Manarola … Venezia

Leaving Manarola difficult in the brilliant sunshine, our airy and light-filled ‘typical’ Ligurian house – missed in retrospect. We explore a little more of the town before setting out, finding at its limit where the streams from the surrounding hillsides come together to cascade under it and they would’ve worked a waterwheel once, the wheel taken out for repair, the millstones kept, but broken. And entering the church above Manarola with its separate belltower or campanile sometimes over-actively chiming twenty times in a row. The church another wonderfully ascending piece of architecture, its bones dating back to the twelfth century, icons preserved from its medieval past, as well as a gigantic baptismal font.

The bigliateria at La Spezia were surprisingly helpful. We only had to pay for one lot of reservations, on the highspeed train from Firenze S. M. Novella to Venezia S. Lucia. The first two stretches took an hour each, La Spezia to Pisa, Pisa to Firenze. We’d come prepared with the best calzone in the world from Manarola. The third took two hours, the first hour or so of which seemed to take place beneath Italy, the train running through underground tunnels. Kusturica style. First class came with complimentary drinks and nibbles. We’d had to pay no more for first than for second, on top of our Eurail, although we were on a highspeed train going backwards, the ticket guy in La Spezia getting the last laugh.

As we headed north, the temperature seemed to rise, the air thickening, close. A haze, a particular sort of Italian industrial haze, around the lagoon when we encountered the bridge to the island, escaping Mestre. And out the on the front steps, a crowd, the sun beating down at 4:30 pm and the water a churning dull green; the noise of the water-taxis, water-buses, and other craft and the canals splashing up against their banks.

Not so many people when we reached our new neighbourhood in San Polo, disembarking from our water-bus, the mate doing his special docking knot with his black gloves on in one quiet and graceful movement, at San Sylvestro. And once at our place we
find we have floor one-and-a-half, the heavily timbered ceiling weighing on the single room, offset by mismatched furnishings, the TV on the fridge, a kitchen without forks, a dodgy hotwater system – limited to 10 litres per use – and a bathroom where you take your shower on the loo, which is just as well, because the loo isn’t the best, having a lid that won’t stay open. Inside, it is a case of one person moving at a time. And suggests to us that spend as much time out as we possibly can.

So pizza on the steps of San Sylvestro and gelato walking the labyrinthine streets. People everywhere, but the lively variety, many young and a surprising number Italian. Tomorrow the market down on the Rialto and San Marco and the Frari. If we survive a night at close quarters in this maddening space, the shutters solid, the windows small, the air not moving.