Venice seen from the roofs is for a child like a story dangling in the air.
It is a plateau made of shingles, from which chimneys and minarets overflow. I have learned to know the plateau as a child, when, after I had been living in a house with the garden, we moved to another, a top-floor, surrounded by covered roof-terraces.
I imagined that the main one, all made up by wooden beams, one day could fly away, just like a a magic carpet. I felt it like a boat ready to sail to go and drifting or sailing across the thousand roofs shingles you could admire from there. Venice discovered for the second time. A second Venice, different from the first one.
I thought it was only water, canals, gondolas, boats and gardens, bridges, stones and steps. no. It existed a second or a third Venice, if I saw it from above. A Venice made of red tiles, as far as the eye could see them, terraces, roof-terraces, balconies, chimneys of all kinds.
I adored this new dimension. No sewer smell, no mud, no rats. Only bells and bell towers, pigeons and their nests, nightingales, swallows, seagulls and many smarts cats like Ciro, meowing hanging in the balance on the cornices. Ciro, so arrogant and reckless, invited me for rides with him. I went over the railing of the roof-terrace then and, prudent and watchful, I wandered around on the squeaking shingles. That sensation of shakiness gave me a strange shiver of pleasure, the challenge meant to me a way to grow up, the way to redeem myself from my immaturity. Every day I discovered a new chimney. Some of them were like an ice cream cone, some others were with reversed chimney flue, some were squared with a lid, others were rounded. At Dorsoduro, in Rio delle Terse, there was the House of the Seven Chimneys. My friend Paolo told me that Venice had seven thousend chimneys and a chimney sweeps block.
When I watched at the movie Mary Poppins and I heard the song “Chim chim-in-ey, chim chim-in-ey, chim chim cher-ee!” the chimneys of my house came to my mind.
The same house as the Bank’s. My mother could be Mary Poppins. She could have got out from the chimney with her face all black and then, powdering it , she would have been even more ridicolous. Paolo, Ciro and I really loved that movie. We watched it dozens of times and each time there was something new. During the credits Mary Poppins was on a cloud. In the close-up she had her umbrella with the tip inside the cloud on her right side, on her left there was her bag, while in the long shot they had disappeared.
The clouds! From the roof we could see the clouds. White, blue as the water and pink at sunset. We tried to punch them with the tip of the umbrella. In the movie the father of the boys tear their letter up in eight pieces and threw them all in the fireplace but when Mary Poppins took the pieces of paper out from the chimney they were sixteen. Brando and I tried with the pieces of a newspaper, to see if they multiplied themselves.
I was fashinated by true chimney-sweeps. They were just like in the movies, smeared by soot, but they did not soil what they touched. I thought they were magicians. One day I asked to my father to took me in the place where chimney-sweeps lived. “The world of the chimney-sweeps should be supercalifragilisticexpialidoucious” I told him, and he couldn’t help laughing. He was watering the plants in the terrace with the watering can.
He tried to repeat the word “superfrakelidoutious”. I laughed at it.“ No dad, supercalifragilisticexpialidoucious”. I admired him, suntanned.We lived in the top-floor rooms. We had a white marble bathroom and a wood-paneled room with many books I loved to read or let someone read to me. I slept in a small room with a daisies printed upholstery and a big window facing a cottonwood garden.
We hanged the washing in one of the terraces. In Venice you hang it from a window to another of a calle, a campiello, a canal and the washing is not a secret. Underwears, socks, bras are in the air. Fluttering like flags, declaring their owners’ personality. It was such a joy to seet he wide and spotless bed sheets blowing up with the wind and the sun and shaking like sails. I helped my mother to fix them to the clothesline with the clothespins, balanced on a wonky stool, the wicker basket full of clothespins in my hands. It was a ryth I loved, as much as cutting the flowers stalks in Torcello.
I spent many hours in terraces. I built a cardboard hut and I imagined it as Hansel and Gretel’s house. Ciro was used to sleep there most of the time, but during the sultry afternoons it was impossible. Luckily my father had grown a Virginia creeper which made grapes in September and the sun rays hardly filtered under the grape-vine. I adored to lie down under the leaves shadow, dreaming I was the young sheperdness with the chimney sweep, a fairy tale my mother read me in my childhood: “They both were young and beautiful, they both made of porcelain, they both so light and frail”.