Monday, September 7

Travel in Italy: The good, the bad, the ugly

Francesca Maggi's...Strange But True!

Returning home to Rome from Venice yesterday, a very strange item caught my eye (and I don't mean one of the godawful exhibits from the Biennale): Since Venice seemed to have hit the trifecta what with the Regata Storica with the Corteo delle Barche Storiche, the Cinema Festival (with appearances by Nicolas Cage, George Clooney & even Michael Moore -- not that he's something to look at...but...) and the Biennale of Art, turns out that a number of additional trains were added to ease the pain of the journey. In fact, a friend most likely missed his train, but there were about 4 more shortly thereafter to choose from. So what's my beef?
These trains were paid for by the City of Venice and not quickly added because of a swift move by an astute business manager at Trenitalia. I know this should be an entry in my Business Weak column, but I just couldn't wait. Too bad the City probably doesn't make the money back on the train tickets.

There's been a lot of talk about the Vatican these days, but, what was really interesting, was the little piece of news this summer of the parish priest who went on a hunger strike in order to drum up parishioners.
Perhaps instead he should be looking at some outreach programs to actually attract his flock rather than doing the religious equivalent of sitting on a railroad track while hoping someone higher up solves the problem.

While in Milan, they continue their mad drive to brighten their image. Incredibly, even for a vocal non-smoker like me, the City has made a move to ban smoking in public parks. Whether this molto Big Brother move actually passes, I can't say, but...I think it's a bit over the top.

And finally, I finally got to see and use Venice's spanking new bridge over the Grand Canal! [that's because the boats were stopped due to the Regata...]. Stunningly designed by the sometimes-talented Santiago Calatrava, it was a sight to behold. It links the parking structure place (Piazzale Roma with it's dozens of bus lines and transporters) with the railway station. Calatrava obviously let the anti-luggage geniuses over at Trenitalia dictate the design -- for anyone who needs to schlep their luggage, or glide over on a wheelchair, just forget it. No center ramp easing your way up the incline for you. (just ask me or any Japanese tourist, who needs a sherpa when traveling).


Jacques said...

Where did you ever hear the term "Regata delle Barche Storiche"? In many years in Venice I have only ever heard "Regata Storica". There is the "Corteo Storico" which has the older, historically significant vessels, but the "Regata" part (which is the competitive race: the term is probably derived either from the starting formation or "riga", or the dialect term "aurigare", in Italian "gareggiare" meaning compete) is done using specially constructed racing vessels of various type and dimension, depending on the single race. None of the vessels is owned by the athletes: the individual teams are assigned to the color by a random drawing, and the color drawn, as well as the position in the starting formation can often have a significant impact on the results. The Regata is "Storica" in that it is one of the older and most eagerly anticipated of the competitive rowing season (there are many competitive and semi-competitive "regate", from the Epiphany to the Feast of St. Barbara) and is usually used is the one which defines who the "champions" are for the next year.

As to the new bridge, you might be curious to know it is to be closed on September 15 and 23 (two whole days) for maintanence work, since it seems to be "shifting", and will need to be closed periodically (every 6-12 months, supposedly) for "adjustments" of its position. This in addition to closure to replace broken glass steps, even though the bridge is subject to constant supervision by one or two teams of police, around the clock...

And after a year, the possibility for people in wheelchairs seems ever more distant, as the famous "ovovia" (literally egg-cage) doesn't seem to be ready, and no one knows why with all the fingers being pointed from one to another between design and construction and finishing materials... and when it *will* be attached and running, will take something like a quarter hour to cross the span, with the wheel chair and an companion closed inside.

Irreverent Italy said...

Whew! That was a mouthful! Yeah, I know...but if you google Regata delle Barche Storiche...which was what people were calling it....
You're absolutely right, of course. The Regata was one thing, the Corteo Storico another -- either way it was a wonderful time.

As for the bridge, it was completely under wraps, and I thought for sure it'd just been completed!

Meanwhile, I think you should write for Italian Notebook -- they could use your pearls of wisdom -- but in the meantime, I'm happy to receive them!!!

Grazie mille. FM

Anonymous said...

regatta: [Italian dialectal, a contention, regatta, from regattare, to contend, perhaps from recatare, to sell again, compete, from Vulgar Latin *recaptre, to contend : Latin re-, re- + Latin captre, to seek to catch, frequentative of capere, to seize; see catch.]

jacques said...

I have never heard anyone around here use that term, more commonly it is even shortened to just "la Storica", since at this time of year it is just something that is always there, everyone just getting back from August vacation, sort of how "La Biennale" refers only to the "Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte" (or Architecture in alternating years), even though the Biennale also runs the annual "Mostra del Cinema" and various other annual or biannual events like the "Biennale Danza" or "Biennale Teatro". And trying a quick Google, the only other site besides yours is in reference to a motorcycle tour of Ireland by some Italians. No big deal, it was clear enough, I was just mostly curious.

As to the bridge, all that scaffolding is the work for the addition of the "ovovia" for wheelchair transportation, which was started (the guide rails I think have been mounted already, but the "ovovia" is still in deep water, so to speak) but which no one knows when might be finished because of all the (expactable, to a reasonable person) "contenziosi" that have arrived from the last minute extra work and the extra costs that that kind of work inspires (kind of lick your radiator going out in the middle of a Nevada desert: "your stuck now, you want to pay it or not?").

jacques said...

what source did you use?
from Wikipedia (which, I know, is not necessarily authoritative, but in this case which corresponds to other, mostly probably undocumented stories I have read locally over a number of years):
Dato che le imbarcazioni alla partenza venivano allineate e disposte in riga, si può far derivare l'etimologia del termine regata proprio da questa particolare prassi. Un'etimologia diversa prevede invece l’origine del termine dal verbo aurigare (gareggiare), usato a Venezia per le gare in generale. Da Venezia il termine giunse quindi nei vocabolari europei per indicare tutte le competizioni su barche. Maybe the use of Venetian Dialect is a local "primping" by some others of the other "Repubbliche Marinare"? Another site for Italian etymologies has a number of alternatives, but not "recatare"... strange how a word so directly related to the Italian origin would show a different root in an English etymology. Again, I am mostly just curious as dialect, and especially Venetian dialect, is always fun to try and understand and relate to the rest of Italian and other seafaring pidgin influences like Portuguese, Spanish, and even English.

Irreverent Italy said...

I for one liked the Regata / Recattare association, esp. when one considers the bribes and other sinister happenings supposedly surrounding the various Palios around town!
[I don't quite believe it, these people jousting or riding for their Quartiere or dead serious]...
But, always a conspiracy theory...

Anonymous said...

Hi Jacques ! It was from the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. See for example:
Actually I find this discussion very interesting, thanks for bringing up these (obscure) etymologies!