Thursday, 6 March 2014


It sounded too good to be true.

A friend of a friend had a flat available for rent from early March. Near Rialto Mercato, overlooking the Grand Canal, private altana. 4+4 contract available, and no agent fees to pay. I looked at the photographs. It looked fantastic. But there was no way in hell we could afford this...surely...? Still, I mailed the owner and asked what the rent would be.

I blinked when I read her reply. This couldn't be true. How could you possibly rent a flat directly overlooking the Grand Canal for that much? Had she missed a zero off the end?

Neverthless, it seemed to be true. We had to wait an agonisingly long time to view it, but, finally, the existing tenants moved out, Caroline went along to take a look, and came back saying that - although completely unfurnished - it was also absolutely fantastic.

I ran through the figures. The rent seemed an incredible price for what it was, but still at the absolute upper limit of what we could afford. Then there'd be the cost of transporting our furniture and installing a new kitchen. It was more money than we should sensibly pay.

Yet, how could we not? A flat on the Grand Canal, at that price?

There was just one problem. The movida. Don't look this up in an Italian dictionary as it doesn't appear to exist, but the newspapers use it to describe giant pub crawls of young people moving from bar to bar late into the night. Campo Santa Margherita is the area most notoriously affected by the movida, but the areas round Piazzale Roma, Strada Nova and Rialto Mercato are also prone to it.

OK, this isn't a cemetery town (yet). Young people need a place to go, and in a city with only one nightclub (Piccolo Mondo, a place in which one of my students danced the night away in cheerful ignorance of an earthquake shaking the city outside) there have to be alternatives. But the problem with the movida is that the crowds spill out into the streets, where the combination of beery ranting and loud music blasting out from bars makes the area an absolute misery for those unfortunate enough to live in the vicinity.

Still. We've lived in Leith. How bad could it be? We'd set our hearts on the place, and I was due to go for a look around when the owner called to say she'd already let it.

We felt a bit crushed at first, until later that evening. We found ourselves walking home through Rialto Mercato, in the thick of the movida. It is almost impossible to describe just how ear-bleedingly noisy it was. Music hammered out from every conceivable space in an unholy cacophony, as the punters on the street bellowed themselves purple in a hopeless attempt to make themselves heard.

Conversation was impossible but, through the medium of sign language, I managed to ask Caroline if the flat was nearby. She pointed to an adjacent building, and a flat - three stories up - directly above the almighty row below. 

Ears ringing, we made our way home. Three nights of this every week? For the next four years? It had sounded too good to be true. It probably was.


  1. Maybe whoever has got the lease is regretting their "good luck" by now! Hello Philip. I recently started following your blog and have just finished your book. I enjoyed it a lot. I was in Venice for the first time at the end of last May attending the Italian language school in Campo San Stin in the morning and roaming the calli in the afternoon for 2 weeks. I did get to meet Bedwyr Williams at his exhibition. I look forward to reading more about your life in Venice.

    1. Hi Emma, welcome to the blog; and I'm delighted you enjoyed the book.

      I'm very jealous that you met the mighty Bedwyr!!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your search for an apartment with your readers. Very amusing and educating. I'm looking for a new place myself and think I've found one. But no contract is signed yet.

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