In the summer of 1575 a terrible plague struck Venice. In an attempt to limit the spread of the contamination, the city’s leaders ordered persons suspected of harbouring the infection to ‘isolate’ for forty days on the lagoon island of Lazzaretto. These ‘quaranta’ days being the origin of the term quarantine, which has been such a part of our everyday vocabulary due to the current pandemic.
Lent came early to Venice this year with the cancellation of Carnevale, plunging the city into a winter solitude that it usually only experiences late November and early January – months of meager tourism when the city returns to the Venetians, who walk the deserted calli and campi accompanied only by the omnipresent pigeons.
Photo credit: Giulia Brochetto, Country Director TERRAEVENTS Italy
A melancholy charm enfolded the city, bereft of the lights of the grand hotels, historic cafés of Piazza San Marco, the bars, the restaurants and the boats. With lockdown, Venice came to a grinding halt – its waterways ominously quiet, disturbed only by the echo of lone footsteps, the gentle lapping of the canal waters, voices lowered to suit a mood so different to that of just a few months ago. This was a moment frozen in time when the combination of architecture, water, space, light and colour could be seen like never before. For just a few months this city saw a truce in its constant battle with the consequences of the hoards of tourists which determine both its economic and ecological future.