Archive for Prosecco


Who you calling an alcoholic?

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The images on this post will have nothing to do with Oliviero Toscani, wine, alcoholism, Benetton, or any other thing or person mentioned in the text.  I don't have enough years left to seek images that could connect in any way with the theme here.

The images on this post will have nothing to do with Oliviero Toscani, wine, alcoholism, Benetton, or any other thing or person mentioned in the text. I don’t have enough years left to seek images that could connect in any way with the theme here.

There has been quite an invigorating exchange of views in the Gazzettino the past two weeks or so, when real problems didn’t intervene.

The bickering was set off by a comment made by Oliviero Toscani, the photographer-provocateur best known for his extremely edgy ads for Benetton.  “Shockvertising,” somebody called it. His greatest joy in life, perhaps his entire reason for being, is to enrage and offend people, including the people writing his paychecks.

No, that’s not true.  His GREATEST joy in life is to advertise himself, and with just a few well-chosen canards he got himself a deluge of free publicity.  I acknowledge that by writing this post I am colluding in this regrettable mania of his, which almost convinced me not to write about it.  But here goes.

If it matters, which it doesn’t, he’s not from the Veneto.  He was born in Milan (Lombardia).

The opening shot was made in an interview on February 2 during a broadcast on Radio 24 in a known-for-satirical-jabs program called “La Zanzara” (the mosquito).  The context or question wasn’t given in the report I read, but his zinger was that “The Veneti are a people of drunks and alcoholics.  Poor things, it’s not their fault that they’re born in the Veneto.”

The Veneti (people from the Veneto) gave some thought to this, and concluded that they don’t agree.

The world is so beautiful when everybody gets along.  Or when there's nobody at all.

The world is so beautiful when everybody gets along. Or when there’s nobody at all.

The counter-shots which followed were so many and varied that I have picked, trust me, only a few:

Luca Zaia, governor of the Veneto: “He should apologize,” adding a famous Veneto epithet, “Prima di parlar, tasi” (before you speak, shut up).

Arrigo Cipriani (Venetian restaurateur and icon): “I’ve always considered Oliviero Toscani a provincial, a phony cosmopolite; all of his provocations, even on multiracial themes, aren’t worth anything culturally. He probably had too much to drink before he made that statement.”

Lino Toffolo (Venetian comic): “It’s a little bit my fault.”  He says this is because he made his career on television by caricaturing the Venetian as a drunk.  “In films we were always depicted as servants, carabinieri, and dolts” (in Venetian, mone, which I will explain below).  He continued with the pointed remark, in Venetian: “Se uno xe mona, lo xe tanto in dialeto che in talian” (If somebody’s a dolt, he’s one as much in dialect as in Italian”).  I think he got that backwards, but you see what he’s saying.

“Alcoholic” and “mona” aren’t quite the same thing, but let’s keep moving.

Mona” (MOH-na) is a very useful and versatile Venetian word. (Plural: Mone. MOH-neh.)  Technically, it means a woman’s lady parts, but it is the daily word of choice for describing a person who is not merely a dimwit, but a very particular kind of stupid — an obtuse, mouth-breathing dork.  An intelligent person can occasionally slip and commit a monada (the act perpetrated by a mona), but if the person him/herself is a mona, there’s little hope for him in the larger human sphere.  A person could be a Nobel-prizewinning theoretical physicist, but in the realm of basic social skills could also very well be a mona.

One of the best examples of the usefulness of this word is a saying I’ve often heard Lino repeat, usually after the news of the death of some world-famous yacht racer who dies at sea, or world-famous Alpine guide who dies in an avalanche: “Mona chi se ciama bravo in mar/montagna” (Anybody who calls themselves expert at sea/in the mountains is a mona”).

In this case, our world-famous photographer has been dismissed with one of the most trenchant Venetian terms at hand.  Because you could defend yourself by saying “I’m not an idiot,” but “I’m not a mona” just confirms that you are.

And it could have been left at that, but a few of the five million Veneti had something more to say.

IMG_5804  putt mardi  sharpened

Ulderico Bernardi, a sociologist and native of the Veneto:  “The people at Benetton had to have been really drunk when they hired him. And” — he adds — “he also has gotten wrong the historical analysis.  The stereotype of the drunken Veneto is not, in fact, ancient, seeing that Veneti and Venetians were considered the English of the Mediterranean, and that this people succeeded with a constant and intelligent effort to overturn the dramatic economic situation of a region that was among the poorest in Italy.”

A Veneto businessman named Remo Mosole from Breda Di Piave (Treviso) wrote to Toscani personally.  “In my long working life, from the immediate post-war period to today, I have seen the Veneto rise from the blackest poverty to become one of the primary regions of Italy…Your affirmations have profoundly offended generations of Veneti… who worked humbly and firmly for their economic and social emancipation.  Someone born in the Veneto today is not unfortunate, as you say, destined to the life of an alcoholic, but enjoys a level of well-being and health among the highest in the world.”

Beniamino Boscolo, Chioggia:  “I think that an offense describes the person who makes it, and not the people it’s aimed at.  Cin cin — to your health!”

Lino Narciso Giacomin: “‘Toscani: Veneti, a people of alcoholics.’  It’s as if one said: ‘Photographers, a people of mone.’  No!  Only a few!”

Giovanni Gastaldi, Preganziol:  “Everything has been said.  I will add one pleasing and useful fact: In Italy, the Veneto Region, as of December 31, 2013, counts more than 134,000 active blood donors, with more than 127,000 donations.  The Veneto is the third Region in Italy (behind Lombardia and Emilia-Romagna) for blood donations.  Not so bad, considering the comments by the photographer.  Good wine, good blood!”

Are we waiting to hear a resounding “Egad!  What was I thinking?  A thousand million apologies, it’s all a horrible misunderstanding and I should never have said any of those things!”?

Following is the photoshopped apology more or less extorted from Toscani:

“These can’t be the problems of you Veneti,” he started out.  “I sincerely never thought that something said in an ironic and irreverent place like ‘La Zanzara’ could have this effect.”  Seriously?  He goes on:

“But by now that’s the way it is in Italy,” he said.  “One gives greater weight to silly trifles than to serious things…. I was making a kind of photograph of the dialects of various parts of Italy.  And among the tens of dialects, there was the Veneto.  Listen, it’s not such a big thing to say that the Veneto, in his atavistic DNA, has a drawling way of talking, as in pain, like alcoholics.  It’s that way!'”

That’s enough, you can stop now.  No, he can’t:  “But really, do you want to deny that this connection exists?  Do you want me to pull out the statistics of the early 19th century when the Veneti drank even from early childhood?  And let’s not forget that I said all this in a purely ironic context, on ‘La Zanzara.’  If I’d said that the Veneti are all sober, and don’t touch wine, I have the impression that I’d have made even more people mad. I ask to be excused by those who didn’t understand the ironic intention.  I’ve received messages from many angry people, but also from some who have complimented me because, in the irony, there’s a little truth. And you know what I say?  I’m going to ask to be excused by writing a book with all the insults I’ve received from Veneti, with their first and last names.”

“It wasn’t my intention to denigrate the Veneto.  Perish the thought!  It was irony even if, to say the truth, grappa, Prosecco, Amarone, Valpolicella, they’re all your wines, known in all the world.  So let’s just close the subject with ‘But what the hell is he saying, that mona Toscani,’ and have a good laugh.”

"Don't know whyyyyy there's no sun up in the sky, stormy weather....."

“Don’t know whyyyyy there’s no sun up in the sky, stormy weather…..”

So why does Toscani persist in using an outdated stereotype?  Lorenzo Marini, a colleague of Toscani’s who comes from Padova, suggests this: “The Veneti are the Calvinists of Italy, they’ve always thought about work, neglecting their image which is tied to their past as farmers and domestic servants.  Therefore even when the reality has changed, the image has remained the way it was.”

If anyone would be interested in facts, studies last year revealed that the highest number of deaths related to the abuse of alcohol occurred in the regions of the Valle d’Aosta, Basilicata and Friuli Venezia Giulia, and the area around Bolzano (Trentino Alto Adige).  No Venetians here.

But the thing has taken on a life of its own. On May 1-6, 2015 the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, a vast international wine show, will be held in Jesolo just across the lagoon, and the mayor decided to make the most of all the hoohah by inviting Toscani to attend so he could taste all those amazing Veneto wines and “hopefully not get drunk.”  Free publicity for Jesolo!

Toscani accepted.  And he made a counter-offer, inviting Veneto Governor Luca Zaia and as many wine-makers of the Veneto as want to come to “Anteprima Vini,” a big wine event in Tuscany, Toscani being a board member of the Associazione Grandi Cru della Costa Toscana (Association of the Grands Crus of the Tuscan Coast), and also being a wine producer himself.  Free publicity for Anteprima Vini!  And his own label, whatever it is!

“My dear governor Zaia,” he wrote, “it’s not for encouraging a dispute between Veneti and Toscani (intentional play on words?  “Toscani” also means Tuscans) but a round table, a modern Camelot of wine, culture, of congeniality and sobriety (but not too much).”

Time for the kisses and manly handshakes?  Not even close.  The Northern League (Lega Nord) has objected in the strongest possible terms to having him at Jesolo.  “One invites Toscani only to publicly apologize to the Veneto,” snarled  politician Daniele Bison. Free publicity for himself and his party!  “I’m asking myself if the mayor was sober when he invited Toscani.”

Next up, the mayor of Musile di Piave, a small town eight miles (13 km) from Jesolo.  He and his town council have approved a declaration that Toscani is “persona non grata” in Musile (pop.11,603). Free publicity for Musile!  As if it needed it.

And in conclusion, a few people (not seeking publicity — maybe) took Toscani to court in Verona, formally accusing him of defamation.  That didn’t get far.

“Toscani’s phrases don’t have penal relevance,” the judge declared.

“The stereotype of ‘drunken Veneti,’ like the great part of commonplaces, cannot reasonably be part of the crime of defamation,” the judge explained, “also because it’s applied to an indeterminate and impossible to determine number of persons.  Therefore Toscani’s idea should be confined within the ignorance typical of commonplaces and doesn’t deserve to rise to the level of penality.”

His remarks may not qualify as penality, but they certainly qualified as a perpetual-motion publicity machine. With just a few little phrases (I liked the one about the “atavistic DNA”), Toscani created enough propaganda for himself  — and so did enough other people, up to and including the judge — to choke all the horses of the Calgary Stampede.

Obnoxious, sure, but in the end he may not be such a mona after all.

Time for a touch of color, not to mention a glimpse of two adversaries smiling at each other. We see it can be done.

Time for a touch of color, not to mention a glimpse of two adversaries smiling at each other. We see it can be done.

Categories : Venetian-ness
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Uncrating 2014

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The essential components of New Year's Eve as seen on New Year's Morning: A bottle of spumante, some expendable element of a firecracker, and tourists.  I was surprised how many tourists were already homeward bound at 9:00 AM.  I realize they have trains and planes to catch, and a strong desire not to pay for another night in a hotel, and that they probably also have to get back to work the next day.  But after all the excitement of the night before, these little groups of people dragging their luggage struck me as

The essential components of New Year’s Eve: A bottle of spumante, some expendable element of a firecracker, and tourists. On New Year’s Morning the bottle is empty, the firecracker spent, and the tourists are heading for the exits. I was surprised to see how many tourists were already homeward bound at 9:00 AM. I realize they have trains and planes to catch, and a strong desire not to pay for another night in a hotel, and that they probably also have to get back to work the next day. But after all the excitement of the night before, these little clusters of departing people dragging their luggage seemed so unfriendly, like leaving a party without even telling the hostess what a nice time they had.

Oh look — there’s a big box containing a whole new year sitting out there on our doorstep. Batteries not included — we have to provide our own. Some assembly required — all the tools are around here somewhere.  User’s manual — the same as every year. The instructions are few but really easy to understand: Don’t do bad things.  Think about somebody else at least once a day, not just about your own blessed self all the blessed time.  Work more.  Work less. Smile.  Be thankful.

And in whatever time is left over, get the attic/garage/basement under control. And of course, start the famous diet.  If I never see another panettone in my life, it will be too soon.

I happen to hate New Year’s Eve, and always have.  It fills me with foreboding.  Celebrating the old year doesn’t usually strike me as appropriate, and celebrating a year about which we know nothing seems like just asking for trouble.  But as soon as midnight strikes, all the shiny possibilities of the new year, latest model, dazzle me, and I feel good.

The diet will be easy to start (all diets are), because at this point the holiday glut has transformed me, my brain, my world, into a shapeless mass of inert material.  So at least the next few weeks will be devoted to erting up as much of  the material as I can.

But let’s go back to New Year’s Eve for a moment.  The day before it, we celebrated our third or fourth New Year’s Plumbing Crisis.  The water system in our little hovel seems to want to be part of the festivities, like lentils and cotechino. We had been battling a blockage in the kitchen sink drain, using progressively heavier chemical artillery, till said artillery conquered the pipe leading into the wall, allowing the accumulated substances, including sulfuric acid, to spill onto the floor. We’re fine, the floor is sort of fine, but the blockage was found to be further inside the wall and was removed by Lino somehow and a new pipe installed.  Fun.

Most people who come to Venice for New Year’s Eve (about 70,000, if the reports are to be believed), have a simpler idea of entertainment than that: They think that celebrating it here is the most fun thing imaginable.  Piazza San Marco.  Fireworks.  Bottles of spumante.

We don’t go to the Piazza, as you might imagine, though we do open a bottle of prosecco at home when the clock strikes twelve.  And we do usually walk down do the edge of the Bacino of San Marco to watch the fireworks.  While it’s true that any firework is better than none, especially over a reflecting expanse of water where it can illuminate the facades of the most beautiful city in the world, etc., this year’s display was unusually dull.  I had the impression that the city had looked over the fireworks offered and picked what amounted to the classic tourist menu.  It was the visual equivalent of spaghetti with tomato sauce, breaded veal cutlet, French fries, and a half-liter bottle of water. The pleasure you derive from it isn’t in the eating, but in the having eaten. Main value: It didn’t cost us much.  Not very festive.

However, two essential elements of New Year’s Eve in Venice, and I daresay in Italy, don’t show up anywhere on the tourist’s program of the evening’s entertainment.

The first is mass at 6:30 PM in many parish churches, the end-of-year acknowledgement to the Almighty.  The liturgy is basically the same as every other day, but at the conclusion the “Te Deum” is recited, chanted, or sung. We don’t go to the basilica of San Marco anymore because the notion of going to that part of the city on New Year’s Eve, even at dusk, is unthinkable. They sing the Te Deum in Latin, which makes it even more solemn, but whatever the language, pausing to basically say “I’m still here, and You’re still God, so thank You” is one of the best things you can do.

The second is the President’s Address to the country at 8:30 PM, byTV, radio, or computer.  In England this takes the form of the Queen’s Christmas Message, and in the US we have the State of the Union address (on a wandering date unattached to any events significant to the world at large).  As you can imagine, ever since the world economy vaporized in 2008, this speech has not been especially cheerful, and has tended to be rivetted together with words such as “hope,” “trust,” “courage,” and “sacrifice.”

On New Year’s Day itself there is the annual concert from La Fenice, broadcast live on TV at 11:00 AM or so; it’s now also viewable via streaming on the RAI, the national TV company, website. You can also watch its big brother, the New Year’s concert from Vienna, in the afternoon.  Those should be sufficiently soothing, and give you the impression that you’re doing something when you’re actually not.  Unless you’re already out there, dragging your suitcase, heading home.

Wherever you are, I hope 2014 is your very best year ever.  I mean, why not?

It was a glorious, gleaming morning, but as you see, all it took was one boat passing somewhere nearby to disturb the water's celestial calm.  But while perfectly still water causes perfect reflections, I actually prefer the squiggly shapes, at least until they're so squiggly you can't tell what they are. It's kind of a metaphor.

It was a glorious, gleaming morning, but as you see, all it took was one boat passing somewhere nearby to disturb the water’s celestial calm. But while perfectly still water causes perfect reflections, I actually prefer the squiggly shapes, at least until they’re so squiggly you can’t tell what they are. It’s kind of a metaphor.


Categories : Events
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Racy ideas

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The prizes this year are sponsored by the Graspo de Ua, a restaurant which is in the process of becoming a small empire.  Their innovations are the podium, the T-shirts with logo and colored to match the corresponding pennant, and the bottle of bubbly to spray everywhere.  So somebody's trying to think outside the traditional box, if only a little.

The prize ceremony at the regata of SS. Giovanni e Paolo, and all the races this year, is sponsored by the Graspo de Ua, a restaurant which is in the process of becoming a small empire. Their sponsorship covers innovations such as the podium, the logo-laden T-shirts, each colored to match the corresponding pennant, and the bottle of bubbly to spray everywhere.  Prize money?  Not so much.

I have been brooding on the struggle between the Venetian rowing racers and the Comune, and I think some numbers might be illuminating.

I know I said in my last post that the racers don’t need the money, but the laborer is worthy of his hire, and the payments this year hover somewhere between risible and offensive. If I were a racer, I would indeed be angered by a city office named “Tutela Tradizioni” (protection of traditions) which does so little to keep this tradition going.

This year the city looked under the cushions of the divan and found some loose change, which permits them to offer prizes which would not be enough to pay for a fill-up at a gas station in Correctionville, Iowa.

The winner of the race pictured above — SS. Giovanni e Paolo, young men rowing gondolas solo — took home 221.20 euros ($293.67).  The man who won the Regata di Murano, which is arguably the most important race of the year, scored 347.20 euros ($460.95).

The woman who won the Regata di Murano earned 221.20 euros ($293.67).  The boy who won the same race took home 66 euros ($87.62).  The boy who finished last got 33 euros ($43.81). And there are people in the city government who say they’re  worried about the future of the races because so few boys show up to try out.

It gets better.  The first four women to cross the finish line of the Regata de la Sensa got a pennant and a gold medal, which I think is nice, though money has a more immediate appeal.  The other five women in the nine-boat field got zip.  Niente.  Zero. Same thing for the Regata di Malamocco.

And so it goes.  The city manages to scrape up more for the Regata Storica, usually around 2,000 euros per man for the winning pair on the gondolinos, and downward from there for the other finishers.

This is so stupid that I can’t decide who to yell at first.  It’s like inviting somebody to dinner and telling them to bring their own food.

But comes a ray of light glinting from a chest of gold doubloons, so to speak, from a faithful reader and friend (full disclosure).

This friend is American, by the way, which may explain why he sees ways to make money that the tired Old-World city government hasn’t yet considered. Evidently, what’s doable out in the big old vulgar tradition-free world beyond the bridge doesn’t seem so simple in our little tin-cup-rattling economy.

Let me say that I’m all in favor of the races being pure — whatever we think that means.  But I don’t like them being poor. And I especially don’t like them not being, period.  In case there was any doubt about that.

So here are some possible solutions:

He writes:

“It seems to me that an infusion of crass commercialism could get things back on track.  E.g.:

1.  All boats will bear corporate logos like Nike, Taco Bell, Trojans, Depend Diapers, whatever … and thus a ton of ad revenue will get directed into the “Rowers’ Pot.”

2.  All rowers will be adorned with shirts and caps similarly garnished and bearing internet addresses of the race sponsors = more ad revenue for the RP.

3.  TV rights will be sold for live distribution around the world on the Nat Geo channel, thus tapping Rupert Murdoch for the RP.

4.  Buxom cheerleaders for the various teams, scantily clad, no doubt, will cheer and bounce around in unison on the waterfront.

5.  Observers will be barraged with logo items for sale by shoreside vendors who’ll remit 20% to the RP.

6.  There will be time-outs between races to run commercials for said products – so more RP dough.

7.  Travel agents throughout Europe will be tithed on airline ticket sales to Venice during June each year to create yet more moolah for the RP.

8.  Racers will be paid the same amount in cash by divvying up the RP (estimated at about 4.5 million euros per rower annually); trophies made of various precious metals and gems will signify winners, losers, etc.  (Here I balk: The four pennants — red, white, blue and green — have to be maintained.  IT’S TRADITION.)

9.  Racers will get lifetime supplies of all products advertised during the regata.

10. UNESCO will declare the race a World Heritage Event, thus assuring it United Nations funding in perpetuity.”

I cannot think of one reason why not to do any or all of the above.  The one thing everybody agrees on, racers and city, is that they all want more money.  So if the city can’t seem to discover any way to get more money for the races (though they were pretty clever at getting 5 billion euros and counting for MOSE), then we should just face it and play the game the way it’s supposed to be played.

or the podium (arguably unnecessary, though I understand that the company's logo has to go somewhere); paid for the T-shirts (ditto), paid for the bubbly, which is nice, but everybody's been fine without for about a hundred years, and paid for the pennants.  The Graspo does not cover the prize money, which is what everybody really needs.

So the Graspo de Ua has paid for the podium (arguably unnecessary, though I understand that the company’s logo has to go somewhere); paid for the T-shirts (ditto), paid for the bubbly, which is nice, but everybody’s been fine without for about a hundred years, and paid for the pennants. What’s missing here is cash for the racers, which the Graspo, no less than the Comune, does not feel able to provide. Impressive sponsorship.


Categories : Boatworld
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Christmas spirit

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This splendid relief carving surmounts the main entrance to the church of San Giuseppe (Saint Joseph) in Castello. There are two especially good things here: First, Saint Joseph is, as always, in the background -- even on a church dedicated to him. He must have been a remarkable person. Second, the three shepherds are as accurate as artist Giulio dal Moro (early 1500's) could make them. The first one, kneeling, not only has a small barrel attached to his belt (brandy?), but his upraised right hand is holding sheep-shears.

Venice at Christmas — it sounds as if the entire city ought to be refulgent with gleaming and sparkling, as if every fragment of its shattered splendor should come together and shine in an unearthly and glorious way.

Yes, it does seem that it ought to be that way.

Instead, scattered efforts at decoration all around the city make bright flickers, some bigger, some smaller, that don’t come together in any coherent way. Venice is littered with Nativity scenes, in paintings, in sculpture, not to mention other aspects of the Christmas story — the Annunciation, the Adoration of the Magi, the Flight into Egypt, and even the Massacre of the Innocents –yet the general attitude toward Christmas is not excessively devout.  It remains essentially a domestic holiday and I suppose that ought to translate, if depicted accurately today, into scenes of Mary in the kitchen wrestling with something heavy in the oven while Baby Jesus is busy trying to teach the cat how to swim, or of them looking desperately, not for a room at the inn, but for a place to park at the mall. Meaning no disrespect.

Punctually on December 1, the Christmas mailbox gets installed outside the tobacco/lottery/toy shop.

Little old people, as everywhere, are being wrangled into some extended-family configuration; and the children are, I think, essentially like children everywhere — eyes and spirits fixed, not on the Star, but on the imminent deluge of presents. And not brought by kings or wise men, but laid on by squadrons of adoring relatives, even in times like these.

Perhaps there are gala balls being held in palaces, but my sense is that anybody with a palace is probably already at Cortina.

Still, the framework remains the same, at least in our little hovel: Christmas Eve means risotto of go’ and roasted eel, the ripping open of the presents, midnight mass, the singing of “You Descend from Heaven,”  and slicing the panettone at midnight and popping the prosecco.

Christmas Day means the big mass at San Marco, some fabulous meaty lunch, then either sleeping on the sofa or visiting relatives, then more eating, and more sleeping.

The day after Christmas — the feast of Santo Stefano — is another holiday.  More gorging on food, this time with all of Lino’s family.

One quaint aspect of this holiday is that there are no newspapers for two days because the journalists and editors and printers don’t work  on Christmas Eve and Christmas. This is an antiquated practice that is even more exotic than bearing in the boar’s-head and drinking wassail.  Newspapers in the rest of the world come out as usual, but here, for some reason (and I do not believe it’s because the entire category wants to spend two whole days in church) the newspaper-producers just don’t work on Christmas.

To which I say: Who notices or cares?  The broadcast journalists are working as usual, and the news continues to flow to us in an unbroken stream via the television and the Internet.  But somehow print journalists feel themselves to be special, which, I presume, is fostered and sustained by the unions.  And then they complain that readership is falling.

But this is normal.

This homemade Nativity scene was created by the family on Sant' Erasmo where we go to buy our vegetables. Who says there were no apples and squash in the stable?

What is going to be abnormal this year for the holidays is: Minimal garbage collection.  Of any sort, whether recyclable (there’s a weekly schedule for the different types of material) or otherwise (clam shells, coffee grounds, orange peels, fishbones, half-eaten cupcakes, wine bottles, etc.).  And this will last for two days: Christmas Day, and Santo Stefano.

Two days with no garbage collection — this is a startling innovation in the festal folkways, especially in a city which purports to be world-class, or somewhere near it, and during a period which could be described as garbage-intensive.

The Gazzettino conveys the explanation given by the garbage company, which is nothing more than an arm of the city government with a different name: The garbage collectors are all going to be too busy keeping the streets clean to have time also to collect the bags which are daily left outside the doors of houses and shops.

The very best part is that, given this fact, the garbage company respectfully requests the good citizens to refrain from putting their bags of refuse outside for two days.  So the streets can be neat and tidy. And the interiors of the houses and stores can become kitchen middens.

This is only moderately annoying to us, but for families with children, it’s inconceivable.  I can tell you right now, sitting here with my eyes closed, that the streets are going to be FULL of bags of garbage.  Or maybe there will be a mass reversion to the Old Way, which involves a big splash.

To review: We are requested to not clutter the streets because the trash-teams are going to be busy keeping the streets clean.  But if we’re not putting out trash, why do the streets need to be cleaned? It’s like the definition of chutzpah: First you kill your parents, then you plead for clemency from the court because you’re an orphan.

I tell you, sometimes life in the most beautiful in the world makes my head hurt.

But let us return to the reason for the season, as they say.  Here is a small assortment of glimpses of Venice preparing for Christmas.  But of course, the most beautiful scenes of all are arranged and decorated and illuminated where you’ll never see them: In each person’s heart.  Compared to which glass angels and marzipan cake and all the strings of lights ever plugged in are as nothing.

Out on the eastern edge of Venice, the furthest bit of inhabited land, someone has chosen to put up a lighted little sleigh with one reindeer.

I'm still mystified by whatever is hanging on the fence below the sleigh, but it does seem merry and bright. Could it be an illuminated poinsettia?













The boathouse of the Generali insurance company's rowing club always has a Nativity scene of some sort. This year they made it float on the canal -- beautiful and evocative, though the waves from the endlessly passing motorboats during the day make it toss like a ship in a storm.

An enterprising bakery and pastry shop hollowed out a chocolate panettone and put in little figurines of Mary, Joseph and Jesus made of marzipan.

They also added a small light to represent the star. But if marzipan can be made to resemble real fruit and fish and so on, why did they make the Holy Family look as if it were carved out of soap? Lino says they already did plenty to make it look like this, and I should just zip it.


One of the innumerable variations on the Christmas cake. However they decorate it, the sentiment is always happily the same.

The Nativity scene in a hut in via Garibaldi has all the necessary components, down to the empty manger. In a startling flash of logic, the Baby Jesus isn't installed until Christmas Day.


The glow of Christmas on via Garibaldi, silently and majestically and completely upstaged by the moon. And to all a good night.




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