“Painting with words” – Venice by night

Questo racconto è il frutto delle preziose lezioni di scrittura creativa dell’autore australiano Arnold Zable, writer in residence al Collegio Internazionale Ca’ Foscari nei mesi di novembre e dicembre. Attraverso la tecnica “painting with words” gli studenti del Collegio hanno realizzato brevi descrizioni di attimi, persone e luoghi, dando vita a scenari profondi e suggestivi.

Venice: Campo Santa Margherita by night.

Despite the late hour there is still a loud clamor and many people are still around; the majority of them are students who are accustomed to staying up late. All the bars have the lights on with plenty of customers hanging around. Many people are similarly scattered throughout the square in small groups, animatedly chatting.

One can see one of these groups sitting near a typical Venetian stone well which is covered by a metal wellhead: there are my fellow theatre group pals and three American friends of mine – two guys and one girl of Italian origin – and I, all chatting. Indeed, I’m conversing with one of them, we talk about our own countries, exchanging and sharing all we think about our native land.

One of my friends really loves Italy, however I share the same opinion of many young Italians: Italy is such a beautiful country to visit, but not so beautiful to live in, due to some predictable yet almost unavoidable problems: corruption, dreadful politicians and stagnant economic, social and cultural situation. For a young person this is particularly worrying portrait of my country and this is the reason why many of us are inevitably drawn to dynamic and forward looking countries such as the United States of America.

I’m so absorbed in the conversation and I completely lose track of time.

Suddenly, almost by chance, I glance my mobile: it’s one o’clock in the morning! The last boat to San Servolo, the island hosting the campus where I leave, departs from San Zaccaria at 1:30 am, within the next half an hour!

Unfortunately, in instances such this, I have a bad habit: I get overly nervous and whilst I tend to communicate my anxiety to everyone who surrounds me. On top of this I usually act as if my problems were their fault and if it was their job to solve them. This time is no exception.

My friends advise me already that they can’t offer hospitality for the night; but if I hurry I can catch the boat on time.

“And if I don’t arrive on time?”

“Call us and we’ll see” they reply.

And so I run towards a narrow street, a calle, on the other side of the square; here is a succession of narrow streets, little squares and bridges up to the Rialto Bridge; from Rialto I’ll have to turn right.

The distance is not short, not really “un ponte e na cae”, a bridge and a narrow street, as we say here in Venice.

At first I run, but then I begin to feel weary and I need to slow down and I start to just walk briskly.

I meet no one, the city is deserted, lit only by a magnificent full moon.

This unreal, almost magical scenery would be the delight to every tourist, but I have now other things to think about.

I have to get to San Zaccaria on time or I’ll probably end up sleeping rough, lying on a bench.

I go on sometimes walking, sometimes running, a calle after another, a bridge after another, a campo after another, seemingly endless.

Luckily there are clear signs indicating the direction to San Marco square, otherwise I would lose my bearings. There is absolutely no one around.

I begin to feel a pain in the lungs but I resist and keep on running or walking briskly.

I can’t stop even for a moment.

The worst are the bridges to climb up. Why should they have to build them in this way?

Why they could not make them flat? Oh yes, because the boats have to go under them!

However, for some strange reason, I always climb the bridges running.

I glance at the mobile: it’s twenty past one.

It ‘s over! Just10 minutes left and I’m not even arrived to Rialto, I’ll never make it!

But suddenly Rialto bridge appears as fantastic as a mirage. I can still arrive on time.

The pain in my lungs is getting sharper but I don’t have to stop.

I climb with great difficulty the endless Rialto’s staircase, I go down the stairs and then again running and then walking down the last, endless calle, more and more slowly.

After an ever ending time I am finally reaching Piazza San Marco.

What an incredible joy seeing the square, also because it means that I’ve almost arrived.

Furthermore looking at one of the most beautiful squares in the world illuminated by the moon is an absolutely awesome view, even in my situation, a vision that takes your breath away, if I was still breathing.

But it is not over yet. I still have to cross the square, climb another bridge and I am now weary and tired, my legs do not support me any longer, my lungs are about to burst and I have only 3 minutes left.

But I have to do it, I can’t give up right now so I give myself a 20 seconds break and then I begin the last desperate race.

To be a perfect movie scene, the San Marco tower bells should ring twelve strokes, but it is not going to happen because it is 1:27 am.

I cross the square, pass the bridge, I walk near the disagreeable – this is my humble opinion anyway – Vittorio Emanuele II monument and here, finally, San Zaccaria pier.

A few more steps and I collapse on a bench under the shed.

When I manage to take my breath I gasp to the sailor on the boat: “When is the boat leaving?”

“In five minutes” that’s the answer.

I even arrived too early! I could have walked more slowly not risking a heart attack.

But the important thing is that I have arrived on time; I wait until I feel a bit better then I reassuringly text my friends: “I made it!”

Giovanni Morandini


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