When I was a child it was such a joy to hear the sound of the siren of the high-water ringing. It meant to stay out from class. Playing with my feet in the water, see the water going into the hall and fishing from the stairs.
What a joy for us and for the tourists, like a play, something magic. A city semi-submerged from high-water. A place where the streets disappear. A city where you would walk around with your legs and feet soaking wet. Stores, streets and calli, everything underwater.
You would go shopping and working by swimming. Any delay will be admitted, any forgetfullness or committment could be cancelled, rules and daily occurrance would be cancelled, everything stopped.
There is high-water and less high-water. The one of November 1966 was memorable.
I remember the grocer who, swimming with an arm out of the water, brought us home things to eat. I saw him from the window. He wore a pair of waders, those high up to the armpits, but they were not enough. On the contrary, they slowed him down and sank him. It was windy and the tide kept on going up. I remember my family and I on the roof, together with the cat and with the old Irina, who went on saying the rosary to the Virgin. It made me want to laugh, because I thought that the virgin Mary was the only one who would have survived, there, on the top of the bell-tower. The wind dragged the waves behind the stream. Most of the boats had sunk, filled up with water they had given it up. It was an extraordinary event. My nose was stuck to the window not to lose the show. You could not see the doors. I imagined that Venice was about to drown. If the tide had not stopped, we would have had to leave the island, they would have came to pick us up with boats. My father went on marking the wall of the hall with a pen, and every hour he checked the level of water.
Mum checked the supplies and then counted the days we could stay without beeing able to buy any food.
What about my school? The teacher’s desk? The time-table? They were already floating away, maybe.
Then I called Anna, my friend who lived on the ground floor. Such a mockery. She laughed. She said she was going to the kitchen and to the toilet rafting and that the mattresses could float very well, she said she was playing the battleship with the pots, which looked like warships. I envied her. I wanted to join her in that playground her house had become, during such a tragic moment for the adults. But there is no tragedy in Venice. This is its main quality. There is nothing tragic to Venetians, to whom life is a matter of fate.
Fatality of “fataity” is something so deep in me.
It is a part of the DNA of the island. I experienced it every day.
“Cossa vistu, Cussì e a ze”. It means: It is like that, it is a part of the game of life.
Of course the funniest side was high-water. There were places where it was higher. In Piazza San Marco spurting from the manholes and in Campo San Beneto, which was impossible to go through.
If there were no bridges and boots were not long enough, we rode on the back of someone with boots high up to the hips, or on their carts. It was a moment of astonishment. A small offering for the favor and hop! We jumped on the high and dry stone. All around us foundations had disappeared, the streets and bridges shrink, the wells were surronded by a lake. There was a fairy atmospheare, just like in an Andersen fairytale.
A sinking city, disappearing and re-emerging. We thought it was the breath of an invisible God of the Sea that was bringing “the great wave” . All the cats and Ciro, in the front row, were just standing, waiting for the end of that great flood. Straight with their tail in the air and their mustaches sniffing the air, most of them on the top of the roofs or on the cornices.
Even the school was flooded and the day after we could smell salt on the tables.
When the sirens rang, they were the ones of the war, it sounded like the alarm and the roll call for those who lived on the ground floor.
It was important to “save” the precious things. To save the fridge, the washing machine, antique furnitures, the television, the sofas, pillows and mattresses. All shifted up.
The phone call at the tide office.
“How much is it growing?”, was the question.
“How much is it decreasing?”
Due to water we were stuck at home. When the tide decreased I loved to run breathlessy singing the mountain songs which I had learned from my mother. I didn’t know that some of them were songs from the war. My favorite one started with “Sailing the great sea…” and so o, and then “ Miss Zanza who had a weak bladder”, it made me smile, or “Barbarics are coming on horseback”. Those songs opened my heart wide open, in a way I could not experiment anymore.
I also loved the wind in Venice. I enjoyed to listen to its whistle through the crack of the jalousies. That crack my mother was used to imitate when she told me the fairy tales of the North. “UUUUHHHH….FSSSSSSHHHHH”, she whistled imitating the cold wind that sweeps the snow away in those places where the wolves walk and the witches fly.
These Pictures are found in internet. If the owner disagres the use, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org, we will move soon.