Reporting from Venice, Italy
Water, water everywhere, but Venice is still the place to go.
Regular readers of Malibu Seen know that a few times a year, we go off on a globe-trotting expedition.
Since it is the holidays and a time to look with gratitude on your blessings, we thought this would be a good time to fly into Venice and examine her impressive recovery from a $1 billion disaster.
While the U.S. has had more than its share of horrific storms and powerful fires, in Venice they have their own nasty threat. It is called aqua alta, which means “high water.” And the water gets high—very high. One to two feet of the wet stuff could be found everywhere, flooding the charming canals, mysterious sottoporteghi, elegant shops, timeless palazzi and famed restaurants. In some areas, the water levels were even steeper, requiring thigh high wading boots and elevated walkways.
The water rushes in much like a high tide in Malibu, but just like Malibu, it recedes and the city recovers quickly.
As a traveler to Venice for more than 40 years, I was surprised to see the city spring back to life so quickly. Except for the odd puddle here or there and a shocking lack of visitors, you’d never know anything so horrible had happened. “That was the worst part,” said my dearest friend and longtime Venetian resident Mirella Pasquinucci, “everyone thought the flooding was permanent. People stayed away.” Her best friend Barbara echoed her sentiments. “The $1 billion in damage was nothing compared to the lack [of] tourists and income” in this one-industry, merchant-driven town. Cancellations at some of the city’s most famous places were 50 percent or more.
But as days went by it became clear that Venice was back in business.
Historic haunts like Harry’s Bar started to fill up as my annual birthday party approached. When we returned on Saturday for the area’s famed fresh, white truffles served over a silky, melt-in your mouth risotto, the place was nearly packed. The pick-up in business is just one more thing to be grateful for.
When I was a kid, people used to say, “We know how much you love Venice, but isn’t it sinking?” People looked at me like I needed professional mental help when I responded, “Venice is not sinking. The water is rising and getting worse every day.”
Forty years later, global warming finally became part of our international vocabulary and awareness is growing at long last.
The recovery of Venice and climate awareness lead my list of appreciation.
The joy of spending your birthday in the world’s most beautiful city with your dearest friends Barbara, Mirella, Giovanna and the Romanelli family is another. Among the hugs, the laughs, the kisses and encouragement, there is no better way to feel warm and fuzzy inside and out.
Appreciation is for bambini who dress the city with sparkling lights, classic Santas and his reindeer, festive ribbons and bows.
For my husband, an attorney who crawls from Malibu to downtown LA, appreciation is to be free in a city that has no automobiles (and thus no cell phones at the wheel and no distracted and speeding drivers).
For me, it was my restored faith in humanity.
While crossing a bridge, I discovered un umono honesto (an honest man) and a truly extraordinary one at that. He followed me into local restaurant Vino Vino, returning my wallet complete with passport, global entry, credit cards and 800 Euros cash.
“Signora, you dropped this,” he said and turned over my wallet without one penny missing. I gave him a a handful of euros and spent the next 20 minutes double-checking, rechecking, again and again. My credit cards, money, driver license, press pass and travel docs were all untouched, leaving me in a state of shock.
So, just remember there is always time to find gratitude and faith in humanity. Just keep your eyes open and it will find you.
Happy holidays and warm wishes for a healthy and happy new year from Malibu Seen!