We had planned this trip for months; what better birthday present than a trip to Venice for someone who had never seen her delights? La Serenissima. La Dominante. The Queen of the Adriatic. City of Water, Canals, Bridges, Masks. A beautiful historic city, marred only by the crowds of tourists, disembarking from mega cruise ships.
We didn’t bank on the overcrowding problem being solved by the arrival of a single-stranded RNA virus called “novel coronavirus 2019”. It is related to the common cold. But when this virus mutated from an animal reservoir in Wuhan, crossing over to humans and attacking lungs, it gained a new name, “severe acute respiratory syndrome corona virus type 2 (SARS-CoV-2 for short). The resulting disease was named Covid-19 because the WHO were notified on 31st December 2019.
The disease hit Italy when two Chinese tourists were hospitalised in Rome on 31st January, but the stronzo didn’t make contact with the airconditioning until February 18th when a man developed Covid-19 in Codogno, Lombardy. He had had no apparent links with China. The doctors didn’t test him for 36 hours, by which time he had infected several others. Patient One.
I checked the Foreign Office website for information, which didn’t advise cancelling the trip. The airline was still flying. So we went to Venice. We took the bus from the airport to the Piazzale Roma. From there it was a short walk to Hotel Carlton on the Grand Canal.
Simon, the hotel concierge, checked us in and said, “I must tell you that you might have to leave tomorrow. The Government has issued a decree locking down areas of northern Italy, and this includes Venezia. But it hasn’t been signed yet. Perhaps in half an hour I will know more, maybe tomorrow morning. Have a good night.” Ah well, que sera, sera, as Doris Day sang, but in Spanish, not Italian.
The next morning after breakfast, we talked to Simon again. “Venice is in lockdown according to the Government. But the local governor of Veneto disagrees with this. So we don’t know whether the decree will be enforced or not. My advice is to enjoy the empty streets and canals of this beautiful city until a decision is made. There’s nothing else to be done.” So we did.
The Grand Canal winds through the city like a serpent. It is the aorta, the main artery of Venice, its lifeblood. There are no wheels here, apart from children’s bicycles and roller skates, so the Grand Canal serves as a motorway for all kinds of traffic. Each of the two hundred or so palazzos on the canal has a door at water level. This is the portal for the delivery of mail, food supplies and other items are delivered, with laundry and rubbish being taken away.
More water doors: