If you put your head out the window of a Venetian apartment today, and inhale deeply enough – holding the breath in your throat and your eyes firmly shut – it feels like early morning in summer. There’s something in the air. I can’t put my finger on it. Something like salt and grass, and the faint hum of a day coming to a simmer – one that promises heat. Except it’s February at midday, and the sunshine that bathes my face as I lean on the windowsill is as bright and warm and whole as it’ll ever be. And that still means wrapping up in my scarf, hat and gloves. Yet somewhere in the sinews of the air, somewhere there’s still that promise of spring.
Dom’s got in the habit of chuckling at me when we go out on days like this. He says that if someone created a word cloud of the things I say most often, “fresh” and “hungry” would be at the top. And he’s right, at least in these late winter days. When the Venetian air isn’t heavy with moisture and the threat of pneumonia, it’s so fresh, as if all that water has crystallised. On days like this I yearn for unlimited access to a sun-bathed campo and a chair, so that I can periodically tilt back my head and exclaim, “ah the air!”, “so fresh!”, “can you juusssttt smell that!” in between sips of an endless aperitivo.
As it is, today I’ve given myself to my desk. You see, I have the marvellous ability to put off writing – writing properly, I mean – for weeks and weeks even when I know it’s my favourite thing to do; or at least my favourite thing to have done. Then the weight of observations and exclamations about the air, or the water, or the delight of a warm frittella gets so heavy that I sort of collapse under it all. That’s where I am now. I also know that our time left in Venice is slipping away, and I have this sort of anticipatory mourning for all the things I haven’t told you about. So for the next week Dom and I’ll be publishing a blog post here everyday. Lucky for you, it’ll be a busy week in Venice. There’s Martedì grasso (Fat Tuesday), which also marks the last day of Carnivale. Then on Wednesday, Valentines Day and Ash Wednesday collide – the celebration of love versus the beginning of the fast. Thursday will bring the return of the serene and quiet Venice we loved in January; the carnival crowds will be gone and the air will continue its journey towards spring.