November 12, 2019. A date that will remain impressed in the mind of all Venetians and of all the people that happened to be in Venice during the exceptional high tide. The force of nature was impressive. Vito and I were home and for the first time in 8 years, I had to literally close all blinds and lock us inside. The wind was so strong that when I was closing a window and moving inside from the sill the two open bottles of prosecco, a wine saver popped violently on my face. And we were lucky, because we live in a small attic and manage no shop or activity... but some friends of ours have really lost everything and, of course, the most affected have been the least fortunate and least wealthy. The following day Venice looked like Gotham City and now, almost two weeks later, many things still aren't working and have not been restored (like the vaporetto stops...which is absurd and ridiculous!).
Anyway, from that day on... we kept having really high acque alte! How annoying I'm not sure you can understand, and the smell... disgusting! Only a couple of days before the fact, the municipality had published on their website a little notice for visitors saying that 'Acqua alta is a perfectly normal natural phenomenon', that 'the water comes from the nearby rivers and' that 'when it's gone, it only leaves the pavements of the city wet... like after the rain'. Can you believe that???? We were shocked, also because the water comes from the sewers and not from the rivers, thus it is hygienically dangerous for anyone to swim or practice idiotic acts of deficiency in such water! Besides, I assure you that acqua alta does not only leave the streets wet... it's a serious business and privates invest a lot of money in things like paratoie (floodgates), pumps and septic tanks exactly to protect their shops/activities and goods! Not to mention how much higher the rents are of the spaces that are 'esenti acqua alta' (not reachable by the flood) or only a couple of centimetres higher...
So, just for your info, we have been wearing wellies almost everyday and the two main questions are 'Is there acqua alta?' and 'How high?'. Yes, because depending on its height, we can figure out our movements. On Thursday I was really fed up of wearing wellies and had to stay out all day, so I decided to risk it and put on my warmer sneakers. My decision proved to be wrong initially, but my first destination was sullaluna, as I was determined to go there, relax and buy a super cool comic I'm soon going to tell you more about, and I was sure that with 125 cm the water would only cover the fondamenta but not enter the cafeteria. So I went, and how well I did!
The atmosphere was calm, inside only a few people and in the background some jazz music. I sat on the bigger table (nicknamed 'the sharing table') as I wanted to take a couple of pictures and love the colourful texture of the painted wood... I asked for some tea and a slice of cake and while waiting, I took out my favourite journal: L' Internazionale. I wanted to finish the clever essay by Slavoj Žižek on the movie Joker (if curious, I found an extract in English here) and amuse myself with more pleasant things than the flooding or Venetian politics... While reading I got a text from Vito asking if he could join me after 1 pm for a small bite, at which point I totally curled up on my comfy chair, happily aware I had all the time in the world to detach and let off steam.
When I was brought my usual green tea and a slice of almond cake accompanied by some whipped cream, I felt a sudden warmth inside, as if everything was really back to normal. The kind smile of the girl, the subtle elegance of the presentation, the warm lights coming from the lamps on the tables and ... being surrounded by books. Finally!!! I would have closed my eyes to breathe in the magic and peace of the moment, but i didn't as I thought I already looked weird enough dressed in my typical Huckleberry Finn clothes... Anyhow, the cake was lovely, I ate it quite slowly as I had a lot of time to wait and once finished, I asked for another tea and also if the comic Celestia by Manuel Fior had arrived. Indeed it had, so I grabbed it immediately as I was too curious! The plot is set in a future Venice and has as protagonists two young adults escaping from themselves. A visionary -yet realistic- world invaded by water, a dystopian Venice with no Liberty Bridge and the two main characters, Pierrot and Dora, discovering a new world in the mainland, of which I can't tell you more about because ... I need to read book number two and I'm afraid it hasn't been published yet!
After a short while my stomach started growling again and when I glanced at the time I knew I would have been soon reached by Vito. When he arrived, we ordered more food. I opted for my usual hummus with raw veggies and the organic sourdough bread from Mira, while Vittorio asked for a smoked burrata with sott'oli (veggies preserved in oil). My dish was simple yet exquisite. The quality of all ingredients is undeniable, with veggies bought at the organic Sant' Erasmo shop i&s in Cannaregio, and the cheese from the farm Borgoluce. In Vito's plate there was something so delicious we made it at home too: puntarelle sotto'olio. Puntarelle are a variant of chicory, one of my favourites, so we steamed them for about 4 minutes, then sliced them roughly and -once cooled- placed into a jar with garlic, fresh chili pepper and a good quality extra virgin olive oil. Sooooo good! Not to mention the confit tomatoes and the taggiasche olives.
Meanwhile, the water had gone down and it was about time to say goodbye and get moving! So we had a last coffee and got ready to get back to work. Vito has been working really hard, whereas on my side a couple of jobs I was meant to do had to be postponed as one of the bakeries I collaborate with had to re-buy some ovens and equipment, so they had no production, and other products coming from Milan... well, were delayed! But still, I can really consider myself lucky compared to lots of people close to us, so I cannot help but feel grateful.
As you know, it's been a particular period for us Venetians and I apologise if I haven't been writing as much lately, but now I am ready to re-start with my things and today I am meeting Alessandra Gardin of Kirumakata. She's a such a great creative and so nice, I want to take some picture of her at work and of her beautiful handmade glass jewellery and share her story with you soon. So please forgive me and keep an eye on the blog because there will be more soon!
Have a great weekend! Nicoletta