My wife left me today.
Nothing matrimonial, don’t fret. She just had to fly home from Venice, while I still have something like three weeks of this journey of mine still to enjoy. Still, parting is always hard. Even more so, when you’re left behind, walking the alleyways and canalsides alone that you walked together the previous day.
I mused a while ago about the difference between being alone, and being lonely. The waves of melancholy that have struck me today are the symptoms of loneliness. In a place as beautiful as Venice, lonliness is hard, because one wants to share every view, every thought. Anyhow, we had four very full days to do just that.
I’ve been ranting on Twitter, and to anyone who’ll listen, about the absurd imbalance of allowing huge cruise liners to sail down the channel a hundred metres of so off St Mark’s Square and to moor up at Rio Schiavon. Here, they sit beside a beautiful corner of Venice (near the Arsenale) with all the elegance of a mobile bersion of a 1960’s london council estate- because that is just what the modern cruise liner reminds me of. Close up, they are improbably huge. The Cunard liner Queen Victoria went through the other day. 2,000 passengers, and she’s a smaller one than most of the six that are sttting moored up at one end of the city, dominating the western skyline. Just a couple of them will disgorge the best part of 6,000 people onto the fragile infrastructure of one of the world’s most beautiful, and least suitable, cities.
Then I started to see adverts for the Venice Marathon. 7,000 starters every year. Why, for pity’s sake? Why does Venice, of all cities, need a marathon? Even allowing that it starts out on the causeway over from Mestre, there’s hardly more than a few hundred metres anywhere in the place without steps, blind corners, bottlenecks full of other visitors, and so on. I hadn’t heard of the event before, and I am sad to hear about it now. I am all for suitable places having good, well attended races, if they help put somewhere on the map, assist its tourism effort, and bring in otherwise unobtainable revenue. But I reckon the Venice Marathon would do none of this. Hardly needs “putting on the map”, has tourism coming out of its ears, and, if word got out, I bet marathon day would be one to avoid Venice altogether. I sorely doubt more than a small percentage of the participants actually stay in the city. Thus, they probably bring no revenue to its hotels. Just like the cruise liners, in fact.
Rant over. Please don’t send me comments to say you’ve run the Venice Marathon and had a good time. I’m not doubting it would be fun, just doubting it is needed, and expressing the view that unleashing that volume of people on the place in one go is bad news.
I am off to Cortina d’Ampezzo, unofficial capital of the Dolomites, tomorrow. It’s somewhere I have spent some solid blocks of time in the past 25 years, and it will have a charm to me that will be out of all proportion to its size and modest facilities. At this time of year, it is going to have a definite “end of season” feel to it. I’m just hoping the same won’t be true of the weather.