Venice Rising: Aqua Granda, Pandemic, Rebirth

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KATHLEEN'S STORY:

I started out as a teacher but was surprised to find that I was a writer and dancer as well. While I spend most of each year trying to infect teenagers with my great enthusiasm for literature and writing, I still squeeze in time to research and write. My particular interest in Venice has led me to research and write a number of books about the city and its people.

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ROSEMARY'S STORY:

As a keen photographer, I was first drawn to Venice over 30 years ago and loved it so much I simply had to return. In June 2000 we renewed our vows at St George's church in Dosoduro for our silver wedding anniversary and a family tradition was born. My younger daughter was married at Palazzo Zenobio and we've spent every significant birthday and anniversary since celebrating in this magical city.

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Kathleen Ann González

Editor

When a spectacular full double rainbow stretched its arc over Venice in April of 2020, people broke into joyous smiles and felt their hearts expand with hope.


More than one friend in Venice sent me a photo of that rainbow, and even from as far away as my home in California, I felt that rainbow’s message enter my heart. I had followed the dark days of the November 2019 aqua granda, understanding its disastrous impact so similar to the 1966 high water. And then in the spring, as we learned more about the developing Covid-19 pandemic, my heart ached for the losses Venice was sustaining, the privations of its citizens, and my own sadness at cancelling my annual summer visit.


When Rosemary suggested collecting the stories of people who lived in Venice through the aqua granda and the pandemic, I initially envisioned a darker book, a book full of woe and loss and dismay. How can we contemplate a spritz with friends when the osterie are closed and everyone is masked? When people are unemployed, their houses and shops damaged, and they must stay apart for everyone's safety? Alas, I underestimated these Venetians.


Venice has survived other plagues and floods and would survive this one, too. I began receiving stories of disbelief at the wind’s strength and tide’s destruction, of areas so flooded that streets and canals became one, of hip boots and sirens. Then stories of looking longingly at empty campi, at endless days trapped indoors, at fear for the loss of traditional arts and the patrons who support them. Each story started in this way but then turned—to hope.


Hope for a fresh look at the tourism industry. Hope for gathering with friends once again. Hope for creating new ways to live together and support the arts and envision a Venice that could thrive anew. Some wrote of an almost mystical love or ethereal philosophy evoked by the dramatic events they have lived through. And all wrote with determination and new dreams.

Kathleen Ann González has published with various periodicals and has stories in three anthologies and a textbook. She has independently-published five books: A Beautiful Woman in Venice, Seductive Venice: In Casanova’s Footsteps, Free Gondola Ride, A Small Candle, and First Spritz Is Free.

Discover more about Kathleen and her books on her website >>

Kathleen in her beloved Venice.

The authors who have shared their writing with you do so for their love of Venice. All proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to organisations that support Venetian culture, arts, and architecture: We are here Venice, No Grandi Navi, and Venice Calls, organisations born in Venice and run by locals. 

Read how Kathleen first fell in love with Venice in this short excerpt from "First Spritz is Free"

Rosemary Wilmot

Photographer and lover of all things Venetian

In 2015 I first became aware of Kathleen González after finding her interview with Manuel Carrión, an artist on Giudecca island in Venice. I read her books and just loved them. In 2018 after reading First Spritz is Free: Confessions of Venice Addicts, I was hooked on this style of writing; the chapters in this book by writers of all walks of life in Venice and beyond its shores were just amazing. I wrote to Kathleen and asked her if she had any plans to publish another Spritz anthology, but at that point in time she had no plans to do so.


Fast forward to 12th November 2019. I became aware that Venice was expecting a very high acqua alta and scirocco winds blowing at over 100km an hour. Friends of ours who live in Venice were telling us of increasing problems with flooding, and the predictions from the Comune were rising higher and higher all the time. Apparently the sirens kept going, indicating a very big problem.


Knowing people personally involved makes a huge difference to your understanding. I stayed up late that night messaging friends to see how they were. Some, of course, did not reply until the morning; some were writing after they had cleaned up the best they could. Many of their voices are in here, and I am so happy to have them share their
experiences.


Then Covid-19 struck and literally tore the economic heart out of
Venice, a real tragedy of something never seen in our lifetime. I was sitting at home one evening thinking about what I was seeing. Many people were writing their thoughts and feelings: first Aqua Granda, now Covid-19. I was seeing heartbreaking and wonderful stories of people’s lives and then I thought, “Kathleen, now is the time! We need to capture these stories, thoughts, and feelings while they are fresh in people’s minds and hearts”.


Kathleen loved the idea, and we started to gather wonderful essays for this project. The stories are amazing and give us hope and inspiration. This book is heartwarming and we think you'll love it. Come on in and enjoy!

Enjoying a prosecco and an Aperol spritz. Rosemary (left) with fellow contributor Graziella.

We are all living through history. Venice is unique in its Aqua Granda, but combined with a virus pandemic - could this be the rebirth that Venice has been waiting for?

"When I happened to come across Kathy's interview of Manuel Carríon, little did I realise how much that one piece would change our lives.  Through this we have met so many wonderful Venetians who we are proud to call our friends - they make our lives more special and I cannot wait to return. I studied photography for 6 years and have always loved it. And what better place to take stunning photos than our beloved Venice?"

Photo credit: main photo top © Rosemary Wilmot

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