Wednesday 24 November 2004

Of how I loved and how I failed

Ah Venice. La Serenissima. The Most Serene Republic.

I lived in this beautiful, unique, decaying city for four months in 1994 as a third year undergraduate as part of my course in "Modern European & Renaissance" history. To be honest, the Venice term was a big part of my thinking in doing this course in the first place - the chance to spend a term studying "Venice & Florence in the Renaissance" in Italy, and all I had to do in return was spend 2 hours a week for the first 2 years of my course studying Italian. No problems.

I lived in a flat in Castello, just around the corner from St Mark's Square and the Ponte de Sospiri, the Bridge of Sighs. I was a member of the Marciana Library in St. Mark's. I walked over the Rialto bridge every day. I travelled (via vaporetto) on the Grand Canal. I took part in a festival in November where the whole city processes to the church of Salute to give thanks for salvation from the Plague (in 1630).

What do I particularly remember from my time there?

- Watching Venezia vs Wolves in the Anglo-Italian cup as a wind whipped in off the lagoon.

- Playing Jenga in Cafe Blue in Dorsoduro

- Being violently ill for 24 hours after a plate of dodgy spaghetti alla vongole

- walking into a plate glass door at the Palazzo Querini Stampalia (where we were based) so hard that I still have a scar on my nose

- the vast amounts of dog shit everywhere

- realising how short Henry IV of France was when I saw a suit of his armour in the Doge's palace

- wandering, totally lost, around the Arsenale district, and realising I could have been walking back in time as there was not a single thing to remind me I was in the twentieth century

- walking back home across the Academia bridge at 2am in the morning, through a completely deserted St. Mark's listening to "Yes" by the Manic Street Preachers on my Walkman.

- Walking through St. Mark's in the fog

It's a fabulous, mysterious city and there is nowhere else like it in the world, and I was lucky to live there.

I was 20 years old. There wasn't even a McDonald's in Venice when I lived there. I had to direct hungry Wolves fans to the only burger bar in town, a strange place called "Burgi" (if memory serves me correctly) where they sold fast food really, really slowly.

Why am I telling you this? I suppose I don't really have a point. Writing about the Manic Street Preachers below made me think about how much I listened to the Holy Bible when I was living in Venice. Other bands I was listening to at the time included Suede, Blur, Belly, Scott Walker and The Smiths. The scars from my school life were still firmly in place (probably still are) and I had a great deal of difficulty forming any kind of meaningful relationship with women - I could still barely have a sensible conversation with a member of the opposite sex, nevermind have persuaded one to go out with me. Shortly after I got back from Venice though, I got my first proper girlfriend and I think I finally began to leave some (alright, a couple) of my hang-ups behind me (although I'm still crap at small talk)

Think of this post as a bit of background information on my life....

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