NoeHill: Venice to Malta in 2002

Friday 31 May: Manifestazione dei Gondolieri

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Mediterranean 2002: Venezia


Gondoliers On Strike Gondolier On Strike
The gondolieri continued their strike today, so we headed to City Hall to catch the action.

Oh, yeah, the action.

Every gondoliero stopped working and a small group stood in the entrance of City Hall periodically making noise: chanting, singing, gesticulating, handing out leaflets to passersby.

The rest of the strikers did nothing, just hang out on the fringes.

Some gondoliers talked in small groups. Others occupied their time by cleaning their gondolas, or installing new pieces of flashy gold trim. Some even slept.

Actually, a lot like labor strikes in the United States. They did create a semi-traffic jam in the Grand Canal by tying their gondolas side-by-side so they protruded half-way into the canal; but the canal was never completely blocked. Traffic was able to get by, but had to slow down to do so.


Un Presidio della Gondole
(Click on a picture to enlarge it)
Un Presidio della Gondole, Venice, Italy. Un Presidio della Gondole, Venice, Italy. Un Presidio della Gondole, Venice, Italy.


Figlio putana, paparazzo!, Venice, Italy.  Figlio putana, paparazzo!
Meanwhile, the police and fire boats drifted by constantly. Boats labeled Polizia Municipale, Guardi di Finanza, and Carabinieri came and went. I took up residence on the end of a short pier, next to some of the parked gondolas. If anything happened, I would be in an excellent position to view it. At one point, a group in riot gear was deposited directly across the canal from me.

A serious man in a grey suit and walkie-talkie used the next pier, coming and going, hopping into and out of boats from the Guardi di Finanza. Once, he lost his footing while moving from one boat to another and almost toppled into the water. Seeing us watching, and probably feeling a bit foolish, he shouted at us to get off the pier. We did, but went back as soon as he left.

Meanwhile, life around City Hall managed to continue somewhat normally. From time to time, posed self-consciously but happily. wedding parties would emerge following civil marriages, the couple sometimes alone, other times with a group including family and friends. Tourists asked to take photos of the newlyweds, who

Lots of activity but nothing was happening, so we went off to find a place to eat. The restaurants nearby were filled with gondoliers, so it took a while before we found Osteria a la Campana. When we returned about 1:00 PM, the strike was over and the gondoliers were again transporting tourists along the canals.

We walked to La Fenice, or rather, the construction site. The fire of 1996 had destroyed everything but the front facade. La Fenice (The Phoenix) was built in 1792, following the destruction by fire of Venice's leading opera house. The theater burned to the ground again in 1836 but once more rose from its ashes a year later. For 200 years, it was one of the most important opera houses in Italy, hosting the first performances of Tancredi, Rigolettio, La Traviata, The Rake's Progress, and The Turn of the Screw, among others.

In 1992, we attended a performance of L'Italiana in Algeri and so felt the loss of this neo-classical theater in a personal way. It had been wonderful to walk in the narrow streets behind the theater during the day and hear singers practicing. We have been told that La Fenice is scheduled to reopen in late 2003. Hopefully, its design will be similar to the jewel box that was destroyed. But, even though the theater hosts no performances these days, it still operates a gift shop. So I bought my only souvenir of this trip, a La Fenice tee shirt.

The Piazza San Marco is nearby, so we spent some time watching the little kids feeding the pigeons. The ragazzi are always fun to watch, whatever they are doing. Wide-eyed, innocent, curious.

While we were watching the kids and pigeons, three young German men walked among the crowd holding up a sign reading "England 1, Sweden 1." England, one of the favorites for the World Cup, had failed to win its first game today and the German fans were gloating. World cup play had begun yesterday, and the fever would grow daily for the next four weeks.

With the help of the hotel concierge, we were able to find Antiche Campane tonight and had a very nice seafood dinner.


Ragazzi in Piazza San Marco
Ragazzo and Pigeons, Venice, Italy. Ragazzi and Pigeons, Venice, Italy. Ragazza and Pigeons, Venice, Italy.


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