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The City and the Writer: In Venice with Verusca Costenaro

By Nathalie Handal

If each city is like a game of chess, the day when I have learned the rules, I shall finally possess my empire, even if I shall never succeed in knowing all the cities it contains.
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Can you describe the mood of Venice as you feel/see it?

It varies in accordance with your own mood. Venice intensifies your emotions, and steals your emotions from you.

What is your most heartbreaking memory of this city?

The day I left it to go live in Padua for a while. I still see myself standing at the train station and turning to gaze back at the city one last time.

What is the most extraordinary detail, one that goes unnoticed by most, of the city?

Its silences at night when the city empties.

What writer(s) from here should we read?

Venice is synonymous with poetry and sensitivity, and a contemporary author who combines them both and lives in Venice is Anna Toscano. And to lose yourself in the most sensual of travel guides, read Venezia è un pesce (Venice is a Fish) by contemporary Venetian writer Tiziano Scarpa.

Is there a place here you return to often?

The route that leads me to a café that used to be a greenhouse in Castello, a very local district. It is a gorgeous tree-lined avenue, a moving memoir to me.

Is there an iconic literary place we should know?

Many years ago, when the Hotel Des Bains on the Lido Island was still open, I was invited to a wedding there and had dinner in the beautiful Thomas Mann Hall. Thomas Mann was still there, somewhere.

Are there hidden cities within this city that have intrigued or seduced you?

The “hidden city” of Sant’Elena—a green oasis at the furthest end of Venice, full of tall trees, a few little family-run shops, and a couple of cafés.

Where does passion live here?

In its pavement, in its stones. It’s whenever you walk here . . . wherever you walk. And touch the walls of its palaces—that’s a unique, sensual experience.

What is the title of one of your works about Venice and what inspired it exactly?

When I was living in Dallas in 2010, I wrote “Venice is the cradle. Memories in the distance,” inspired by the distance, the nostalgia and gratitude I have for Venice.

Inspired by Levi, “Outside Venice does an outside exist?”

It doesn’t. Venice is the inner and outer entirety of whoever is fortunate enough to live there. And if you happen to move away from the city, that entirety goes away with you, stays with you forever—a sweet nostalgia.

Verusca Costenaro is a poet, translator, and teacher. She was born in Marostica, a small village in northeastern Italy, and has lived in Venice for twenty years. She has also lived in London, Padua, Dallas, and Beirut. She holds an MA in modern languages from the University of Venice Ca’ Foscari, and a PhD in linguistics from the University of Padua. She is the author of a bilingual Italian-English poetry collection, La misura che non si colma (LunaNera, 2013). Her work has been published in numerous anthologies. She is currently an Italian language instructor in Florence, and divides her time between Florence and Venice.

Published Mar 9, 2017   Copyright 2017 Nathalie Handal

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