In Venice, everywhere is land’s end. Around each corner, water provides direct evidence of the absence of solid ground. Every step is bottomless.
But on Monday, we awoke to a deluge in this marvel of a city. Swelled by rain and the tide, the canals and the sea had flowed into the labyrinth of narrow streets, across the wide squares, under the elegant arcades. Minute by minute, the water was rising to levels the city hadn’t seen for more than 20 years.
We had a plane to catch, and to reach the airport, we had to get a water bus on the Grand Canal at the Rialto bridge. We had no choice but to wade out of our hotel and into the day, trash bags taped around our feet like knee-high galoshes.
The bags were good for a few minutes, but after less than 50 meters the icy water began to seep in. We rushed into a flooded shop that was selling makeshift boots (thick plastic bags with a hard plastic sole) created for tourists like us. The merchant was charging 12 euros a pair, but standing in 20 centimeters of water, we were in no position to argue.
On we went, past fellow tourists wearing contraptions like ours and Venetiens heading to work in waist-high boots, as garbage floated by and shopkeepers restocked merchandise on higher shelves. Church bells rang as ever and flood alarms sounded. Otherwise, there was nothing but flowing water.
Then the Grand Canal was in sight. We thought we had arrived. But between us and the platform where the water bus would arrive, there was a 10-meter-wide quai swelled by the overflowing canal. The water was clearly over our knees. The situation was clear: go and get wet, stay and don’t get wet. The desire to return home provided the necessary impetus: We went, wading into the flood, and in an instant our « boots » were filled and our jeans drenched.
We had surrendered to the obvious.
The water won, washing away our delusion of mastering it.
It made its point emphatically: Everything is ungovernable.