Tiziano Scarpa’s Venice is a Fish captures beautifully the elusive, poetic mood of our enigmatic city. Neither guide nor history book, it is perfect to read before a visit, because turning the last page, you already feel you have a relationship with the city. Then it is just a question on arrival of forgetting about the usual sightseeing and getting lost in the labyrinth of narrow alleyways. I read it when it first came out, discovering many unknown things about my home town.
Venice suffered apocalyptic flooding on 12 November 2019. The scenes are perfectly mirrored in the photography book Era Mare, a local initiative by photographer Matteo de Mayda and two graphic designers– all the profits are used to help the city survive. Rather than the usual pictures of a submerged Piazza San Marco, the book is an artistic documentary of the suffering of not just historic buildings, but the daily lives of local people during what we now term acqua grande.
I was recently taking pictures of Venice emptied of people during the lockdown, and found myself in one of its most beautiful spots, the Campiello dei Miracoli. Well, we all need a miracle right now, but what came to mind was a scene from my favourite film set in Venice, Pane e Tulipani (Bread and Tulips), featuring stars Bruno Ganz and Licia Maglietta outside a florist – which of course never existed. I think many Venetians would cite this as their favourite film, because it does not try to glamorise the city as Death in Venice does.
Living here, we have to contend with filmmakers regularly taking over the city, but I have a soft spot for James Bond. Venice has been used as a backdrop for several 007 adventures. The scenes of Roger Moore zooming around our canals in a motorised gondola in Moonrakerstill make me laugh today.
Few people associate Venice with football, but the Venezia FC stadium is just by the Biennale Gardens, and our team is one of the few things that belong to Venetians and not tourists. To get a feel, listen to Minuto per Minuto (raiplayradio.it), Italy’s cult radio soccer programme, commenting on a day of games at the end of last season that saved Venezia FC from relegation. If the Italian gets too complex, fast forward to the last 10 minutes when we scored three goals to survive!
My mamma is a great cook, and the Sgaialand.it podcast evokes one of the most traditional Venetian dishes, risotto di go – goby fish risotto, which was much loved by Anthony Bourdain – as recounted by the owner of one of the city’s most famous restaurants, Al Colombo di Venezia.
Virtual museum tours
Three museums along the Grand Canal that rarely draw the usual crowds are Ca’Pesaro, for contemporary art, Palazzo Mocenigo, for textiles and fashion, and the Museum of Natural History. A virtual tour combining all 3 will certainly make you want to come back and visit the real thing once life returns to normal. Kids will be entranced by the dinosaurs, romantics will adore the period costumes in Mocenigo, and modern art lovers will be surprised at Ca’Pesaro’s collection.
Several of the major islands on the Venice lagoon – Torcello, Murano, Burano – have their own specialist museums. Normal years see many tourists heading to Murano to visit its famous glass-blowing furnaces, so the Museo del Vetro there is usually busy. But the virtual tour offers a chance to discover one of the world’s most important collections of glass, from Roman times to contemporary designers. There is an ongoing campaign by Murano’s master glassblowers to protect their heritage against fakes that are often made in China, and even a virtual tour opens your eyes to the incredible craftsmanship that makes the island’s glass unique.
Avant-garde works by Claudio Ambrosini may not be for everyone, but he is one of Italy’s most respected living composers and has won many awards, including the Golden Lion of the Venice Musica Biennale. His works – try 3 Studi En Plein Air: No 1 Notturno – have been performed in some of the world’s major concert halls.
Ambrosini’s work has also been staged at our Fenice Opera House, and its website is also worth a visit to enjoy a full performance of Verdi’s Don Carlos, while right now there is a moving video of a quartet performing Debussy’s Clair de Lune as a homage to healthcare workers, each musician quarantined in their own apartment.
A very different sound is Pitura Freska, every Venetian’s favourite band. Playing a mix of ska, reggae and rock, singing in our dialect about the city’s problems, they are as much a part of Venetian culture as Vivaldi. The band split up long ago, but their music lives on. When I am travelling, their album Na Bruta Banda transports me straight back to Venice.
• Giacomo Cosua is a Venetian photographer and founder of the online Posi+Tive Magazine
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