|Ca' d'Oro, at right, saturated by yesterday's rainfall|
All of Venice's most iconic buildings, the Palazzo Ducale, the basilica of San Marco, and Ca' d'Oro (above, at right), become different buildings after a good soaking, the colors of their precious stone facades and marble columns brought out by the rain--and sometimes, to a slightly lesser degree, by heavy fog. The change in them is dramatic enough to make even the most devoted sun-worshipper hope for at least a passing shower during their stay in the city.
At the beginning of December it seemed that the city authorities had decided to give admirers of Ca' d'Oro an early holiday gift by removing the vaporetto stop located just to one side of it (just beyond the right edge of the image above).
Initially, as the work slowly unfolded on the Grand Canal, my wife, our son and I surmised that a decision had been made to add a second pontile (or floating dock) to the stop, as there are at other stops along the Grand Canal: with one pontile to be used for those going toward Lido, and the other for those headed to the train station. For quite a lot of days were spent constructing a pretty substantial new dock at the end of Calle Traghetto Vecchio on the Grand Canal, and when it was finally finished a new pontile was situated before it.
This made a certain sense, we thought. It would certainly reduce crowding while people waited for the vaporetti.
But then one day, to our surprise, we found that the long-time pontile in front of Ca' d'Oro had been removed, leaving only the new one.
Okay, we thought, this makes even more sense. The new dock and pontile weren't a response to crowded waiting areas after all, but a realization--long overdue, really--that it made no sense to situate a vaporetto stop in front of one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. For one thing, its presence interferes with one's appreciation of the palazzo. For another, the diesel exhaust from each vaporetto is thickest as it pulls into or departs from a stop. Better to situate the stop further from the famous facade of Ca' d'Oro in order to protect its pale stones.
Or, given the sway of the tourist industry in Venice, perhaps the hotel flanking Ca' d'Oro (and even closer to the pontile) finally secured the attention of a sympathetic city official or two and convinced them to re-situate the stop away from their pricey rooms.
Either way, there was a logic to all this, and it explained why so much time and labor had been put into constructing a sizeable new dock to which to attach a new pontile such a short distance from the old one.
We rested content in this sense of comprehension--which can be a rare commodity here.
We waited days and days while a barge remained tied to the old dock in front of Ca' d'Oro (where the pontile had once been), for the dock itself to be dismantled, or at least reduced in size, and the job to be completed.
And then one day we noticed that a pontile had been re-situated in the old place in front of Ca' d'Oro.
And then we further noticed that the new pontile was festooned off with plastic tape, and taken out of service. And then taken away completely. And then that the large new dock upon which so much time and work had been expended was dismantled. It had only been temporary after all.
It turned out that none of our explanations for the many weeks of labor had been valid. The work had not been intended to reduce crowding while waiting for a vaporetto, nor improve views of Ca' d'Oro, nor protect its facade from being blackened and corroded by vaporetto exhaust, nor the clientele of the hotel next door from the loud gnashing of vaporetto gears.
No, it seems that all that time and effort had been simply the extraordinary labor required for what in Venice qualifies as the ordinary maintenance of a relatively simple and in no-way-historical water bus stop. Just another extended reminder of how complicated the quotidian can be in this most improbable and--by contemporary standards--impractical of cities.