There are seventy-nine inflatable gates being built now in the lagoon’s entrance to the sea that are designed to protect the city from flooding in the future. The problem of flooding with tourists, of which I am obviously a part, is also a difficult problem. I have no solutions and would never deter anyone from visiting. But, I must admit I do have a problem with the huge cruise liners. The Venetians must have a real love-hate relationship with us. For the person who spray painted “Shoot the Tourists” in Cannaregio on the way to the Rialto it must be a hate-hate relationship. I have met some rather short-tempered people in Venice, but, for right or wrong, I generally find it easier to be tolerant of it in Venice.
I have come across some people in Bed and Breakfasts who were very short-tempered and a waiter who gave one woman out of a group eleven grief because she didn't order anything. The other ten did. But, no matter. On the other hand, there were the two elderly brothers who owned a restaurant who doted over my group of thirteen one evening. They were very impressed with and congratulated my son, then fourteen, on his gastronomic bravery and adventurousness. When the meal was over, because they knew we were almost all paying separately, (sorry, cringe, cringe) one of them went over to each of us in turn with an old adding machine, recounting what each of us had, printing out the total on the ribbon of paper and handing each one of us the bill with jokes, flirts and smiles. The two brothers have since retired and sold the restaurant, but small things like that are never forgotten.
My first time in Venice I was with my friend, Nora, a fellow grad student who had experience traveling through Europe before. We were both on a very limited budget and she always looked for fruit to keep her going; that and tonno tramezzini (tuna sandwiches). We found a fruit stand that belonged to a woman; one of those elderly, short Italian ladies who appear to be made of stone that one doesn’t mess with. These are the ladies that seem to be, quite possibly, the common denominator of all areas of Italy- north and south, tiny village or center of major city. Invariably dressed in black, they are usually seen carrying something- anything- as long as it is nearly the same weight as them. This great load, whenever possible, must also be carried up a long flight of stairs. Assistance is out of the question. Nora knew better, but forgot for a moment and reached out to touch a piece of fruit. With reflexes on a par with a holder of a karate black belt, the woman reached out, over the fruit, and slapped Nora firmly on the hand. I didn’t know before, but I warn my students now- point, but do not touch.