SBS is screening a great series on Venice. Venice 24/7. Wednesday night at 8.30pm it covers the daily workings of the Fire, Police and Medical crews who provide support to the inhabitants of this unique city.
The episode I watched last night had a focus on the recent visit of Pope Benedict XVI. With 100 churches in a three mile radius, this was always going to be a major logistical challenge. 2000 security personnel have been appointed to deal with the planning and implementation of the visit, in addition to the Vaticans own securi forces who travel with the Pope. Large crowds are expected within Piazza San Marco, the main destination point for the Pontif and his entourage.
Not unexpectedly the key risk for events of this scale is " people falling into the water". It is the Fire Crews who respond to these emergencies and rescue people from the canals and waterways. They even undertake rigorous training to learn how to deal with exactly these situations.
Giancarlo, Franco and Bruno are three of the four gondoliers selected to transport the Pontiff by boat. The selection process is extreme with a panel appointed to determine which of the hundreds of applicants will be selected for such an honour. The guys get together to discuss whether it is an option to "go slower so that they get to spend more time with the Pope". The men raise their oars in the traditional salute, and then receive a blessing from the Pope by way of thanks. It is evident this is a big moment for each of the men. Resplendent in specially designed new uniforms they are beaming with pleasure.
Having now had the pleasure of zipping around in a golf buggy at Hamilton Island, I was amused to see that Pope Benedict's special transport for his visit was a custom made six seat buggy (officially known as a Pope mobile) with special police driver. This driver too practice travelling the route across Piazza San Marco to check for time frames and stability of the vehicle on the paving stones. God forbid we're the Pontiff to be shaken around at all.
Funnily enough the Doges Palace was converted to a modern medical facility to act as a mobile field hospital to deal with medical emergencies within the crowds but simultaneously acted as the overnight accommodation for Pope Benedict. Hopefully not in triage, but in a separate palatial wing.
Next focus was planning for the Venice Biennale with pop up art galleries in houses, churches and moorings. A six month celebration of modern art that takes over Venice every two years. Again, the logistics are incredible and interesting to follow as they show the installation of Jan Favre's Pietas's at Scuola de Misercordia in Cannareggio. The same area that Orsoni is situated and whose streets we walked so recently.
Then similar coverage of the installation of Anish Kapoor's Ascension in San Giorgio Maggiore, a Palladian designed church where I first experienced Gregorian chanting.
By the time they showed a gas leak in Calle del Fumo I was literally bouncing off the couch. This is the street that the incredible glass master Vittorio Costantini has his workshop in! Having just been to see him, exploring Venice, breathing her scents and absorbing all this incredible city has to offer it was inspiring to see it all again so soon. Right in front of me, but just out of reach.
As for next weeks episode? It looks at how the city deals with continually rising waters as the city itself sinks. Aqua alto here I come!