(In)visible cities: Long Way Home

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

“Seven bridges. Seven bridges to get to San Marco”. There was a time, not so many years ago, when my childish little legs could not bear the weight of the steps of the seven bridges leading from Via Garibaldi, where home is, to St Mark’s Square via the strip of concrete called – perhaps ominously – Riva dei Sette Martiri. Returning from nights out in Venice with my parents, I used to be faced with the opposite route – it was then that I urged my father to lift me up on his shoulders. “Daddy, I am exhausted”. My father, equally as fatigued, would exclaim, more to himself than his daughter, “Seven bridges. Seven bridges to get home”. Although I was used to walking several kilometers across the city, I felt as though I could not possibly stretch my willpower to cover the last seven bridges. And if I did, there was still one last, strenuous obstacle – Via Garibaldi. The four-hundred meters from the Hotel Ca’ Formenta to my house, which overlooks the so-called Ponte della Tana, felt like an affront. “Daddy, will you pick me up?”, I whined. “Four-hundred meters. Four-hundred meters until our doorstep”. My father’s words are now resounding like a gong, a clanging cymbal in my head as I breathlessly rush down the steps of the Ponte de le Cadene – the chain bridge. Two roads diverge in front of me, and, against all learned advice, I go down the more traveled by, which also happened to be the most familiar one – Via Garibaldi. “Great” – I barely let myself catch a breath – “Four-hundred meters to go.”

I am sprinting. In the Olympics, the last four-hundred meters of the 1500 m race are the most significant ones, for they make the difference between silver and gold, between bronze and a handful of nothing. In my case, they mark the fine line that separates life from death. I glance to my right – la Trattoria al Garangheio has a full house tonight. A man is bending down, twitching his arms to dictate the sound of the accordion. His voice is loud and boomy, as it directs the cohort of voices belonging to tourists and locals alike, all sat down at the trattoria tables. “Ma il cielo è sempre più blu”, they sing in unison. It is not. It is pitch dark, and I can barely see anything, the wind whipping my face and my mind growing dim. I look ahead. Three hundred meters to go. Then, I notice it – a pale blue dot in the gloomy sky, growing bigger and brighter by the second. I consider stopping by, letting its light annihilate me. “Vuoi?”, someone on my left brings me back to reality. “Shit!”, I almost hit a peddler. He is looking at me, startled by my daring escape, his index finger pointed towards something on the road. Evidently, it was not a shooting star I had glimpsed, but rather a plastic toy, one of those slingshots that glow in the dark. I reply by saying that I am so sorry, but I am not interested, and I really need to go. I resume my running. Two hundred meters left.

I pass by a bar, “Ae Do Ombre” – the two shots. Perhaps, had I limited myself to those, this headache of mine would not be troubling me quite as much. My stomach is growling – the cicchetti I ingested alongside my Campari did not even begin to satisfy my appetite. Unfortunately, I now have little energy left to mull over the state of my physical body, for I must focus on getting home. A garbled clamor arises at my left. A small crowd of kids, no older than ten, gathers in a circle. It is not my desperate flee that has grabbed their attention, but rather a stray cat. It is one of those sneaky red felines that patrol Via Garibaldi on a daily. Cats are to the Giardini Napoleonici what lions are to the Arsenal a few canals away. While lions are the safe keepers of the Serenissima, their domesticated counterparts are the guardians of popular Venice, the protectors of the people. Kids and adults alike cherish them deeply. Was I not so keen on my escape, I would undoubtedly stop, and pay my homage, too. “I am sorry”, I shout towards the stray’s direction. I receive a “meow” of approval back. “Thank you”, I desperately whisper. “May you assist and protect me, as well”. I am beyond San Francesco di Paula’s church at this point. Hundred meters left.

It is not often that I find myself reminiscing. “Ruminating suits ruminants”, I assert (I am jogging past the delicatessen now). Yet, via Garibaldi and its popular loci resonate with a most profound sense of self. Their familiarity calls me out, ultimately intriguing me, even in anguish. As I sublimate this last thought, my heart skips a beat – I am detecting a sharp silhouette standing out against the moonlight. I can barely hold my contentment. “Home!”. Fifty meters still. I rush to the left-hand side of the road, my fingers frantically going through my purse, in an attempt to get a hold of my keys. I manage to secure them. “Do not dare look back”. The fruit boat on the other side of the canal penetrates my peripheral vision. I shall resist the temptation. I am at my doorstep. I insert the keys in the door lock. One, two, three turns. I enter the house. I rush to the second room on the left. The door is left ajar.

I can finally pee.

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