Through the labyrinth

The door slams as I step outside.
I close my eyes just for a second to recollect my thoughts.
The air smells like salt and it feels stifling, voices are filling every distance and the echoes bounce between the narrow sides of the calle. Each step I take is carefully weighed, the trajectory pondered anew, the speed variably adopted.
The game is to look ahead to find the perfect path through the labyrinth. I’m not tall enough to overlook it and the walls are constantly moving, reshaping the precarious space between my body and theirs, so the best thing to do is trying to recognize patterns, predict people’s behaviour, constantly adapt to the next scenario.
The mass of people is incessantly changing, sometimes it moves lively like a stream, sometimes it’s hiccupping like a tide, or just dead still like a swamp.
The only thing that’s for sure is that it’s always there before you arrive.
Shortcuts don’t exists, although there’s something similar: a plethora of surrounding little streets that are going to make your path longer, yes, but sometimes time is less valuable than stress relief.
It’s a Sunday afternoon and the summer is almost over, it might be the very last sunny weekend before the cold so I decide, whatever, I’m going to stroll towards Giudecca.
Walking through the crowds of tourists, different kinds of shops are appearing: they’re very ostentatious in the way they lure clients in.
They sell stuff.
It doesn’t really matter what they sell, and yet they’re always packed with people. All the streets that are conveying to the historical center are colonized by this calculated and normalized apparatus for entertainment.
The city center is saturated with odd franchise companies that are completely disconnected from the district needs.
That happens when urban planning and short sighted governments are working to benefit visiting consumers, not the people living in the city Although what’s in play is slightly different from the original gentrification concept, simply because this isn’t about re-evaluating a declining area – in this case the center is already the richest part of the city.
Real estate politics encourage “take the money and run” businesses. The speed at which they create and collect money is directly proportional to the catastrophe left behind.
By the time I arrive in Piazza San Marco a very particular symptom of the disaster emerges at the horizon over the rooftops and altanas: it’s a 15 floors floating palace cutting through a city in which usually buildings are not higher than 5 floors. Every day 2 of those are reaching the port altogether with more than 1 million and half tourists per year.
Business is great but there are so many downsides that in time this cannot be a sustainable economy for a city. It already happened a couple of times that cruise ships crashed on the fondamenta, luckily without causing any major damage. Nevertheless one of the most dangerous decisions by the government is to reroute the cruises over a different path, the old canale Vittorio Emanuele, threatening the unique lagoon flora and fauna ecosystems. After an overcrowded crossing by water bus, I finally arrived in Giudecca a little bit hungry. So I call a friend of mine who’s living on the island to get ideas where to eat something, and he told me there’s a restaurant serving very good and traditional food at a fair price.
Sounds nice.
‘They don’t have a menu tho, because it’s a bar’
‘And when the owner is taking your order, remember to talk in dialect …and you may want to say that we know each other’
So I found the place, and it was indeed a bar, with the fridge for the sodas and a little choice of tramezzini, coffee machine and that’s it. Anyway I sat down, no menu, I talked in dialect and I mentioned my friend.
That opened up to a recital of the secret menu; I ordered the lunch and I stayed for coffee, enjoying a conversation with the owner. He explained to me that dressing up the restaurant as a bar was working very well and that he could maintain his old clients without dealing with too many tourists.
That quiet subversive act made my day.