Archive for San Pietro di Castello

8:30 AM:  Same old romantic haze.  The sun does come out eventually, making for romantic-haze-with-sun.  It would make a great Turner painting, but the clothes are still damp.

8:30 AM: Another day of romantic haze.  It would make a great Turner painting, but the unromantic clothes are still damp.

Beautiful indeed, unless you're a wet pair of jeans or a varsity hoodie or a waffle-weave cotton blanket, etc. etc.

5:30 PM:  There might have been some intervals of sun during the day, but the haze is too happy here to think of going somewhere else, like the Grand Banks.

South Asia has the monsoon season; Lapland gets the white nights; Egypt endures the periodic simoom.

Here we have two separate months of heartless humidity, almost inevitably in October and April, two otherwise lovely months which in Venice reveal their dark, unregenerate side by smothering the city in a combination of cool temperatures and sodden, sticky air.  Even when the sun shines, the dampness in the atmosphere is implacable. A  gauzy mist softens the city’s silhouette, which is sheer photo-fodder, but its meaning in real life is quite otherwise.  I haven’t given this phenomenon a title yet because I generally call it by short, rustic, Anglo-Saxon names.

The sheets on the bed remain repugnantly damp, the towels refuse to dry, potato chips no longer crunch.  I am forced to wash the clothes even though I know they will not give up their moisture without a long, long fight.  Five days after hanging them on the line, I’m still touching them and trying to convince myself that they’re dry.  Of course they’re not.

Gone is that heavenly summer period in which you could hang out a huge soggy beach towel at 10:00 AM and by  noon it would be crackling like desiccated firewood.  Not yet arrived is the long winter season in which the radiators toast the underwear and bake the bedsheets.  We have to accept this interval because, frankly, the longer we can put off turning on the heat, the better for everyone; the gas bill is an instrument of torture unknown to the Inquisition (deepest respect to the victims thereof), and after the recent unpleasantness between Ukraine and Russia, we know the gas bills will be higher yet this winter.

So much for the sense of touch around here these days.  Clammy.

As for sounds, some are new, and many are old but more noticeable, or maybe I’m just becoming more sensitive.

Here are some highlights from the daily soundtrack:

From around midnight to 6:00 AM, a voluptuous silence wraps the city as far as I can hear.  It is plush, it is profound.  It’s so beautiful that I’m almost glad to wake up just to savor it.

At about 6:00, I hear a few random swipes of the ecological worker’s broom rasp across the paving stones.  It must be exhausting work, because it lasts such a short time.

At 7:30 I begin to hear small children walking along the street just outside our bedroom window — you remember that only the depth of the wall itself separates my skin from theirs — on the way to school.  Little mini-voices mingle with the bigger voices of whoever is accompanying the tykes up to via Garibaldi.  If the day has started right, it’s a charming sound, though sometimes the voices make it clear that everybody needs to hit “reset” on their personal control panels.

Between 7:00 and 8:00 comes the thumping, clanking sound of the empty garbage cart bouncing down the 11 steps of the bridge just outside, guided by the ecological worker who sees no reason to fight gravity because he knows he’s going to face a serious battle with it on the return trip, his cart loaded beyond the brim.

This is the visual equivalent of the music of the carillon.

This is the visual equivalent of the music of the carillon.

At 8:00 sharp we get the morning hymn played five times from the carillon in the campanile of San Pietro, just over the way.  The piece is performed in several keys — mainly the key of flat — and the melody has worn itself into my mind so deeply that if the bells were ever tuned I think it would actually disturb me, like those people who lived along Third Avenue in New York who were so used to hearing the elevated train roaring past their windows that the day the train was removed, the transit company switchboard was overwhelmed with calls from panicky people crying, “What’s that noise?”  It was the silence.

Around 9:00 there is a brief but savage skirmish between what sounds like three dogs.  This struggle to establish supremacy will be repeated, again briefly, toward 8:00 this evening.

At 2:00 the middle school in via Garibaldi lets out, releasing flocks of young adolescents in a homeward swarm.  These children do not go silently, meditating on the poetry of Giosue’ Carducci or the whims of the isosceles triangle.  Engage feet, open lungs.  You can hear their chaotic shouts all the way down the street.  Lino says, “They’ve opened the aviary.”

At 7:30 PM the carillon rings a another out-of-tune hymn, only two times.  It’s longer than the morning music, so somebody decided twice was enough.

For a while, the evening noises separate and recombine in various ways (children, dogs, etc.).  But peace is not yet at hand.  It’s almost 11:00.

11:00 PM is the Hour of the Rolling Suitcase.  Actually, by now almost every hour, and half-hour, belongs to the rolling suitcase, whose grumbling across the battered masegni has become a sound more common than shutters scraping open or banging shut.

What is it about 11:00?  Where is this person (or persons) coming from?  The flight arrivals list for Marco Polo airport gives options such as London, Vienna, or Barcelona, and Treviso Airport might be sending us passengers from Brindisi or Brussels, but whatever the starting point might have been, I marvel every night to hear that some intrepid soul’s day has been spent coming to Venice, and now he or she is finally here. Every. Night. Maybe I should set up a little refreshment stand by the bridge and offer some kind of energy drink, like at a marathon.

And speaking of 11:00, some time around then I hear a vivacious small group come down the street, walking from the direction of Campo Ruga toward however many homes they belong to.  You could imagine a bunch of friends meeting every once in a while, and even going home later than 11:00 (which often happens in the summer).  But what kind of a group always breaks up at 11:00?  In high spirits?  Coming from the direction of Campo Ruga?  A mah-jongg club?  Tango lessons?  Choir practice?  A renegade chapter of the Loyal Order of Moose?  I cannot conceive of what could be going on that would require a group to attend every night, especially in this neighborhood.  And yet, they pass, and happily.  This, too, perplexes me.  Happy every night?  Where do I sign up?

There might be a Loyal Order of Shoes, but they appear to meet at the San Clemente Palace Hotel, not in our little backwater.  I have nothing that would qualify me for membership, not even the feet.

There might be a Loyal Order of Shoes, but the members here are meeting at the St. Regis Venice San Clemente Palace, not in our little backwater. I have nothing that would qualify me for membership, not even the feet.

But wait.  The day isn’t over yet.  Now we come to midnight — or almost.

For the past week or so, just as the day has drifted toward midnight, and every normal noise has faded away, and every normal person has shut the front door behind him or her, we’ve heard a sudden heavy metallic CLONNNNNGGGG from the other side of the canal.  No, we don’t ask for whom the bell is tolling, because it’s not a bell.  It’s the red metal stele which indicates the direction of the Biennale ticket booths; a local consumer of controlled substances evidently cannot physically tolerate, philosophically accept, or rationally justify its verticality.  It must be horizontalized, immediately.  Maybe it’s some prehistoric variation of hydrophobia.

And in the morning, another person or persons stands it upright again, our own lonely little menhir unknown to archaeology.

Lino discovered the culprit one evening, and pointed him out to me the next day.  But what I still don’t know is who puts the signpost upright again the next morning.

Maybe it’s Sisyphus.

This is the signpost. I realize that puddles of water must be jumped into, but I wouldn't have thought something like this required toppling.  Wrong again.

This is the signpost. I realize that puddles of water must be jumped into, but I wouldn’t have thought something like this required toppling. Wrong again.

There.  Somebody now feels SO much better.

There. Somebody now feels SO much better.

 

 

Categories : Venetian-ness
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Jun
01

Rowing Mary home

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Once again, May has come to an end (you needed me to tell you that) and we closed the 31st in the usual way, by joining the annual procession which accompanies the statue of the Madonna and Jesus from the church of San Pietro di Castello to her home base in the church of San Francesco di Paola. Even though, technically speaking, the feast of Maria Ausiliatrice is May 24, here it’s on May 31.

One small improvement in the modest lineup of boats that usually forms her escort was that Lino suggested we row a caorlina, which is noticeably bigger than the modest little mascareta we usually use.  In this way, we could set up folding chairs in the boat and carry people who might have wanted to participate by floating rather than by walking.

Weather good.  Crowd large and earnest.  Not as many people watching from the windows as there have been in some years, but perhaps there were more on the ground.

The loudspeaker wasn’t too capricious (a plus), but for some reason the priest chose a couple of everyday hymns as part of the event, completely ignoring the hymn associated specifically with this festival (a very large minus).  This is one tradition which has absolutely no need of being re-fangled.

I’m going to have to complain to the management.  Just as soon as she’s back on her pedestal.

On the evening of May 24, the statue was borne from the church of San Francesco di Paola to the church of San Pietro di Castello. The entire parish followed along, everyone reciting the prayers. A stroll after dinner is always a good thing, especially one like this.

Around 9:00 PM on May 31, the statue was brought out of the church, followed by her retinue of assorted parishioners and acolytes.

The corteo begins, backed by a stretch of Arsenal wall.

One of the few boats forming the procession carried several generations of the family. Always good to have a youngster at the bow, on the lookout for -- I don't know -- police boats. Seppie. Anything.

They look more pensive than absolutely necessary. I wonder if they were sorry they came aboard.

The cortege makes its first turn.

Moving the Madonna under the bridges was slightly challenging.

Turning past the Arsenal.

 

By the time we reach the end, it's almost night. This is just one of the evening's many beautiful elements.

 

Categories : Boatworld, Events
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Jun
29

Saint Peter runs amok

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As you probably know, today is St. Peter’s feast day.   And in this neighborhood, it really means something.

St. Peter by Carlo Crivelli (1473).  Not looking particularly saintly here; those spectacular keys may be slightly more of a burden than a blessing.

St. Peter by Carlo Crivelli (1473). Not looking particularly saintly here; those spectacular keys may be slightly more of a burden than a blessing.

I’ll bypass the cadenzas about the saint himself, though he has always been my favorite mainly  because for most of his life  there was   nothing so saintly about him, except the part about  his asking Jesus to cure his sick mother-in-law.    That was cool.   But then again, she must have been a saint as well.   Imagine having Peter as your son-in-law.   (Story about St. Peter’s mother in the next post).

The great thing about him is that before he became the Rock upon which the church was to be founded, he was just a working fisherman, which meant he probably smelled like fish — do they have algae in the Sea of Galilee?   He probably smelled like that too — and I’m sure he had chilblains and smashed fingernails and feet that were more like hooves.   If you want proof, I mention that he’s the go-to saint for people with foot problems.

Peter's feet, a detail from a limewood relief carving by Christoph Daniel Schenk.

Peter's feet, a detail from a limewood relief carving by Christoph Daniel Schenck (1685).

 

 

 

 

 

Peter's hands, a detail from a painting by Georges de la Tour (

Peter's hands, a detail from a painting by Georges de la Tour (1615-1620).

 

 

 

More to the point, he had one superb quality and that was, as they say in Venice, that “What he had in his heart, he had in his mouth.”   Impulsive, a little clueless sometimes, but spectacularly sincere and frankly never afraid to just put himself out there.   (Pause for sound of many, many chips falling where they may.)

The posters are a bit redundant, since everyone already knows all about it.

The posters are a bit redundant, since everyone already knows all about it.

Why I like him so much now isn’t merely all the above, but  because he is the patron saint of the former cathedral of Venice, the church of San Pietro di Castello, which is just over the canal from our little hovel.   And each year they put on one heck of a festa in his honor.

Like most festas, there is music, and food, and  dogs and old folks and little babies and a big mass, and etc.   But this one also has three regatas, the mass is celebrated byno less than  the auxiliary bishop (the patriarch can’t ever be bothered to come to these things), and the party goes on for five solid days, by which I mean nights, too.

The juggler is working the audience into a frenzy.  "Festa" is just another word for frenzy.

The juggler is working the audience into a frenzy. "Festa" is just another word for frenzy.

 

 

Attempting to kill your friend with your balloon sword is always entertaining.

Attempting to kill your friend with your balloon sword is always entertaining.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balloons that are not swords are also fun.

Balloons that are not swords are also fun.

 

I have no idea what happened. One minute he was fine, the next minute he was hysterical. Festas seem to have that effect on little people.

I have no idea what happened. One minute he was fine, the next minute he was hysterical. Festas seem to have that effect on little people.

What does this mean for us?   Well, it means  not only five days of the fabulous aroma of charcoal-scorched ribs wafting around the area, and not  only five nights of   inconceivably loud music audible from way over here,  but five nights of all the festa-goers coming and going till 2:00 or even 3:00 in the morning.   The main street to the church is right outside our bedroom window and of course our windows are open.   Happy people going home always shout, I don’t know why.

So while Peter may be the patron saint of locksmiths (hint: he carries the keys to the kingdom) and butchers and cobblers (feet again) and other trades, including fishermen and netmakers and, naturally, the Papacy, for my money he is also  the patron saint, at least in our neighborhood, of the deaf, the insomniac, the overtired and overstimulated (technically he’s the go-to saint for cases of frenzy, but people here like frenzy), and also  the occasional Russian drunk.

The latter is a newcomer to the list, but at 4:00 AM last night whoever he was was wandering the streets, which had finally achieved slumber, calling out forlornly for Marco.   Surprising how far your voice can carry at that hour.

I have no idea if he ever found him, but I’m really sorry that his friend wasn’t named Peter.   That would have been so perfect I might actually have gotten up to help him look.

Maybe next year.

We rowed the auxiliary bishop and the parish priest to church for the big mass on Sunday morning.

We rowed the auxiliary bishop and the parish priest to church for the big mass on Sunday morning.

We were preceded by the band from Sant' Erasmo. I have only ever heard them play two pieces, maybe three. They're never completely in tune, but they're very loud, which is all that matters.

We were preceded by the band from Sant' Erasmo. I have only ever heard them play two pieces, maybe three. They're never completely in tune, but they're very loud, which is all that matters.

Two of the nine mascaretas rowed by women battling it out in the regata of the Marie (Marys). As always, the ladies were shrieking the most un-saintly remarks at each other. Of course, the men do too, but the women are much worse.

Two of the nine mascaretas rowed by women battling it out in the regata of the Marie (Marys). As always, the ladies were shrieking the most un-saintly remarks at each other. Of course, the men do too, but the women are much worse.

One of these ladies is trying to imitate the other.

One of these ladies is trying to imitate the other.

Mass is over, now we can all go eat.

Mass is over, now we can all go eat.

These guys must have to burn their clothes, after five days in the smokehouse.

These guys must have to burn their clothes, after five days in the smokehouse.

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Categories : Events, Food, Venetian-ness
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