So I woke up early today (7am) and decided to go running. This is odd because I dont run, I dont like to run and I dont ever think about running. But I went. Not only did I run, but I ran up and down the Rialto Bridge (2X!)...for those of you who have been here or seen pics, its a BIG bridge and all steps. But as if that wasnt enough, I decided to run on over to St. Marks and check it out in the morning before all the crowds. I imagine its about 1/2 mile from A to B directly but since it is impossible to go directly in this city, lets just say I ran more than that (not to mention the countless other bridges I had to go over). I felt pretty good about the whole thing but not sure this is going to become a regular event for me.
And I figured running would be the highlight of my story today but I was wrong. After getting showered and ready for my daily walk, I decided to head over to my favorite church for a bit. There are a gazillion churches here and all unique, but for some reason I am really drawn to San Zaccaria. And, its not exactly close to my apartment, so the walk is always good.
Anyway, I stumbled over there and was greeted by the ending of a Catholic funeral in the church. Obviously not dressed for the occasion (it's 86 degrees and humid today so I am scantily clad for church services), I stood outside. And not wanting to be an ambulance chaser, I tried to look inconspicuous as I waited for what was next. Sorry but the novelty and curiousity of it all got to me! The pallbearers were 4 guys in navy blue pants and short sleeved light blue shirts. Quite frankly, they looked like they were either homeless or out partying all night. As everyone left the church, they pushed the casket on this really large flat dolly through the tiny streets of Venice toward the water. The processional was led by the priest in all his garb and for the most part, people got out of the way. Once they arrived at the water, this boat pulled up--it was similiar to a private taxi water boat but had been made to look like the back of hearse on the back half of it. They pushed the dolly/casket up to the edge of the water. One of the pallbearers cell phone rang--the humor is not lost on me...cells phone are like water and bread to the Italians...they can't live a moment without one attached to their ear. He answered it and then apparently explained he was busy and hung up! So, now 3 of the pallbears lift the casket and hold it while the other pallbearer and the boat driver pick up this huge dolley and put in the boat. The the 4th guy goes back and they all put the casket on the boat...this truly isnt an easy process and watching it is amazing. The priest did some more priestly things and then people started hugging and kissing, etc. Finally, the immediate family was helped onto the boat and they took off for San Michele--that's the island where they bury the dead in Venice....but only natives. If you die here and want to be buried here, too bad..no room.
I was told that 10 years ago, Venice had about 130,000 natives living here. Today, there are about 75,000. At that rate, in another decade, Venice will be nothing more than tourists and transplants. Very sad thought. And today, Venice is one person smaller. May she rest in peace.