I’m giving my brain a small holiday — what the British traveling public knows so charmingly as an “away day” — and not trying to string thoughts together. Or even to have very many thoughts, frankly. Once I start, I usually discover that my brakes are unreliable.
But looking around is always a treat, to one degree or another, and Lord knows we don’t lack for material here.
Benches — not enough, but still usable — line the viale Garibaldi, the perfect spot of summer shade where people can sprawl and eat and nap. Lino calls the area the “refectory” or the “dormitory,” depending on what we see going on. We sit there too, sometimes, when we can find a bench, of which there should be more. But that’s not the real subject. Here, Exhibit A: Deterioration. All the benches are tormented by now, but this is reaching a dangerous extreme. (Note: I do not blame either eaters or nappers for this. It’s The Elements, of which we have so many.)
But wait! Has the world gone mad?
In this case, madness is not at work, but men detailed to spruce up the place, like you do before company comes. “Company” in this case I surmise is the Biennale of Architecture, which is opening just a few steps away on Saturday, May 28. They’ve also cut the grass in the small areas behind the benches. Where will it end?
And speaking of observing, did you ever notice the half-moon window over the water entrance of many palaces? That was the window of the gondolier’s apartment. If you had a palace you also had a gondola (sometimes more than one), and at least one gondolier. He had to bunk somewhere, so the space closest to the boat was the perfect spot. Lest you think they all had to be abnormally short, the floor of the apartment was sometimes below the level of the window –here you can see that the brown facing indicates how low the floor was.
Different palace, but here we get a look at how the apartment would look from the inside. It happens that this palace is being used as a nursery school. Most Venetians didn’t have plastic castles blocking the entrance to the canal.
But back to the madness. Let’s visit the fountain on the Zattere. I remember when it was built, something like 15 years ago. Its astonishing inefficiency was immediately obvious, but what’s really astonishing is that it has been left that way ever since. Perhaps you can see the curving jets of water. If not, never mind. You can certainly see the water which the jets are flinging far and wide. Obviously the force of the flow has not been diminished in order to make the jets fall into the drains at the foot of the pedestal. Or, the drains haven’t been moved. In any case, this is what you have: Sloshy ground in the summer, and sometimes ice in the winter. And waste. Bonus points to the designer for putting a drain instead of a basin — occasionally a helpful soul will put a plastic bowl or old ice-cream tub beneath the falling water so that dogs can drink too. Whenever we see anything that is somewhere between inadequate and wacko, we say it must have been designed by “the architect of the fountain at the Zattere.” And people worry about acqua alta?
Oh, sorry — are we in your way?
This is almost impossible to top. Elephants in Venice! (And people worry about tourists?). This photo is in an unidentified window on Barbaria de le Tole. Sorry about the reflection, but some sleuthing reveals that the Circo Togni came to Venice in all its glory at some date in the Fifties. I’m impressed by all the people who act like this is as normal as the Fourth of July parade in Wahoo, Nebraska. But maybe they’re thinking that Venice is as normal as Wahoo.
Here’s the link, in case the clip hasn’t come through: https://youtu.be/6MEwe6XL_ck
My “away day” is over now, leaving room for “back-here day,” which will be tomorrow.