My appartamentino is not very tranquillo these days, given that there’s a 4th floor restoration going on across the calle, and work in progress to correct water problems in the building, The latter was discovered when I returned from grocery shopping one day and was immediately bagnata by a steady drip-drip from the light fixture overhead. This time, the water amassing on the stone floor in entry way wasn’t from rising acqua alta, but from parts unknown la su, up above. I put a bucket under the drip and called the Signora to give her the bad news.
It’s another example of things that are much less of a problem when they occur in the U.S. — where drywall (carta di gesso), 2x4s, and new construction are a given, along with attics and basements where you can actually see conduits, pipes, and ductwork. Certainly New York, Boston, and all older cities have their share of rotting infrastructure that can be expensive and troublesome to address. Water problems occur all too frequently in Venice, however, that for all its charming ambience is thick with rotting pipes, ignored for too long because they’re buried inside brick and plaster walls that are at least decades old (if not centuries), and a foot thick.
Anyone who owns property that has not been completely restaurato is constantly hoping that this is not the year the pipes give out. My own landlord, a kind, elegant woman, complains that from the time they moved into this palazzo decades ago, the problem è stata sempre coll’acqua, has always been the water. If anything goes wrong with any plumbing for toilets, showers, sinks, washing machines, kitchen fixtures, and so on, it’s all that pervasively stupendous tile work and plaster that must be whacked, demolished, and dug into, just to locate the plumbing issue; then once that’s repaired, the wall must again be put to rights. It makes my heart hurt just to think about it.
To correct the particular problem in my building, it’s taken three trips by the plumber for diagnosis, including the ripping apart of ceilings and walls up and down the stairway (and just outside my door). They’ll be replacing everything within a week though, my landlord says, during which time I’ll be without aria condizionata. There are worse things (pardon this absurd understatement), although of course, it is August. Beato me.
p.s. To avoid ripping out all the plumbing and the walls surrounding them throughout the building’s four floors, the owners have opted to seal the rotting pipes for now in waterproof, flexible rubber tubing. I should have A/C back by tomorrow; but I really don’t care, the weather is a spectacularly clear 78 degrees…
Ah, Venetian plumbing fun! My downstairs neighbors once complained that we had a leak that was collecting in puddles in their flat. We called our plumber, who proceeded to tear up the whole entire kitchen pavement looking for the supposed leak, and he kept tearing up more and more because he couldn’t find it. Then, when there was nothing left to tear up, he went downstairs into their place and determined that it was from condensation from their own pipes!
Then again, in Maine we get water in our basement every spring during the snowmelt, and my Venetian husband says, “You know, I thought I wouldn’t have to deal with high water once I left Venice…”