|Each member of the couple at center tends to his or her own texting while the patrons of the bar at right socialize the old-fashioned way|
One of the best times of the year now arrives in Venice: that blessed lull between the immediate past, when tourist hordes invaded the town for New Years Eve, and the all-too-near future when tourist hordes will invade it for Carnevale.
After the excitement of the holidays has passed, January can loom--at least in northern climes--as a great cold gloomy blank. But not for this inhabitant of Venice. Any inclination of my own to slip into a winter funk vanished today when I realized that the city is entering the closest thing it has to an "off-season".
It's hard to believe now that 50 years ago, when Jan Morris was writing her famous book on Venice, the tourist season lasted just four months.
Morris writes that gondolieri put away their oars for the long winter and worked other jobs.
Now, of course, gondolieri ply the canals year-round. Except for the month--either in January before Carnevale, or February, right after it--that many of them close up their houses and escape to Thailand for an extended holiday. Phuket is typically their destination. Though the wife of one gondoliere complained to me last year, after returning from four weeks there, that the place was now on the verge of being ruined. The inexpensive exotic paradise she and her husband once knew has become as pricey, she said, as any other run-of-the-mill resort area, and the sound of Italian is as common on the beach there as on Via Garibaldi. Or, well, almost...
But that's a worry for the gondolieri and their families right now, not me, who's thrilled at the prospect of hearing Italian, and only Italian--rather than English or German or French or Russian--filling the air of Via Garibaldi.