My San Marco apartment was just the ticket for the first year: small but well-appointed, A/C, utilities paid, central location…and perfect for taking the time to decide where I might like to be for the long-term. Little by little, I gravitated toward the sestiere of Cannaregio, removed but still handy to both the center and the station, with its long, open, fondamente, everyday grocery stores and residential atmosphere. After much searching, I was delighted to find an airy, top-floor unit that, while not nearly as well-appointed, has a stupendous view, a real kitchen, and not one, single soul being paid to sing O Sooooooooooooooo-le Mio all the live-long day.
Of course, to carry out any trasloco in Venice, I’d need a boat.
I thought it would probably be a simple move, per forza, since I don’t have a lot of stuff in the first place, and my new building has an entrata right on the canal. A friend introduced me one evening to Giovanni, who has a barca di trasporto, a boat used for picking up and delivering merchandise of all types all over Venice. I told him I had a three-day window, and if he had enough free time among his regular rounds to make one pass from the Piscina de Frezzeria to the Sacca Misericordia, mi organizzerei, I’d make sure my boxes and I would be available, and pay the going rate. Non preoccuparti per i soldi, he said, Don’t worry about the money. Just give me a call a day or two before, and we’ll set a time. He told me to put his cell number in mine, Giovanni barca. That’ll work.
(I don’t know Giovanni’s last name, and up until now have had only passing conversions with him. There was a discussion one evening around the benefits and difficulties of learning another language (he speaks English, I believe), when a young woman entered, a tourist and who had obviously been enjoying herself quite a bit prior to arriving at this particular locale. She was very attractive, perhaps German, perhaps Austrian, and very nicely dressed. Giovanni noticed her as she ordered a follow-up bottle of cabernet to go, and he turned to me with some distain and said, Ma, perchè¨? Prego? I said. I thought he might be going to make a comment about her state of intoxication — Italian women do not drink, and if they do, the men do not like it. Here’s this woman, he went on instead, dressed so nicely on a summer’s eve, e poi, guarda, and look…he pointed at her shoes. Pumps, she had on dark leather pumps. Come mai? Mi da tanto fastidio questo. “This really bugs me.” She’d ruined her whole look, and he just couldn’t understand il perchè¨, why.
These are the conversations that make all the dolore I endured to learn Italian vale la pena…worthwhile.)
OK, back to the move. (Do excuse the photo quality…I was a bit distracted.)
Giovanni’s boat is a topo, a deep, long motor boat with planks across the top that can provide a handy, flat platform, or be completely or partially removed, to allow room for or protect a more substantial payload. The carts also have a special design for easier navigation over any of the 400 bridges, if need be.
The weather certainly did cooperate that day. That, and having yet another opportunity to experience Venezia from water level, it’s tutto un altra cosa, really something else. Maybe that’s what makes a gondola ride worth the price tag. (I’ve heard very nice things about the San Tomà gondoliers, by the way.)
Giovanni charged me un prezzo giustissimo, the fairest of prices, and I permitted him to help me up the three flights of stairs with my only piece of furniture, the computer table. “I want to abuse all of my friends equally,” I said. “Leave it for the next gracious person.” I hoisted two more before the Fastweb guy showed up, right on time.
When I saw Giovanni at the enoteca a few days later, I asked the proprietor I he could help me pick out a bottle of wine that Giovanni might like. Oh, you don’t want to do that, he said. His taste might be a bit beyond your budget. (Hmm. Better sell a few more books, then.)
Here’s the reward for walking up three flights of “typical Venetian” stairs:
I was listening to a little Chet Baker on my first night there…but there was somebody other than Stan Getz playing along. I turned down the sound, and the phantom sax kept going, echoing across the canal as a I leaned out the window searching for it origin (shades of the Big Apple over a Venetian rio…)
I found out the next day that there is a sala di prova, a rehearsal hall, just across the way. A casa, sono, finalmente. I’m really home now.