The siren sounded at four o’clock in the afternoon: an ascending four-note melody in a minor key spread across the city, warning of an imminent flood of more than 140 cm. The Rialto became a stampede of umbrellas and barging limbs. An hour later, the water started to seep through the door of my ground-floor flat. The barricade provided by the landlord was breaching grey liquid. My partner threw down newspaper in the entrance hall to block the leak. I was stationed in the bathroom, tasked with bailing out the toilet bowl and shower, both filling up with the dirty, salty fluid. I ladled the stuff out the window with a kitchen pot. At last, after a couple of hours, the water level began to drop. I wandered out into the dark street, the lagoon still brushing against my knees, and prepared for another week of it.
The Venice Film Festival still trades on its glamorous reputation, but the truth is a little more tawdry. The Lido’s legendary Grand Hôtel des Bains, where until recently stars would lounge on the verandas, is now boarded up, pending refurbishment as luxury apartments. The festival itself takes place in a decidedly unswanky enclosed compound, much of it sectioned off as a building project in never-ending progress. Nevertheless Venice sustains its prestige through stars.