By Hannah Norman

There is no-one out there…. but Happy Birthday to Venice.

Image courtesy of Marco Secchi

RMG PR has always been connected to the spirit of Venice, celebrating its traditional crafts and the people who practise them. Our press trips to the city have always tried to steer away from the more obvious tourist offerings, in order to show something more akin to the “real” Venice, the Venice that the city’s residents know and love.

According to the legends of old, Venice was first founded on 25th March 421 AD. In that time, this beautiful island city has survived numerous wars, floods, plagues, and power shifts. It has also been the centre of trade, commerce and business creation, with many merchant trade routes spanning from the city right across the globe.  

The “Mude” – The trade routes of Venice. Image courtesy of The Merchant of Venice.

More recently, Venice has been regularly featured in the news for the impact that global warming – and subsequently its effect on the Venetian tidal waters – is having on the city’s very foundations, and the efforts (or lack thereof) that have gone into providing citywide flood defence.  

Through it all, however, the Venetian people have emerged as remarkable, resilient and resolute. But on a day when the city should be celebrating its 1599th anniversary, there is hardly a soul to be seen on its usually busy streets.

Image courtesy of Rosalind Milani Gallieni

As the world is suffering the affects from the coronavirus pandemic, many governments are instructing their citizens to go into lockdown – Italy included. As a consequence, the streets of Venice are largely silent as residents respect the restrictions and forgo frivolous trips outside for the safety of the wider population – the canals are silent, people speak to one another from window to window in the Calli, taxi-boats and vaporetti are not swishing up and down the lagoon churning up the silt and there are reports that you can see the resident fish merrily enjoying clear waters. Humanity clearly can make a difference – but it took a pandemic to see what we can actually do.

Steps leading down from houses no longer descend into a murky abyss, and instead they can be counted right to the bottom of the canals into which they have been built. The absence of the motorboats has also meant that there are no waves breaking across the service of the canals – instead, gentle, natural ripples in the water have replaced them.

Image courtesy of Ricardo Gomez Angel

These stories of hope and beauty are emerging all around the world, in the face of these challenging times. The eternal value of beauty and human community are concepts that many now are rediscovering, and the value behind these sentiments is starting to ring very true.

Over 1500 miles away in Russia, in his 19th century novel The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote that: “beauty will save the world.” Less a flippant comment and more a profound and philosophical understanding of the power of appreciating beauty (and by extension, truth), the quote attributed to the novel’s protagonist is perhaps one we would all do well to heed – and it seems that Venetians are indeed doing just that.

Image courtesy of Rosalind Milani Gallieni

Yes, the 25th March might be the date of Venice’s birth.   But perhaps 2020 will show that it is also the date of the city’s rebirth. The one common thread in most of the coronavirus-related correspondences we have been receiving lately all state the same stoic message – this, too, shall pass – and Venice shall surely emerge from this as a phoenix, as resilient and as remarkable as ever. There will always be a bit of our heart in La Serenissima, but not just because of its visual beauty. It is the beauty of the Venetian spirit, as intangible as the very concept of beauty itself, that will always continue to draw us in.

And so we’re already looking forward to celebrating the city’s 1600th anniversary in 2021. In the intervening year, perhaps we will all be able to see the power of beauty, of being more considerate to our fellow man – in short, the power of hope. Tanti auguri at te, Venetia.

See a live webcam of the Rialto Bridge here.