From our own correspondent
Fancy moving to Venice? Four weeks in, St Peter’s regulars Fiona and Steve Hay describe how their year in La Serenissima is going so far.
To our dear friends and fellow worshippers at St Peter’s,
It’s just over a month since we left England and embarked on our year-long adventure in Venice. We arrived at the best possible time, when the Venetians have reclaimed their wonderful city from the hordes of tourists who will flock here later in the year.
We had a week or so to settle into our new life before the start of Carnevale, a two or three week period in the run up to Lent when the locals, and visitors, cast aside their everyday attire, abandon their inhibitions and take to wearing masks, feathers, period dress or just about anything else that takes their fancy. It’s quite surreal to find oneself queuing behind Casanova or some Doge dressed in his finery at the supermarket checkout. On another occasion we found ourselves rubbing shoulders at a pop concert in St Mark’s Square with three young women dressed as giant penises. There were originally four of them but one had suffered a catastrophic deflation while dancing to a rendition of Village People’s YMCA. All of which sums up the collective madness that takes hold during Carnevale. It is, if nothing else, an inclusive event when just about anything goes.
There are many guidebooks about Venice, but few, if any, mention St George’s Anglican Church. Situated close to the Accademia Bridge in the Dorsoduro, the building is very plain by Venetian standards, and the inside too lacks the awe-inspiring artwork which adorns almost all the city’s other churches. But the small group of people who struggle to keep the church going are truly admirable. Like Venice itself, they face a valiant battle to keep their heads above water. The Chaplain there, the Revd Canon Malcolm Bradshaw, is a veritable star who has the difficult task of running his church while in semi-retirement. It’s a full time job for someone who’s only supposed to work a two-day week. He has some connection to St Peter’s in that he’s an old friend of Bishop Edward.
The permanent congregation probably numbers fewer than a dozen. That’s not to say that the church is empty. As the only English-speaking church in Venice, it attracts many visitors and numbers are further boosted by the arrival of the “swallows” – those who have second homes in Venice and come for the occasional extended holiday. But such is the small number Malcolm can rely on for support that on only our second visit, Fiona took on the role of steward, and on our third, Steve was asked to read a lesson. We will be forever grateful to them for their warm welcome. The Sunday service is always followed by a glass of prosecco instead of coffee at the back of the church, and invariably we regulars all head off to a nearby trattoria for lunch.
It was through our connection to St George’s, that we were able to attend an ecumenical service at St Mark’s Basilica. It was a wonderful occasion even though we had to sit through not one, but two lengthy sermons delivered in Italian by the Patriarch of Venice and a representative from the Lutheran Church. Not surprisingly our minds drifted as our attention was grabbed by the Basilica’s stunning interior.
Our pace of life here is very easygoing. We set ourselves an objective each day of seeking out a piece of artwork or building that we want to explore and learn more about. A highlight thus far has been Bellini’s fabulous altarpiece in San Zaccaria. We have also joined an Anglo-Italian society, the Circolo Italo-Britannico which meets weekly to listen to a guest speaker. One of the more interesting talks was about death in Venice in the 15th to 17th centuries.
Much of our daily routine is centred on food. Fiona is in raptures during our frequent visits to Venice’s great culinary cathedral, the fish market by the Rialto. We’ve estimated that if we were to buy a different type of fish every day during our year here, there would be many others that we wouldn’t get to sample. From the fruit and veg market, we try to buy only what is in season, at the moment Sicilian blood oranges which we use every day to make freshly squeezed juice.
Our Italian is currently woeful, so this week we start a ten-week course to learn the language. Hopefully this will avoid a repeat of the time we went into a butchers to buy a chicken, only to walk out with a recently skinned rabbit.
We hope all is well at St Peter’s. We are still avid readers of Pew News and are sorry to miss the chocolate tasting and the annual quiz night. Anyone visiting Venice is welcome to drop us a line and we’d be more than happy to meet up.
With lots of love,
Fiona & Steve