Sunday, November 17, 2013

Estate di San Martino on the Grand Canal

Catching a ride home from school during the official Estate di San Martino
In the prior two autumns we've lived here we somehow missed encountering the idea of Estate di San Martino, which is the Italian version of what Americans call "Indian summer": that evanescent span of sunny temperate weather that returns after the first signs of autumn like a soft brief reprise of summer in a minor chord--before winter blows in as the dominant theme.

The feast of San Martino is November 11, and if you're not familiar with how it's celebrated in Venice you can find some images of this year's activity here:, or, from a previous year, here:

But this year the 3-day strike of taxi and transport drivers seemed to create (at least metaphorically) a second specifically aquatic Estate di San Martino on the Grand Canal. In the absence of the usual heavy traffic, the Grand Canal seemed to be infused with a soft glowing tranquility--even in the gloom and rain of the third day of the strike last Friday. And the main reason this unusual calm resonated so much with Venetians is that they knew perfectly well that, like Estate di San Martino or Indian summer, it would not and could not last.

In fact, by Saturday morning the strike was over. No concessions were made to strikers, Mayor Orsoni proudly announced, the new rules governing traffic on the Grand Canal would be implemented in full, as planned--though the city would be open to making minor adjustments to them if needed to assure their better functioning.

So Estate di San Martino in both senses is truly over. But we can hope that a bit more calm (and safety) in the Grand Canal is here to stay.


  1. When we visited Venice one summer, my friend Andrea gave us many rides in his boat and those where probably my kids' most memorable moments in their vacations. There is something magical about riding "in prua".

    What type of boat is this?

    1. Definitely something magical, Laura, and I can easily understand why it would be a favorite part of kids' (or adults') time here. It's a great way to see the city. The boat is a topa, but recently built, I believe, as it's in very good shape, and varnished rather than painted.

  2. Oh, to be Sandro or one of his friends, commuting to and from school on a topa! Magical!

    1. The oddest thing to me about it, Susie, is that to him it's perfectly ordinary. He likes being in a boat at any time, because he likes all things mechanical, but when we visit the US he's thrilled to ride in a car (or even sit in one). In fact, one of his favorite works of the Biennale involved a real car in which one could sit in--he paid no attention to the film one was supposed to watch while seated there.