the night, to return home to a welcoming glass or two of Prosecco, and dinner.

And awoke, this morning, to a Venice of clear blue skies and  bright sunlight, and streets gleaming and freshly washed by last night's downpour.

Onward and upward!

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