Venice Diary: Day 12: Friday 14 February 2003

An excellent start to the day. I wake slightly earlier—at 6.45. I read Rachel Ray for an hour, an account of Rachel going to the Tappits’s ball and then Mr Prong proposing to Mrs Prime, Rachel’s severe and evangelical sister. Within a few pages of any Trollope novel I’m immersed in the characters. I know them. I’m interested in them. Their lives are in most ways very different from mine, but in many important ways they are the same. A shower, also a pleasure, and then down to the market.

It’s warmer than yesterday, and the sun is shining. Venice is as beautiful as ever for me. I can’t cross the Rialto bridge without stopping for a moment to look each way down the Grand Canal, which seems always to be bustling. One of the things I love most is the green of the water. Ruskin wrote: “A city of marble, did I say? nay, rather a golden city, paved with emerald. For truly, every pinnacle and turret glanced or glowed, overlaid with gold, or bossed with jasper. Beneath, the unsullied sea drew in deep breathing, to and from its eddies of green wave.” D H Lawrence, in contrast, talked an “abhorrent green slippery city.” I’d love in some way to capture the green, but then I realise that if I could capture it Venice would be less beautiful. It’s because the green cannot be captured or copied that the city is so lovely and calls you back again and again.

I buy first a large cutlet. Then I buy a mountain cheese, a chunk of parmigiano, and a bottle of Refosco (Venetian wine) in the shop where they seem so unassumingly proud of their cheeses, meats,  wines, and other produce. Next, to the same large-nosed man for my zuccini and a large pepper. As I pass a fish stall I can’t resist buying quatro sardines. “Numero ou grammes,” asks the pescevendolo. “Quatro,” I answer. What a cheek—to buy just four sardines, lunch for one. I’m back on the traghetto. I still feel that I may fall, but nobody else ever seems to sway. I’ll remember this when I’m on the tube. This is such bliss, the tube such a horror. Similarly shopping. This is all pleasure, whereas most shopping is purgatory. I stop for a cappuccino, joke with the women in the bakers, and am home by 9.15.

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