A small taste of freedom

Two days ago I went to buy a newspaper, a sandwich and a book. Things that would have seemed banal at the beginning of March now seem like a bit of a privilege. I needed to stretch my legs and so I walked along the Zattere to what passes for Walter’s edicola these days. You might have heard about Walter. His newspaper kiosk was washed away into the Giudecca canal by the acqua grande last November. It’s since been recovered but, until it’s properly patched up again, Walter’s operating out of a space belonging to the church of the Gesuati on the Zattere.

I stop by Al Bottegon to pick us up a couple of panini for lunch. They’re famous for some of the best cicheti in Venice, and do some of the best filled rolls as well. Getting to the bar is usually akin to a contact sport, but there are no such problems today. The floor is marked out with tape, indicating the obligatory 1m of distance, but the bar is quiet anyway. It would be nice to stop and have a drink, but Caroline isn’t with me and I don’t think it would seem quite right. The first drink outside our apartment in ten weeks is something, I think, we really need to do together…

Libreria Toletta is the largest bookshop in this part of town. They’ve never stocked my books, but I forgive them (it’s an issue with the Italian distribution system, and there’s nothing they can do about it), and so I think it would be nice to stop off and browse. One door has been marked out as a dedicated entrance, the other as the exit. There are no formal restrictions on numbers, just a request to be patient and respectful. In the event, there is just one other customer. We dance our way around each other, leafing through books as best we can in our thin latex gloves, always mindful of maintaining a minimum distance from each other. I buy a book by Gianrico Carofiglio that I haven’t read – I don’t know why, but there’s always a book by Gianrico Carofiglio that I haven’t read – pay (contactless, of course) and make my way home along a not-quite-deserted Calle Lunga.

That evening we go out with a friend, for a Spritz at Nico’s on the Zattere. It’s a slightly odd feeling. Everything feels normal and yet – like everything else today – anything but normal. We are at liberty to remove our masks. The waiter, however, is not, which makes conversation between us feel just a little awkward, unequal. A family of five are seated on the adjacent table, positioned, of course, exactly one metre away. The three little girls wander just a little bit too close to us, and mamma arrives quickly to chivvy them back to their seats. Most of the customers unmask as soon as they sit down, other stay masked as long as they possibly can. Everybody, evidently, is having a good time, enjoying the early evening summer sun in that blessed period before it becomes too hot. And yet, it’s evident that things are not quite as they should be.

That’s to be expected, of course. Things don’t feel normal. Not yet. That’s going to take some time. But things are, perhaps, normal enough for now. And that’s enough to be going on with.

And it was also a hell of a good spritz.



18 thoughts on “A small taste of freedom

  1. Thank you for this. I’ve been going to Venice fir decades and know this part so well, it’s like a friend writing About another friend.


  2. Love this….brilliant Philip.
    You hit the nail on the head fair and square..
    We should have been in Treviso this week for a friend’s 7that birthday..
    Onward and upwards..


  3. Interesting take on life coming out of lockdown. Looking forward to our baby steps in Scotland. Just finished Venetian Gothic – a great piece of escapism during these times.
    Best wishes to you and Caroline.
    Mike & Irene


  4. I’ve got that latest one on order … but it’s coming carried by a snail, I think, I ordered it last week. Can’t wait


    1. Really enjoyed it – starting right from the comments on the Art in Ca’Segrado! I started to suspect that a missing person might be a certain person, but not too soon. Poor, poor cat – not word on how well it recovered (lots of treats, I hope?).
      Seriously, thank you for yet another entertaining, swift-flowing read that led me yet again through so many parts of Venice that I really NEED to return to!


      1. Thank you Ella! Gramsci was fine…the last we see of him, of course, is him sitting on Nathan’s chest and purring with Bad Intent!

        So pleased you enjoyed it, and that it won’t be too long until you’re able to return to Venice.


  5. I hope things continue to get back to normal for you, Philip; here in the Torbay, Devon, i’m still in ‘shielding’ mode, but we do manage to get our for walks in our lovely corner of the South West.
    I am currently reading your latest Nathan novel, Venetian Gothic, and I’m trying to read SLOWLY because I expect it will be a while before his next adventure, but oh, I am so very much enjoying it (as I did the previous three). I’ve never been to Venice, not even to Italy, but you bring it alive for me and the small map certainly helps. Having read the previous comments, I dread to think what fate has befallen Gramsci, but at least you have said that he “was fine”. He is part of the on-going Nathan/Fede saga, the books need Gramsci as much as they need Nathan!
    All good wishes from Devon,
    Margaret P


  6. Hello Margaret, thanks for writing. Things are on the up here at last, and there’s a relative sense of normality although it’s going to take some time until things feel as if they’re properly back to normal. It’s funny how you just adjust to things. I’m very glad you’re able to get out for a walk at least!

    Glad you’re enjoying ‘Gothic.’ There’ll be another book next April 1st so, yes, I’m afraid it’s a bit of a wait!

    As for Gramsci…well, do keep in mind that he seems to be by far the most popular character in the books…!

    All good wishes, Philip


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