#31,32,33 Venetian Lagoon – The end of the voyage

When I chose Venice as the final island of my journey, I didn’t know what to expect. I was frightened by how people describe it, a city turned into an amusement park which lost almost completely its identity.
My interest in Venice began to change when I came across my “deus ex machina” Marco (there were at least three “dii ex machina” in this adventure, all unforgettable), a wonderful, funny, crazy! guy with a huge sense of welcoming, who after a simple phone call had already arranged a dozen meetings with very interesting people. The interest grew even more when I discovered – and I was ashamed of my ignorance – that all the incredible Croatian coast, filled with thousands of islands, was all part of the Serenissima (the Venice Republic) in its time. Slowly the image of Venice as mistress of the seas and of the trades was building up in my mind, and I thought its legacy had to be still visible in the places and in the people too.

These five days in Venice have further stirred my ideas. In the first place, Venice doesn’t exist. Venice is the Lagoon. The Lagoon is an archipelago. And none of its islands makes sense by itself, extracted from the unique context of the Lagoon. The Venetians exist, they are smiling people, open towards each other and towards change, they are active. And then they’re island people, just like the others I’ve met! They could as well come from the South of Italy. And they’re scattered all over the Lagoon.

Maybe it’s the language – because when they speak dialect, and they speak it very much, I do not understand practically anything – maybe it’s because I come from a whole different part of Italy, but in the Lagoon I often felt like in a foreign country. Everything was new, all unknown, civic and community rules. Big time!

Davide had a great merit in changing my understanding of Venice.On his boat, half broken and beautiful, strictly made of wood, he took us to the cemetery. Yes, the cemetery. Which is an island, named San Michele. After waiting for a boat to dump the casket and walking between the graves suddenly a door opened, one from about a thousand years ago, and… a vineyard, in front of us there was a vineyard. Now, Davide is part of an association called “The Lagoon in the glass, the recovered vineyards”; they indeed recover small vineyards scattered across the Lagoon and produce wine, of course a little homemade, but what’s interesting is that they don’t sell it and rather prefer to drink it among Venetians under some pergonal on Sundays.
Then we went to discover the island of Sant’Erasmo, called the “garden of Venice” and the farm Da Gino e Inda owned by Michele and Giorgia. A couple who love working in the fields and recovering abused animals, and who love producing, children and vegetables. Fighting stubbornly against burocracy, which is an Italian plague. People so warm-hearted I honestly have known a few…

Then the story of La Certosa, another island. Ex-Military, ex-Industrial island abandoned for decades at only a few hundred meters from Venice. There Alberto Sonino, former world champion of sailing, oceanic sailor and much more, channeled passion and knowledge made during a life around the world with a purpose: give back an abandoned place to the city making it the yachting pole of the Lagoon. The fact is that today, after more than ten years, at La Certosa there is a cool Marina with a cute little hotel, an electric boat rental to explore Lagoon with no emissions, there are shipwrights building or restoring wooden boats, international conferences are held on the future of yachting, and so on. The project is called Vento Di Venezia, and Alberto is a person of extraordinary intelligence, the intelligence of those who are able to dream big and to achieve them dreams. Without even talking too much.

Finally two other formidable Venetian realities. The first is the “voga” (rowing), which for many here is a religion and is seen as a whole art which includes the construction of boats, peculiar as the lagoon where they sail. And so I met another great guy, Pietro Meneghin, whose job is “rémer”, that is, an artisan crafting oars and “fórcole” (the pieces where oars are places, which are actually objects of an impressive plastic beauty, worth to be exposed and admires for hours), and whose passion is rowing. We have heard him talk about Venice and his very delicate future, which should arise from a slow reinterpretation of the Lagoon, based on rowing or sailing, and from the regulation of a completely chaotic and sometimes harmful boat traffic that makes it one of the world’s most wavy seas.
The second reality is Cristina‘s splendid Mare di Carta bookshop (a sea of paper), one of the four bookshops about the sea in Italy. Her place is much more than a book shope: in Venice, it is a meeting point for the sea lovers and for the Venetians in general, a place where meeting up for an aperitivo, and a place where talking about healthy politics and the future is possible. Cristina is a volcano, a freediver and an unparalleled librarian, who made me think of other volcanoes, other freedivers, other booksellers I met during these months.

So here end islands. There aren’t anymore, even if I wished to. I’ve stripped maribelle of her vestments and I’m going to hide for a while in the island that I feel most as mine, Ustica.

The voyage is threfore over but not 33 Isole, which in fact is just in its early days. Now I wish I can return the people I have met, who are heroes to me, at least part of what they have given to me. The work on the documentary about the voyage and the people is about to start. It’ll take time, but… stay tuned!

 


Posted on: 28.Aug.2018   Leave a comment

#30 Grado – Departure

I already wrote much about Grado. My emotional introduction to the lagoon; Gianni Maran: artist who’s one of the most generous and talented persons I’ve ever met; an island, Grado, which is also a border to the Balkans, and which struggles as many others do to defend its identity against the jaws of tourism and modernity.

Time to set sail again, now. For the very last time. Another lagoon ahead, the Venetian one. I guess that for a moment it will resemble Itaca to me, or as more poetically the Greeks call it, Ithakí.

 


Posted on: 22.Aug.2018   Leave a comment

#30 Grado – Gianni’s fish

In Grado I met another special guy. Gianni Maran  is a staggering, profound, all-round artist who never takes himself too seriously (take a look at his website). But above all he’s a friend, capable of an extraordinary welcome to a perfect stranger like me who calls him from the sea only a few hours before arriving.

And then it becomes evident, once again, that in the North (this is the northernmost point of my journey) as well as in the South (well, I let you guess what the most southern point I have touched is), islands are the places of hospitality. Forever and ever.

 


Posted on: 21.Aug.2018   Leave a comment

#30 Grado – Arrival

Almost four days and a half, not bad to cover a distance of more than 300 nautical miles. Well, I guess, I think I dropped the sense of time and space off in some Croatian island where I wish I could have stopped. Actually, I hope I’ll never find it back…

Quite some things have happened since the departure from Tremiti! To start with, only a few miles away, I got myself into the second storm of the voyage – the first had been on the very first day, unforgettable, from Palermo to Ustica in the night. This time I saw it evolving, huge, between the Gargano and the region of Molise, and coming towards me. Thunders, lightnings, and then, while the sky was still clear above me, a crazy wind came all of a sudden! I even thought about lowering all sails, but then I only took a reef and I was right: pushed by the wind, I kept the storm astern and it eventually never rained on me!
Then the unexplainable charm of the Croatian islands. Billions of them, tiny, huge, elongated, rounded, all with such sweet skylines that it’s hard to believe that mother nature built them this way. Fuerhermore, while sailing along them, for at least a hundred miles the only sign of civilization were lighthouses.
Then, I can say I tasted Bora (strong winds falling down fast and cold from the Balkans into the Adriatic Sea). In the middle of Quarnaro (the bay separating the islands from the Istria peninsula), after sunset, I was floating windless when out of the blue a very strong gust of at least 20 knots pops up: the boat heels hard, I reach 6 knots hauling, and pof!, it’s gone! It all lasted 30 seconds at most.
And finally this incredible arrival in Grado, the canal entering downtown, and me I’m rather parked than moored, by the very sidewalk.

Out of the 2300 nautical miles of this trip, only 50 are left. We might have made it…

(Let’s add a quotation, too, to remember myself how important have Modest Mouse been along this voyage: “Rows of lights to illuminate lines / Why don’t they turn them off and let us see night?”, Modest Mouse – Ohio)

 


Posted on: 20.Aug.2018   Leave a comment

#29 Tremiti – Departure

I leave behind Tremiti too. Small rocks colonized by the Bourbons where people speak napolitan. The two main islands, one right in front of the other, are so different. San Domino, the largest, hasn’t got almost anything historical. Only small villas and touristic buildings, all rather recent, but merged within a pine forest and a surreal atmosphere half Croatian half from a wood in the Appennini. San Nicola, on the other hand, is a small jewel to be taken care of. A Cistercian abbey staring at the sea from above, with walls, cloisters, and a very nice little village.

I did one of my best dives ever with yet another great diving center, which has more of a big family than a diving center, actually. From the region of Marche in the Center of Italy, Tony – a unique guy with the gentlest heart – came here twenty years ago. Back in those days, he was a pioneer here, but how many thousands of people have dove with him since then? His sons, Luca and Gianmarco follow him with enthusiasm, and so the future becomes the present. Thank you for an unforgettable welcoming, Tremiti Diving Center, I felt at home with you.

Then I talked to he mayor, Antonio, full of ideas and initiatives that in my opinion point to the right direction. The first local law in Italy banning single-use plastics was recently approved here thanks to his engagement and the one from . Congratulations, but now it’s about having that law respected, thus changing people’s mind for real.

There have been storms, because of strong winds the rubber tube of the boat got pierced and was already repaired thanks to the solidarity of the people here, and there have been fireworks on a gray but not-so-hot day. Now the bow points to Croatia and we will follow its coast to the North all the way to Grado. 250 nautical miles and then only one leg will be left…

 


Posted on: 16.Aug.2018  
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