Venice Can Save You

It impacted me then, the first time I saw it.  I was fifteen, traveling with my parents and siblings.


Of course you fall in love with Venice.  I did it again, this July, when the glistening, blue-green canals welcomed me back with the warm embrace of the Italian summer.

I travel south, usually, when I go to Italy, back to my birthplace haunts in Naples and vicinity, to immerse myself in a past that won’t give me peace, but that, some nights, lulls me to sleep.  But these nostalgic meanderings come with a price: the nerve-wrecking stress of interacting with my original family’s unpredictable moods, resentments, guilt trips, and, in some cases, tense hospitality.

Venice is a graceful stranger. I have no ties to its narrow calli, lapped by the gentle water of the lagoon, no heart-trending memories at every corner, every scent, every unfamiliar yet familiar face.  Venice comes with no strings nor chains, just immense beauty to abandon your senses to, caressed by a light-hearted breeze, instead of the tumultuous winds of an unfinished past.

Hanging on to the rail, on the deck of a traghetto cruising at a comfortable speed on Venice’s ‘Main Street’, that is to say the majestic Canal Grande, I tremble with a simple joy, bursting from every pore of my skin, all my senses expanding to the max, eager to take it all in, to replenish the emptiness I often dwell with, when stagnant waters flood my soul.  But the waters of Venice cannot ever be stagnant.  They erupt with life ad continuum, as the entire world keeps returning to them, to love and poeticize.

Venice is a poem that mesmerizes you, softly rips away the burdens of your sad reality, and delivers the dream that you can carry away with you, when you leave its shores, and store in the secret place of all the lost happy moments.  It will always be there for you.

Alive with cheerful visitors, the artisanal shops offering little treasures, like exquisite Murano jewelry, colorful gems to color your world; those stunning, mysterious Carnevale masks to hide behind when you pretend to be happy and thus become so.  A mint granita at a no-pretenses gelateria, to tame the sizzling heat; a prosciutto sandwich sitting on a stone sidewalk, vibrating with the footsteps of Venetians from centuries ago.

Hail to Piazza S. Marco, where your Venetian dreams culminate.  I’m overwhelmed but the spectacular beauty and the noble history, grateful to own a place in a world where such miracles exist.  Beauty counts, people, do accept it.  Beauty will fill you and make you beautiful, even if you deny it.  Hail to beauty!

Mara at 15, with brother & sister, Venice

Oh, those gondole, how charming! How I begged my father to buy us a ride, those many years ago, when I was fifteen, in Venice, and dazed by it all.  “Costa troppo”, he responded, way too expensive.  And so it is today, when the steep price allows only the rich foreigners to indulge.  And, truly, I have no desire to ride on an attractive but precarious boat, while the bored gondoliere collects tourist stories to laugh at with his friends, after his shift.

Give me Venice, please, give me oblivion, scorching sun, exaggerated Byzantine architecture, shady alleys, dreams fulfilled, even if for only one day.

Grazie, Venezia, you did your job.


Quando il fiume si arrabbia

3 marzo 2017

Freddo oggi.  Un vento da paura.  Lo sento quasi spostare la macchina, mentre mi avvio verso la stazione ferroviaria.

Marzo a New York. Un mese strano, imprevedibile. A volte c’è quasi tempo da spiaggia; poi, il giorno dopo, arriva una leggera nevicata.

Ci si abitua.

Oggi il fiume Hudson urla.  È furioso. Le onde schiumose sbattono contro gli scogli del molo, l’acqua è azzurra perché lo è il cielo. Il sole splende, tanto che devi coprirti gli occhi con la mano quando guidi, l’aletta parasole non basta. Ma fa lo stesso un freddo cane.

Riflette forse la tempesta che ti si accanisce dentro.

Gli anni passano, invecchiamo, più o meno bene, diventiamo dei grandi saggi, ma dovrebbe servirci a qualcosa, ‘sta saggezza.

La vita è adesso, come dice il nostro amico del tempo che fu.

Toglietetevi le maschere, tristi pagliacci, guardatevi nello specchio della verità, e aprite il cuore.   A quelli che contano.

La famiglia originale è forse la più importante.

Come l’amicizia antica e vera.

Tutto il resto non vale un cavolo.

Come è arrabbiato il mio fiume, accidenti.

Blog with a View

Still adjusting to my American life.  It never fails: I return from Italy, and stumble back into my daily reality, slightly dazed and wobbly.  For days I’ve been attempting to produce a decent written piece, but thoughts and words are fuzzy, my skin still tender from the fiery touch of the aggressive Southern Italian sun.  My memory box is bursting, each image a sweet stab to my newly fragile heart.

Hence, dear readers, as I await steady nerves and solid, tangible impressions to type on my computer, I offer you living images of my journey, two short videos of two very different and wonderful places: A quaint and unusual shoe shop in spectacular Sorrento; and my beloved open market street in my town, Portici.

Slip into my videos and live Italian for a precious few!