(Venice, Italy) That image you see is not Venice, it is Rome. There has always been a bit of conflict between Venice and Rome -- Venice was excommunicated by the Pope on more than one occassion, which did not stop Venice from doing business as usual.
I spoke earlier today with a friend from Milano who was in Sienna. He was the first one to tell me about the flooding in Rome, where it has been declared a natural disaster by the mayor, and so far three people have died. The River Tiber is threatening to overflow its banks as I write this. He asked me how things were in Venice. Here are my observations:
On my way to dinner last night, I noticed the precautions the businesses had taken in response to the three level siren alarm. The restaurant downstairs on the riva was serving dinner right on the Grand Canal as the water licked toward the feet of the customers. I said, you are open? They laughed. "Always!" The wooden planks for walking had been set in place. A bank (as in a place to store your money) had very neatly moved everything off the floor and up on the desks, then locked up for the night. The doors in front of all the shops had their high-water blockades set in place.
Then, this morning we all had on our high water boots as we went about our day; otherwise it was pretty much business as usual. There was a feeling of comradery, as if we were all in this together and would simply make the best of things. A Canadian woman in Campo San Maurizio asked me how to get to the University of Ca' Foscari for a conference; she had on shoes, not boots. I said, you are not prepared. She was from Ottawa. I said, surely you have boots in Ottawa and she said her boots were too warm for Venice. With some deft twists and turns, I managed to bring her to the vaporetto stop at Sant 'Angelo without getting her feet wet.
There were very few tourists, and the ones who were here were having fun. It was easy to separate the wise from the uneducated tourists today because the latter either didn't have their boots on, or they were wearing the noisy plastic tourist boots. At the top of the Rialto Bridge I saw some very interesting boots similar to our boots, but different -- they were elegant, yet practical. I said, "Where did you get those boots?" They said, "We are from Northern France and we brought them from there."
I think this is a great new fad and that all tourists coming to Venice should bring their high-water boots from their own countries. In fact, perhaps we should start importing them. There's a fantastic new business idea for all you Venetian merchants, and I am quite sure you will make a profit. A store called Aqua Alta Supplies for all your high-water needs.
I hear the ever-enterprising hotel association is offering high water boots as part of a package, with a map of alternate routes. The museums and art galleries are dry. People are cheerful. The streets have never been cleaner. It couldn't be a better time to come to Venice!
Ciao from Venice,