Author Polly Coles asks ‘How do you survive a Venetian summer?’

Politics of Washing by Polly ColesWith the heat back in sunny London, Polly Coles,  author of The Politics of Washing: Real Life in Venice, offers her advice on how best to cope with a Venetian summer.

Polly Coles grew up in London and also went to school in Australia. She studied English at Oxford University before becoming a primary school teacher working in in inner-city London. In 1990, she completed a Masters in Anthropology at the LSE, after which she started writing full-time. Polly writes fiction and about art, as well as abridging for BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime and Book of the Week.

She was closely involved in the recording of the complete Arkangel Shakespeare for Pacificus Productions and, most recently, has written texts to accompany two exhibitions at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford. She and her partner, the violin maker Andrea Ortona, have four children and divide their time between Italy and England.

High summer in Venice is also high tourist season, high mosquito season and various other highs, best avoided.

In summer, real Venetians – whether born or adopted – head not for the hills, but for a flat strip of land a short boat ride across water.

The Lido is one of a string of islands which create the quiet waters of the Venetian Lagoon. Most of the locals who go there in summer tend to favour the life of the capanne or beach huts, where city street is translated to beach street, people lose their clothes for swimwear, but other than that, life is more or less the same as it was at home – same neighbours, many of the same daily rituals.

What I love to do in summer on the Lido, though, is to hire a bike and cycle the length of the island, mostly off the road, along the murazzi or sea walls. A leisurely hour of pedalling beside the Adriatic Sea brings you to the Alberoni, the farthest inhabited tip of the Lido, where you can sit in a small bar by the water and drink the best Spritz around, at the best price, your bicycle propped up near by, and watch the sailing boats float gently by.

This is not Venice as the world knows it, but it’s a perfect Venetian summer’s day, all the same.

– Polly Coles

The Politics of Washing: Real Life in Venice by Polly Coles is out now

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