Last post, I announced the new anthology of stories by Venetians living through first the historic floods of last November and then the Covid-19 lockdown. Four of my favorite writers on Venice and Italy have shared these reviews of Venice Rising: Aqua Granda, Pandemic, Rebirth. I’ve already read the book countless times as I edited it, but these reviews make me want to read it again!
Venice Rising is a compilation of eye witness reports from Venetians who have experienced unprecedented challenges. With honesty and wisdom they write of their fears, resilience, and hope. After sustaining devastating flood damage and loss of tourism, Venice has been returned to her residents. It is time that we listen to them.
JoAnn Locktov, Bella Figura Publications
I loved Venice at first sight, but it wasn’t until I read Venice Rising that I truly appreciated –and fell in love with–Venetians. They are, as historian William Thayer observed a century ago, “magnificent by nature.”
In the last year Venice has reeled under two disasters: a devastating once-in-a-century flood and the coronavirus crisis that triggered a months-long lockdown. In Venice Rising, a mosaic of citizens—artisans, rowers, teachers, performers, shop owners, scions of its oldest families—present a first-hand view of their city as they had never seen it: deserted, silent, isolated, anxious yet at the same time never more beautiful or serene.
With intense emotion and eloquent words, these eyewitnesses take us inside a magical place, “a poem without words” that comforts, haunts, energizes and inspires them to overcome the nightmares of despair and fear with bigger dreams of a new future for Venice.
Venice Rising is a symphony of love, with many voices blending together to stir the soul just as deeply as their beloved hometown has for so many centuries.
Dianne Hales, author of La Bella Lingua, La Passione, and Mona Lisa
When Venice was at her most serenely beautiful, there was no one there to see her except the Venetians themselves. For ten terrifying, precious weeks, the Venetians got to know their city again. The pandemic emptied her of tourists, cruise ships, water traffic and waves. But the draining of Venice had already started four months earlier, with the aqua granda of November 2019 that plunged the city underwater and turned off her lights. Catastrophizing journalists made the world believe that the flood was permanent; tourists cancelled in droves. Venetians were still tending to the city’s physical and economic wounds when Covid-19 struck.
This book opens a window on the Venetian experience of living through the most searing months since Napoleon stamped out her Republic. In voice and image, we are let inside the drowned and locked-down city; the gondoliers trying to lasso a bucking boat in the vortex of the winds of November 12th; the antique dealer who feels responsible for the past and future lives of all the objects she imagines drowning; people gathering in thigh-boots outside flooded bars to sing the “Hymn to San Marco”; the discovery of two gondolas forced inside reception at the Hotel Danieli. Then there is the silence of the pandemic, punctuated only by church-bells: desperate thoughts of thousands of people struggling to breathe; ducks rambling down streets where tourists once loitered; gondoliers and lady-rowers delivering groceries to the needy; the Grand Canal a millpond reflecting the slow clouds.
In a city “naked without admirers,” a city resting from overtourism, there emerge new thoughts for a more mindful future. This timely and moving book is expertly curated by Kathleen Ann González, author of A Beautiful Woman in Venice.
Michelle Lovric, author of The Book of Human Skin, The Remedy, Carnevale
Whenever I start research for a book project, I always begin with primary sources—things written at the time. There’s nothing quite like hearing the voices and reading the words of people who’ve lived in a certain place and time, especially if they’ve endured a traumatic collective experience like war, natural disaster, or disease. As a student of Venetian history, I’m gratified that Kathleen Gonzalez has taken on the important task of capturing the first-hand stories of Venetians who’ve experienced the staggering challenges of 2019 and 2020 in their native city. In addition to giving hope to those of us who love Venice about the resilience of the city and of Venetians themselves, Venice Rising will also be an important source for those who want to understand our tumultuous times through the eyes of Venetians who experienced them.
—Laura Morelli, art historian and historical novelist