tempo di lettura: 13 minuti
«S. Zaccaria!». The sound of the vaporetto crushing the waves gradually stops. I take my backpack and get off the boat. I have left S. Servolo without a specific purpose on my mind. I just woke up in my usual Sunday mood: annoyed, tired, overwhelmed by the pressure of the leftovers of this week’s responsibilities. I usually get off the bed grunting, wash myself grunting, and then sit the whole Sunday grunting in front of books. In the end, to me Sunday is basically grunting. I’m used to it, so it’s not that much of a problem: I’ve persuaded myself that reading books and learning things is what I was made for, so I just have to stick to my nature, to my dao (Laozi, forgive me for using your words for such a trivial reason). However, today something different happened. Just before opening my eyes, the gleam of the waves, a white bridge, a narrow passage, voices, footsteps, footsteps, footsteps, footstepsfootstepsfootsteps appeared in the back of my mind. I realized I had to do something. In 15 minutes, I was on a vaporetto, with a pen, a notebook and some money in my backpack. «S. Zaccaria!», once again. I make my way out of the stop and start wondering. What should I do now? Where should I go? Who cares. I just start walking towards S. Marco square. On the crowded bridge, herds of tourist start penetrating my head. My feeble stream of thoughts gets interrupted by a babel of words. I hope I can endure サンマルコ広場は近いよdifficult but I have to 我们来拍照吧！God, please, just stop tal Sabes còmo se llega a Piazzale Roma? Stop Mum, I’m hungry! Stop! Wie Kommt man nach Markusplatz? STOP! I make my way through the crowd and go back to the vaporetto stop. It takes me a minute or two to recover a stable flow of thoughts. When I can finally focus again on myself and my aimless walk, I realize I’ve discovered something new: I thought I needed to be right among those footsteps I had seen before waking up, but that would mean walking through hell, not being able to listen to myself. I have to follow them, not to be one of them. I decide to take another route. I enter Sotoportego de S. Zaccaria and choose a still touristic, yet definitely more acceptable path. Something in my head starts singing. I hear Guccini whispering in my ear that Venice is selling her last days to tourists. Well, I don’t know if it is positive or negative, but it’s true. The song triggers thoughts and memories that, mingled with hundreds of Asian-like faces, ends in a Chinese idiom coming out of the whirlwind of impressions. “四海为家: the four corners of the world are my house, I feel at home everywhere” a Chinese guy once told me. “As long as I can eat dumplings!” he concluded. While I try to make my way out of packed calli, I recall this pearl of Chinese wisdom and I think that Venice is a world in miniature. Here you can really find “the four corners of the world”. Koreans looking for Gucci, French sightseeing, Chinese taking selfies. As I continue this Sunday struggle, I notice the umpteenth corner of world: a girl selling water and snacks. She’s young, I don’t know why she’s here, I don’t know anything about any of the thousands of people I bump into everyday in this cultural theme park, as some American tourists like to call Venice. Judging by her physiognomy, she could be Indian or Bangladeshi. She somehow reminds me of that Chinese friend of the proverb. They both had a long way here, a very troubled journey, certainly worse than what I ambitiously call my “aimless Sunday Odyssey”.
Was it a usual day, I would certainly ignore this girl and move on to my destination. I know, I know, this is not something I should do, she’s a human being that doesn’tdeserve to be ignored, I am a horrible person. However, it is not completely my fault: walking through Venice or any other big touristic city means being constantly approached by people trying to sell you trinkets, water, umbrellas. As the days pass, as you become more and more worried about what you have to do and less and less about what’s around you, you gradually end up ignoring those who surround you. It’s not something one does consciously. It just happens, and this is what makes it even more critical. When did I end up ignoring people? Do it. I always thought I was being kind enough. Do it. Is it my fault? Is finding the culprit important at all? DO IT. Ok, I’ll do it. I’ll talk to her. I approach the girl and try to start a conversation. Her eyes widen for a second, before starting to stare at the floor. Every second, her face grows nervous and nervous, and I barely get to know that her name is Sabina before I realize that she’s unwilling to talk to me. I wave her goodbye and leave. Well, this was quite predictable. People like Sabina aren’t used to be approached by tourists without a purpose. She has probably found me suspicious, she might have thought that I wanted something from her, that I was dangerous. Well, welcome to Multicultural Venice. Everyone is accepted here! Is everyone really accepted here? Sabina is part of those who are not accepted. She is not a student nor a “honest” worker. She is a bothering presence, the shadow of something Venetians don’t want to see. She literally lives in the light: she has to spend the whole day under the sun trying to sell stuff for two or three euros. But she is also a creature of the shadows: as things get unclear and blurred when they get enveloped by the darkness, so those trinkets’ sellers become ephemeral and imprecise entities when they are crushed by the crowd. They definitely exist, but they are invisible. They live in the flow of people, but they are never touched by it. They are human beings, yet they don’t get half the empathy a common human deserves. All they can get is rejection. Sometimes, someone tries to say a brief “no, thank you” or a “hello” while walking away from them. That’s what I try to do, too. But that’s not enough. It’s just a way to tell myself: “Ok, you are a good boy, well done”, but in the end, it is pointless and two-faced. In the end, I have ignored them just like anybody else does. On the other hand, I’m not even allowed to get into their lives: they’re not test subjects, and I can’t decide to “investigate” about them without their consent. So, from now on, I will try to imagine, just like I do with anyone else. Imagine their life, their passions, their feelings. I will try to give them importance in the only way I know, by making them characters. So, Sabina, I’m terribly sorry if your made-up story will be a failure, but you are now the main character. Why are you here, Sabina? Well, in the end, that’s not so important. You will have your own reasons, which I can’t imagine. Do you ever think about your hometown? I think you do. It must be painful, I can somehow sense it. However, is there something that brings you home, at least with your heart? You know, whenever I feel sad and miss home, I go to the kitchen and prepare some chicken with cheese. It’s a special dish my mother always cooks for me when I go back home. It makes me somehow feel closer to my family, to the place where I grew up. I don’t know too much about Bangladeshi kitchen, but you remind me of my Chinese friend. I said so before, didn’t I? He loved dumplings, which is kind of stereotypical for a Chinese. I imagine you like rice, and you use some special spices, a mix you only know, to make it tastier. Anyway, be this special rice your comfort food or not, I’m sure that when you, Sabina, eat your favourite food, your heart melts a bit and you smile, because you found the corner of your world in Venice.
Talking about food, I suddenly realize that something is missing, and I think that “that something” is food. Lost in my thoughts, I ended up skipping lunch, and now my tired body is asking for nourishment. I have also lost my direction, and it takes me a bit to realize that I have reached Cannaregio. I smell something in the air. It’s fried food. Ok, now I have a direction. I reach the nearest bacaro, called “Paradiso perduto”. I’ve been there many times, it’s really popular among students. I ask for a mozzarella in carrozza, pay and leave to continue my Odyssey.
Well, even though I’ve been walking all day, I’m not tired of it at all. Quite the opposite, I honestly think I should waste again my time like this. Actually, even if I think that today was a waste of time, at the same time I think it was not. Usually I study to fill up my spare time. I’m always stuck at the library or, as an alternative, reading out of personal interest. But now I wonder about the meaning of a life lived as a wallflower guy. Okay, this was only to quote that famous book for teens. However, the kind of knowledge that books pass down is mnemonic and unchanging. In order to give meaning to all of this, I should act, re-work, spread what I learnt and in the end, produce new knowledge. This is the only way to get something out of it. And today, am I doing this? I am trying to get to my conclusions on my own. Today I am an empiricist. Now another quotation comes to my mind. It is something I read in a book and now it perfectly suits this situation. According to Schlegel’s theory, a true genius should spend all his time wandering aimlessly, so that the oddest ideas can be produced. Okay, I’m not that much of I genius, but at least I try.
Wondering about life, I have reached the vaporetto stop of S. Alvise before I could even realize it. However, now I don’t know what to do. I have absolutely no clue about the vaporetto timetables, and how much time I have to wait. The city starts to empty, and this makes my mind free to get lost in its own thoughts, again. I drag myself down the street. After a while, I finally decide to climb the wall of stone overlooking the Venice lagoon and sit on top of it. My legs hanging off the wall, the sight of the greenish water under my feet somehow scares me. I try to imagine how cold the water is while I start eating my mozzarella in carrozza. In the meantime, I hear indistinct chatter, which means a group of people is coming. Again, a group of tourists, and again they are Asians. Is my mind prone to stereotypes or is this world a stereotype itself? I don’t know and, honestly, who cares.
|But this time the situation is different. I feel bound to those people. They seem just lost, like me. A short man, wearing sunglasses even if the sun has already set, is looking in vain at the timetable poster. They are stuck here just like me, in the Venice cultural theme park. Other people behind me are speaking aloud. It seems a woman’s voice. I start guessing what is the meaning of those words which are incomprehensible to me. Maybe the woman is rushing him.
Maybe she is just saying something about the landscape. Since she’s behind
me, I can’t see her at all. I imagine she’s a middle-aged woman, short black hair. I feel like a fortune-teller. But when she stands near the other man I sadly notice that she is totally different from what I thought. Although, this is kind of funny. She says something loudly, again. This time she is surely offending that poor short man. He seems irritated. I imagine he is complaining about the woman being so rude to him.
Suddenly, the vaporetto heading to San Marco arrives. The group of people get in the vaporetto leaving me alone. I don’t know why, but it seems natural to me not to get in and wait for the next one. Somehow, I feel I need to stop here a little bit more. I look up to the view and I notice that I can see the Island of Murano. This reminds me of a legend someone once told me. It was about a dragon, but I can’t remember it very well. The dragon was defeated by a Saint whose name I can’t recall. The killing of the dragon stands for the end of evil on the Earth, and the dragon is a symbol of the Devil. This is so strange to me because I know that dragons also have many different meanings in other cultures. The most distant meaning comes from Chinese culture, for which it stands for majesty and vigor. How can the same animal, generated by the same kind of human brain, have such different meanings across cultures? While thinking about such meaningless things, the next bus arrives and I finally decide that it’s time to go.
As the sky begins to darken, I recall that many Venetians told me that, in order to see the “true” Venice, I had to wait for the night. I look out of the vaporetto and I think they’re not right: this is not the “true” Venice, there is neither a true nor false one. By night, you get to see the other half of Venice, which is not necessarily the true one. The city is quiet, calli are empty and dark, shops and restaurant are closed. “E’ libero?” A man interrupts my thoughts and the vaporetto ripples abruptly. “Santa Marta” a voice repeats. As if the man and the voice suddenly woke me up from a dream, I realize I have a book on my legs. Brodskij, it’s all your fault. Your words about Venice made me feel like I was actually wandering through small streets and crossing bridges. I don’t even remember the line I was reading. Oh yes, Brodskij was telling me that, in Venice, the only “organ” one needs is the eye. Venice is the city of beauty and the eye, similar to a fish in shape, darts from one view to the other. As a reflex to his words, I let my eye explore out of the window of the vaporetto. I see nothing, except some rare and weak lights. Sorry Brodskij, your theory can be applied only to the daily half of Venice. What about the night then? “Next stop Redentore” The man next to me stands up and exits the cabin. A strong and cold gust of wind surprises me and I hear the sound of the angry water of the
lagoon. I got it! Venice by night is not about the eye, it is all about the ear: you don’t actually see the city, but you get to hear the water surrounding you and a silence you didn’t think Venice was capable of. The vaporetto docks at the imbarcadero in S. Zaccaria, the sailor shouts something about the last stop of the route and the few people left get ready to leave the boat. I feel tired, maybe more psychologically than physically. It’s a quarter past eleven. I look at sailors working their night shift while I think that thinking is tiring. Shame on me. I bet these sailors would prefer the tiredness from thinking than
the tiredness from a night shift. Anyway, I’m glad the life I get to live allows me to be tired from thinking. I walk home. Today seemed such a waste of time but in the end, it was somehow a productive waste of time. I think to myself that I should do this more often. Choose a day to walk, know people, visit places but, overall, think. Maybe once a month. No, wait, I don’t want it to become a routine. The “Sunday struggle” could become the “Monday” one. And in the end, it’s not a struggle at all. Satisfied, I get back home. I wash myself and I go to bed. I set my alarm at 7 a.m. Tomorrow, my classes start at 8.45.
di Irene Corrao, Marco Del Din e Linda Anna Pietrasanta