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Hemingway Adventure

Venice (second day)

Venice, Italy 
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Strange behaviour at the annual carnival in Venice. Two weeks of celebration, but parking is a problem.
Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureOnce installed in the best room in the Gritti Palace - first-floor, on the corner, with balconies - he set about his treatment with a vengeance. The treatment consisted of a little luxury and a lot of champagne. But though Hemingway was an expert at recovery, his friend A. E. Hotchner, summoned to see him at the Gritti, could see that this time, things were different.

When I came into his room he was sitting in a chair by the windows, reading, the inevitable white tennis visor (ordered by the dozen from Abercrombie & Fitch) shading his eyes… What was shocking to me now was how he had aged in the intervening five months ... some of the aura of massiveness seemed to have gone out of him.

It didn’t stop Hemingway playing baseball with friends in his room. The ball, a pair of tightly rolled woollen socks, was hit so hard that it smashed clean through one of the windows and out into the street. According to Hotchner, the manager pointed out that no one had ever played baseball in any of the rooms throughout the 300-year-old history of the Gritti. For this reason he had decided ‘to reduce Signor Hemingway’s bill by ten per cent’.

Baron Franchetti, the man who can tell me more about Hemingway’s return to Italy, has agreed to see me. The address is as it should be, a palazzo overlooking the Grand Canal.

Though it has turned cold, and there are ominous reports of the worst winter weather for a decade heading this way, the Venetian sunlight, low and strong, highlights the delicate details on the buildings as we head up the Grand Canal. I’ve always found Venice absurdly theatrical and today it’s more like a stage-set than ever. Above us, figures in eighteenth-century tricorn hats, black cloaks and snow-white face masks are crossing the Accademia Bridge. This is the first day of the two-week carnival, an ancient festival that disappeared for 200 years, before being revived in 1975. Those in full costume are, sadly, a small minority compared to those wearing anoraks, sweat pants and floppy jester hats bought outside the station.
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  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Venice (second day)
  • Country/sea: Italy
  • Place: Venice
  • Book page no: 59

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  • Around the World in 80 Days