In principle Venice would make the perfect automobile town. With a bit of draining the city could be turned dry without difficulty; with some iron its canals could be converted into neat little streets and the Grand Canal into a grand eight-lane motorway, at the very least. Down the centuries two types of extensive and autonomous local transport systems have been developed in Venice for both moving over land and over water – and if we were to hold on to these old ways of transport it would be an enormous relief for motorists, who are terribly harassed in the big cities of our planet. You could finally step on the gas without fearing the prospect of a pedestrian suddenly diving in front of your vehicle – with big eyes and small chance of survival. Instead of using the Vaporetti (boats), which disturb the tranquility of the waters with their noisy rituals, one could use the quiet buses that transport the visitor in just five minutes from the train station to Salute.
There is no doubt a certain charm when gondolas sway in the waves before San Marco and the foamy waters spray over the black lacquer of the boats. But wouldn’t it be equally appealing if there were night-blue limousines parked at the place – BMWs with hybrid fittings and Cabrios with calf-leather seats? Of course, when moonlight creates a glow over the waters before the Accademia and the voices of muscular gondoliers intone «O sole mio» the scene holds an operatic magic – but wouldn’t it be gorgeous, too, if the moonshine were to light up a Alfa Romeo with pure sugar trickling out of its open windows?
One would do well to contemplate on whether the vast quantity of water in this town does it any good. Its buildings would certainly smell less rotten and emit less gas if they weren’t constantly washed by the slimy brine of the lagoons. And if one only noticed how hard the local municipal workers struggle to remove the town’s garbage by boat, one would overcome one’s doubts, doubts about the sense of this whole water drama. And, if one has ever suffered a bout of fish poisoning here one would quickly understand how difficult it is for a nurse working on an ambulance-boat, constantly rocked by the harsh waves and sprays of the lagoon, to even do something as simple as to find one’s vein for an injection.
Naturally, there are tourists who make a pilgrimage to Venice with great expectations of experiencing a grand water romance and, as such, see only beauty in the omnipresent decay of the place – and, what’s more, consider it a unique Venetian asset. However, given that these masses traverse the same paths all the time, it would be sufficient to retain a couple of technologically well-equipped (but otherwise meaningless) side canals for their benefit. The gondoliers could be transformed at very little expense into street guides; their gestures would remain quite the same. And, pray, why shouldn’t street guides also sing passionate, poignant songs?
First Publication: 8-9-2011
Modifications: 17-2-2012, 20-6-2013