So the good news is that we are in Venice. The bad news: when I check the weather forecast Monday afternoon I receive quite a shock. The five day forecast has a solid block of rain slated for Venice, with the possibility of thunderstorms on Wednesday and Thursday. I have been counting on great weather to acquire some lovely, Venetian color, but it would appear that the weatherman has something else in mind. Clearly a mental realignment of photographic priorities is called for. Rather than glorious Fuji Velvia 50 shots, awash in autumnal Venetian tones, I shall have to concentrate on monochromatic Venice – a black and white, true and false color scheme.
6:00 AM and I am down skulking around the Piazza San Marco. As the sky brightens, I am delighted to see the AMAV workers materialize and begin setting up the elevated walkways that have been stacked neatly in front of Basilica San Marco. This can only mean one thing: an Acqua Alta―high tide―is imminent. Normally the AMAV (Azienda Multiservizio Ambientale Venezia) is responsible for garbage collection. They sweep the streets and piazzas, push garbage carts through the calli, and drive the garbage boats. But when an Acqua Alta is on the way, they lay out the elevated walkways that allow people to get around low-lying parts of the city. The walkways stand about a meter off the ground and are much narrower than I'd anticipated.
This was exciting news. I spoke briefly with one of the workers and asked him in my pidgin Italian when the high water was expected. He explained that the maximum would strike around 10:00, with Piazza San Marco filling from around 9:00. Naturally I immediately rushed home to wake the women: Acqua Alta! Better than Christmas.
While I think they shared this sentiment, they were not able to get ready quickly enough to suit my tastes, so I rushed back to the Piazza San Marco without them. I took up a station at the west end of the Piazza and snapped away as the water bubbled up through the drains and began to fill the square.
Piazza San Marco is a place where you are rarely truly alone. Why I was just sitting there snapping away with the camera, when suddenly a great flood of high school students poured out from beneath the entrance to the museum. It was a protest. They had even brought their own portable sound system. Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's prime minister, is instituting tough new policies for the students such as having to wear school uniforms, attending class, that sort of thing. The students, all over Italy, are infuriated by these unreasonable measures and they have been protesting regularly. The day before we arrived, the Venetian students had besieged Rialto Bridge, and today they had chosen to claim some of the vanishing dry ground in Piazzo San Marco.
Well, they were loud, noisy, overstimulated, and getting in the way of my scenic view. I was cross. After working out that they weren't going to go march away somewhere, I picked up my gear and went off in search of a quieter spot. Jammed between daytrippers and students. What an unpleasant position.
All good things (except student demonstrations) do come to an end, and a little after 10:00, I noticed that the water over the drains had ceased to bubble. The tide had passed its maximum and was slipping back out to the sea. Feeling I'd done everything possible in the Piazza San Marco, I headed back to the flat.
In the afternoon we rallied and headed out under dull grey skies to visit the Jewish Ghetto. The Ghetto is northwest of our flat. It was the first Jewish ghetto to be established in Europe and draws its name from the Venetian word geto or iron foundry, which existed prior to the land being given to the Jewish community. The area had a drawbridge which was pulled up every evening at curfew. While this may sound harsh, it did offer the Jews a measure of protection from their anti-Semitic neighbors.
The segregation of the Jews in the Ghetto ended in 1866, when they were granted full rights as Venetian citizens and allowed to live wherever they liked. Today the community is a small one; as we stroll through both the old and new ghettos, there don't seem to be many people (other than tourists) around. Even the shops are sparse and few.
We take a quick walk through the Jewish museum, which doesn't have much to offer: a room full of ceremonial metal objects, lavers, Torah scroll ends, and oil lamps. Another room has some tapestries, and that is about it.
After we finish in the Ghetto, the girls head back for the flat while I press on, shooting under an umbrella. The predicted rain has begun to fall. It isn't that easy juggling camera, tripod, and umbrella, but I still manage a few shots before darkness drives me home.