(In)visible cities: Blind rush

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

I’m in a hurry, that’s why I’m running. If I were not, no… I would not run! I would walk at a fast pace, at a venetian pace, as they say here…but no, I would not run. Venezia: a place so difficult to call home… Before entering Rio Terà Foscarini I don’t even throw a glance at the island of Giudecca, but I imagine its faded contours in the October fog: Who knows what the Stucky looked like today, that red-brick colossus that always acts as the tyrant to the panorama of Zattere…

Eyes down on my boots that seem to clash with the paving, I think back to the mornings in San Basilio, between one lecture and another, staring at the Stucky and not understanding whether it makes me afraid or uncomfortable. Perhaps it is just a feeling of bitter tenderness, seeing it standing out like a foreign visitor against the thousand different skies that visit Venice every day. By now I have passed the bridge of the Accademia, and, heck, why didn’t I turn right, at least to see if the shadow of the dome of Santa Maria della Salute was drawing its round contours in the milky sky? I see it from everywhere, every day, from San Marco, from this bridge, from the steamer. Still, it’s a mystery to me, far away from my usual routes, never accidentally crossed it in my errands. Yet to be discovered, or perhaps to be left there, a secret and distant realm I can dream about.

I look at the time and think maybe it’s better to give up and not be in a hurry anymore and let the vaporetto leave without me, my thoughts and shopping bags. Thoughts and shopping bags: both continue to get in my way by swinging from one side to the other. I’m out of breath and every bridge challenges my nerves. I’m close, I’ve almost made it, a bridge or two and San Marco will appear, but I won’t look at it, as I haven’t looked at the Stucky and the dome. I’ll cross the southern arcade, pass in front of the Florian, greet its bored waiters and the jazz band playing for the empty bar tables. I’m thinking faster than I run, because I’m still stuck in the skein of narrow streets and canals, hoping I’ve turned left at the right crossroad and that the city hasn’t changed overnight. With its blind alleys and faded squares, Venice deceives, makes me feel as if I’ve never been here before, even if it’s the hundredth time I’m running all the way to the vaporetto from Zattere. Knowing I will never have control over this town makes me feel kind of calm. If I’d stop a second, the ephemeral reflection of the milky sky would greet me from the canals, gloomy in the hour of this sunless dusk. 

I’ve finally reached San Marcos Fondamenta, the cathedral already behind me while I dodge a hideous stand of printed t-shirts and pricy water bottles. The steamer must be almost leaving, I can see it still docked in front of that church I’ve never seen the facade of, always covered by some huge, ironically blasphemous billboard. Two by two, I go up the steps of the Bridge of Sighs. I must push someone, my “excuse me” gets lost among the crowd. I made it, I’m on the steamer. I throw the shopping bags on a chair, bend over my knees to take a deep breath. The familiar roar of the engine mixes with my breaths. I lean back, letting my forehead rest on the cold, salt-stained window. After a few minutes, I finally look at the city I’m leaving behind: Home, you can walk through it without looking around. Maybe you understand places better by looking at them from a distance. Or not at all. Your soul has already seen them. 

Marta Werner

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