I fell in love with Venice at first sight. This luminous collection of first-person accounts of the past year made me fall in love with the Venetians — “magnificent by nature,” as a historian once put it.

A guest post by Kathleen Ann Gonzalez

When a spectacular full double rainbow stretched its arc over Venice in April of 2020, people broke into joyous smiles and felt their hearts expand with hope. Even from as far away as California, I felt that rainbow’s message enter my heart.

I had followed the dark days of the November 2019 aqua granda, a Venetian term for the once-in-a-century flood. And then in the Spring, as we learned more about the developing Covid-19 pandemic, my heart ached for Venice, the privations of its citizens and my own sadness at canceling my annual summer visit. My personal loss, though acute, was dwarfed by the loss of liberties and health for Venetians and the loss to the city’s businesses, craftspeople and artistic life.

While compiling First Spritz Is Free: Confessions of Venice Addicts, I reveled in the contributors’ paeans to Venice—their childhood memories, their joyful experiences, their swelling hearts full of love for this watery city. When Venetophile Rosemary Wilmot suggested collecting the stories of people who lived in Venice through the aqua granda and the pandemic, I initially envisioned a darker book, full of woe and loss and dismay.

I underestimated the Venetians.

I began receiving stories of disbelief at the wind’s strength and tide’s destruction, of areas so flooded that streets and canals became one. Then stories of looking longingly at empty campi, of endless days trapped indoors, of fear for the loss of traditional arts and the patrons who support them.

Each story started in this way but then turned—to hope. Hope for a fresh look at the tourism industry. Hope for gathering with friends once again. Hope for creating new ways to live together and for a Venice that could thrive anew. Some wrote of an almost mystical love or ethereal philosophy evoked by the dramatic events they lived through. All wrote with determination and appreciation of the positive impact on their beloved city.

“Although this situation came from a terrible thing, it was a gift to enjoy my beloved Venice in this unimaginable and, I think, unrepeatable way,” writes Vera Brunello.  Francesca Barozzi describes the shutdown as “a priceless gift for us, revealing the sense of silence, the need to let the pure beauty enter inside myself and fulfill my heart.”

“Venice is unique in the world,” observes Luana Segato Luse.  “There is no other one—it belongs to another planet. It is a poem without words that lasts unforgotten over time.”  Rachele Scarpa considers herself and other Venetians “privileged for having lived during such a unique and, hopefully, unrepeatable period in time. There is no other place where we would have liked to experience the lockdown.”

The authors who shared their writing did so for their love of Venice. All proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to organizations that support Venetian culture, arts, and architecture: We are here Venice, No Grandi Navi  and Venice Calls, all born in Venice and run by locals.

Venice Rising: Aqua Granda, Pandemic, Rebirth carries the promise of the rainbow, its hope for rebirth and its desire to create something better. A grassroots groundswell is going to remake Venice, and the stories and poems and conversations and letters and images in this book will help us all to fulfill that covenant. Click here to buy online.

Kathleen Ann González has independently published five books: A Beautiful Woman in Venice, Seductive Venice: In Casanova’s Footsteps, Free Gondola Ride, A Small Candle and First Spritz Is Free. Supernova Edizioni publishes her books in Italy, including the Italian translation of Casanova’s Venice: A Walking Guide. Follow her blog at seductivevenice.wordpress.com.

Dianne Hales is the author of  LA PASSIONE: How Italy Seduced the World; LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World’s Most Enchanting Language; and MONA LISA: A Life Discovered. Her most recent book, “A” Is for Amore, is available to download free at diannehales.com.