There are many things I haven’t done in Venice. Here are just a few:
- I haven’t written a novel
- My Italian is horrible
- My Venetian friends are nonexistent
- I haven’t ever managed to wake up early enough to go for a run at dawn
These were all on my to-do list, but luckily I don’t really mind the fact that they remain unticked. Partly because a lot of these things don’t actually matter, but mostly because I’ve decided to give myself a break.
No, I haven’t finished a novel, but I’m writing more than I ever used to. Everyday in fact – things that will never be published but that fulfil this hunger to record and to read back.
My Italian might still be terrible but I’m having lessons and getting a little better everyday – no mean feat in a city that has no time for stumbling learners. As an unexpected bonus we’ve also come to appreciate the less-than dulcet tones of Venetian, and that’s something in itself.
And while most of Venice treats us like passing tourists, we’re on first-name terms with the guys in our local bar who shout a friendly ciao whenever we pass them in the street. They also put us down as “the usuals” when we book a table, which tells you all you need to know about how much we like their prosecco and pasta.
Finally, it sort of goes without saying, but the running at dawn thing was a bust from the beginning. I never ran at home, and the lure of St Mark’s at sunrise has done nothing to change that.
Yet while the wholesome life I’d imagined for myself has never materialised, we’ve found something that feels right for us, for now. We drink too much wine, eat too much bread, neglect the books we brought with us, and sometimes don’t leave the house for a day or so. But we’re also terribly good at eating Venetian food, finding ourselves on unexpected adventures and taking as many three-day weekends as possible. And in doing all of this we’ve made Venice home. It would take us 10 years of living here to not be treated like a tourist – to properly adopt the Venetian life I’d mapped out for us – but this groove we’ve carved for ourselves feels good and natural and us.
And you know what, we really have had an absolute blast.
So what next? What comes after Venice?
Puglia, we hope. From September we plan to be in the southern Italian city of Lecce, with our own car and maybe even a dog. We don’t know how long we’ll stay, or what will happen before then, but it feels right in the same way that Venice did, so I trust that feeling.
But before all that there’s cicchetti and spring and this city that we love. And another six weeks to enjoy it all.