We spent the last two weeks in Venice. I guess on several levels I'm glad to be back (electric toothbrush! Lovely kitchen! Dirt, trees, grass and birds besides pigeons!) but on a few others, I think I left my heart there. Got back yesterday and been dreaming about it all night. Funny how much cleaner the water was in my dreams.
Post-miscarriage there are all sorts of mental and emotional things this trip meant to me. But the way I'm feeling now is, for me and I think for most people, the mark of a successful vacation. The really, really good trips I go on make my brain race ahead to a parallel universe where I set up shop permanently wherever I'm visiting - don't you? There are theoretical Spliffes living out their lives in Shanghai, Barcelona, Vancouver, Pori, Berlin, etc. etc. . . . and now there's one in Venice too.
Which is odd, because besides one in Rome and one in Padova that's pretty much the only theoretical Italian Spliffe despite me having spent a lot of pleasant time in the country. (Besides a few nightmare visions of what would have happened to me if I had somehow been born and/or raised in my father's home province, or if that really hot construction worker I used to have unsettlingly wonderful sex with had knocked me up when I was young and stupid.)
But Venice isn't really Italy. Even less so than Calabria and Sicily aren't really Italy, to me, anyways, as a non-Italian; Southern Italian identity is so key to how the world sees Italy in terms of food, customs, look, etc., that weird as the South is in general Italian terms it's inescapably Italian - the way New York is so weird relative to the rest of the States but, if you aren't American, is an inescapable vision of the States.
I know that's a weird thought to Northern Italians. But let's face it: for the last 100 years, all the North has exported is fascism, smog, and cars that are really hard to repair. Versus the South: pizza, semolina pasta, the least retarded fashion houses, three of the best New Hollywood directors in the 1970s, Bruce Springsteen's maternal ancestors, three seperate and extremely powerful organized crime communities, about a kabillion people, etc. . . .
Anyways, Venice isn't Italy. Venice is an island of about 50,000 permanent residents, who all know each other, I think, and most of whom are pretty old, and all of whom speak a language whose relationship with Italian, as far as I could tell, is about as close as Spanish, and their intonation makes them sound like Peter Lorre, which is fucking adorable.
Venice is a ranch whose cash crop is tourists, where the vastly outnumbered locals herd them onto a few main corrals and then enjoy the serenity and much greater beauty of the rest of the place, generally ignoring the few cattle who wander off course; it is an island, after all, or a bunch of islands; it's not like they're going to run away. They ignore the Italian tourists in exactly the same way they ignore everybody else - they just do it in Italian instead of in English. They were nice to us; I think because they liked Godzilla.
Much to the annoyance of Venetians, Anglophone and German authors have leaned heavily on Venice as some sort of death metaphor for the past century or two, and it works pretty well in that sense. Venice started dying when the patrician class decided that all the other snotty aristocratic pieces of shit in Europe were right and trade was beneath them as patricians, despite that trade having built their own and their city's fortunes (maybe they had a point though, considering what enthusiastic slave traders they'd been).
Infected with an invasive snobbery virus, they locked 80% of their daughters up in convents, retired to estates in the Veneto to exploit their tenants, and got so feeble and etoliated Napoleon hardly had to push to invade and fire a bolt into the city's forehead; the place was already slipping back into the lagoon then.
In 1570 the population was 190,000. Considering there are not 140,000 tourists there on a busy day, an emotional resentment of their tourist cash crop is obvious when they blame them for being so numerous they're helping the city sink (the main culprit, besides rising sea levels, seems to have been the nearby industrial town of Marghera, where apparently my grandfather had an awesome time in his 20s, drawing groundwater from beneath Venice).
And I sympathize. A big fight now among the locals is against massive cruise ships going between the main islands and Giudecca to dock near the tourist centre. On a good day they stink and tear the hell out of the lagoon's ecosytem, and inevitably there will be a bad day when they seriously leak something, or hit something, or - something - and that will be a fucking catastrophe.
Still, at a certain point I say humph. Venice is dying. But it has had the longest funeral in the history of funerals. The most mourners filing in to pay their respects, even if shatteringly clumsily at times (Dude. What is with Americans abroad? Some of them are just so fucking . . . ugh.) And it's certainly been the most lucrative funeral that has ever been held, even if the effect of the influx of mourners has ended up seeing Venetians head elsewhere in the Veneto in droves to make room for hotels and AirBNB apartments.
If I sound cynical I don't mean to. Or maybe I do, but I still love Venice. Love it to the point where the only things standing between me making Theoretical Spliffe in Venice into Actual Spliffe in Venice is that I don't think the conditions are good enough for Godzilla and for any other sprogs I may be able to whelp in the future (see comment above re. dirt, trees, grass and birds besides pigeons) and that considering people in my family habitually see triple digits I'm not confident the city will outlast me.