Thursday, November 29, 2018

Local Color: The Regata delle 50 Caorline

The Regata Storica held at the end of each summer on the Grand Canal is the most famous rowing event in Venice, but it's just one of a series of regate--known in total as il circuito--which begins in the spring and runs almost to the end of November.

Last Sunday in the south lagoon behind the Giudecca, as part of the 20th Festa Grande de Sant'Andrea, was the last event of the circuito, and after what seemed like two weeks of uninterrupted gloom and drizzle (not unusual for November) it brought an abundance of welcome color to the lagoon.

It was also the first regata in which our 10-year-old son competed, in the Schìe (basically "waterbug") division. Having had but one day of practice with a new rowing partner, and rowing in the prua (prow) position instead of the poppa to which he was accustomed, he and his partner posed little threat to the eventual winners, but that was never really the point. It was his chance to get his feet wet (so to speak) in regate, and he enjoyed it thoroughly.

There were other races as well--such as the four-oar women's competition at top--but the highlight of the day was a final race of 50 six-rower caorline.

The most accomplished crews of Regatanti that started in the front of the pack competed fiercely along the whole 3.55 meter course and first place came down to a photo finish (as you can see in the third photo below). But the overall aim of the event was to close the season with a sense of community, in which rowers with differing degrees of expertise and competitive drive could share.

I learned it's really impossible to capture more than a small fraction of 50 caorline in one shot, but I hope these images provide some sense of the event.

The shirts of this crew basically declare (in Venetian): "We don't need gas, our turbo fuel tank is in our arms"

Although I couldn't tell who won from my vantage point, it turned out to be the crew in the black and white stripes

As the winners caught their breath a good part of the rest of the 50 caorline had yet to finish

A good number of spectators watched from their own boats (like these three, here chatting with someone on the flooded fondamenta before the races began)

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A Gondolier's Best Friend At Work (Loosely Speaking) on the Traghetto di Santa Sophia

Since winter arrived in earnest last Friday with four consecutive days of strong Bora winds, even a fur coat has proved insufficient to keep warm.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Sunset, South Lagoon, This Evening

Anyone who's spent some time in Venice at this time of year will probably not need to be told that no filter was applied to this image, nor to the one below, captured a few minutes earlier

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Unseen Venice: Private Cortile, Rio San Giacomo dall'Orio

In a stretch of narrow canal banked on either side by two uninterrupted rows of modest palazzi, this low water gate, and the glimpse it provides of just a few potted plants and a column, appears as nothing less than fantastical. And so narrow is the canal a wide angle is needed to capture even this much of its setting.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Venetian Life, Past and Present (Noon Today)

"Among other provisioners who come to your house in Venice," writes William Deans Howells in Chapter VII of his great non-fiction book Venetian Life (originally published in 1866), "are those ancient peasant-women, who bring fresh milk in bottles carefully packed in baskets filled with straw. They set off the whiteness of their wares by the brownness of their sunburnt hands and faces, and bear in their general stoutness and burliness of presence, a curious resemblance to their own comfortable bottles. They wear broad straw hats, and dangling ear-rings of yellow gold, and are the pleasantest sight of the morning streets of Venice, to the stoniness of which they bring a sense of the country’s clovery pasturage, in the milk just drawn from the great cream-colored cows.

Fishermen, also, come down the little calli—with shallow baskets of fish upon their heads and under either arm, and cry their soles and mackerel to the neighborhood, stopping now and then at some door to bargain away the eels which they chop into sections as the thrilling drama proceeds, and hand over as a denouement at the purchaser’s own price. “Beautiful and all alive!” is the engaging cry with which they hawk their fish.

Besides these daily purveyors, there are men of divers arts who come to exercise their crafts at your house: not chimney-sweeps merely, but glaziers, and that sort of workmen, and, best of all, chair-menders—who bear a mended chair upon their shoulders for a sign, with pieces of white wood for further mending, a drawing-knife, a hammer, and a sheaf of rushes, and who sit down at your door, and plait the rush bottoms of your kitchen-chairs anew, and make heaps of fragrant whittlings with their knives, and gossip with your serving-woman."

It was the last of these types of "provisioners" once common in the calli and campi of Venice that I thought I caught sight of today around noon in Cannaregio, hurrying along Fondamenta dei Mori with two wooden chairs stacked seat to seat in his hands, then dashing over a bridge as we puttered beneath it in our little boat and out of sight. Thinking of the Howells passage above, I was almost ready to take him for a ghost. But he's more likely to have been heading to Sunday lunch with a pair of extra seats for some other guests--in one of the few areas of the city still animated by Venetian life.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

That Sinking Feeling, Rio della Sensa

This image was taken a few days prior to last week's extreme acqua alta, and as the luxuriant marine growth shows, this boat's situation has been dire for quite some time.

Of course, the upside to such long-term neglect is that having long ago and quite literally hit bottom, things can't really get any worse, and this boat is one of the few things or places that escaped last week's harsh weather unscathed.

I would have thought a boat so far gone would have been beyond repair, but having witnessed the remarkable transformation of the boat pictured below, which had been more sea wrack than even sea wreck, a mere small fraction of a boat, I've learned there are skilled craftsman in Venice who, with the liberal use of fiberglass, can work miracles.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Long Time No See: The Church of the Scalzi

The massive actual appears here to be supported by its two-dimensional image

The church of the Scalzi, or of Santa Maria di Nazareth, as it's officially known, is one of those monumental Venetian sights which is typically rendered invisible to me by the tourist throngs inevitably surrounding it. Foot and suitcase traffic is usually so thick before it that I rush past the church as quickly as possible, noticing nothing except the next opening through the crowd, thinking of nothing except the relief I'll feel when I eventually arrive at a calle with a bit of breathing room.

It's a bad way to go about things, as the day inevitably arrives--as it did just three days ago--when I finally notice what I've been missing.

I've no aesthetic opinion to offer on the Scalzi's Baroque facade; I was just to struck to see it at all, its stone beautifully tinted by the wet weather.

Was this solely the effect of the cleaning efforts just completed, or did the church benefit as well from a certain fleeting peek-a-boo appeal, only half-undraped as it was that moment, the printed image of the facade stretched upon the scaffolding serving as the perfect foil for the thing itself? (Perhaps an ever-more rare inversion of what Henry James, in his great story "The Real Thing," calls the "the perverse and cruel law in virtue of which the real thing could be so much less precious than the unreal.")

Or maybe, like the city of Los Angeles, the church of the Scalzi just simply looks it best right after a heavy rain storm. 

A couple of new figures appear, temporarily, with Mary, Jesus, and other holy sorts amid the first order of the facade