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14 March

venice lagoon

I should really be writing about natural health supplements, but I’m sitting outside a cafe with a coffee and a soft breeze in my hair, and spring is here (!) so the Ashwagandha can wait.

Let me just set the scene, for future senile Alice if nobody else. A few floors up a caged song bird sings. It chirps all day, every day (even in the depths of winter the cheering song could be heard whistling through Salizada S.Antonin), but today it does so with gusto. Then there’s gush and whirl of the milk frother, the clatter of teaspoons on cutlery and saucers placed down on marble counter tops. And in the street, the manager Anna laughs with a group of women. Every sentence bulleted with ‘amore’ and ‘tesoro’ and probably even more Venetian terms of endearment that I’m deaf to.

Now there’s the clatter of the bin men, trundling past with their heavy carts. It’s recycling day today, and they pack away flattened pizza boxes with such good humour that you’d never have guessed they’ve just lugged their load over all the bridges of Castello.

From some faraway shop I can hear Lionel Richie – soon to be drowned out by the giggles and chatter of an approaching French school trip group. The dog beside me barks at a pigeon and burrows through her owner’s legs to reach it.

Ahhh what joy! We came back from a holiday to Malta a couple of days ago and I greeted Venice with a weary sigh. I feel guilty to admit it, but it felt like we’d tasted something warmer, simpler, gentler; something that made Venice with her rain and heartache and tired beauty seem cold and unwelcoming. But also like home. Venice had turned from the holiday to the uncomfortably comfortable.

As I made my way back through Rialto on Sunday evening through rain and wind, the Acqua Alta siren whirred into life. It was only the second time it’s sounded since we’ve been here. That night the city flooded again and in the morning the canal outside our window was full of the usual debris picked up by the high tide. And it was still raining.

But today! Ahh today spring is here, and my notebook is full of thoughts from last night when we re-found Venice again in Spritzes and cicchetti and in a walk beside her inky lagoon. All of a sudden the city feels something like the place I found many years ago, and all our usual haunts have taken on something new in this unexpected sunshine. Seeing as we only have two weeks left here, this makes me very happy.


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