23 January 2008


Every time I visited Venice in the past, I observed with slight dismay the widespread local practice of closing the shutters. Walk through the streets, day or night, regardless of the weather, and you will see almost every house is sealed up tight. This custom emphasizes the city’s reputation for being closed to outsiders (although I suppose it’s common in any Italian city or village). It used to bruise my feelings a little because I didn’t understand it.

Hungry for light in our skyscraper canyons, we New Yorkers shun dark spaces. “Bright & airy” is the most-sought phrase in a classified ad for a new apartment. We pay a premium for many and large windows, then we refuse to hang curtains over them. So I couldn’t imagine why Venetians would block a single ray of sunlight or any glimpse of their lovely city with heavy, solid wooden shutters. Until I moved here. Now I get it.

My thoughtful landlord “Professor Vinegar” has outfitted my apartment with sound-blocking, double pane windows that seal tightly and admit no hint of a draft. At first I didn’t even bother to investigate the hinging mechanism of my shutters. Never did I imagine I would actually use them.

But one day I found myself closing them when the din of tourist traffic and local merchant gabble below my windows reached a peace-shattering roar. The muffling effect was very welcome!

Then, as the nights grew colder, I learned that closing myself in behind my shutters gives me the snug, satisfying illusion of protection and coziness.

And if one needs some sleep or would like a romantic Saturday night to stretch well into a lazy Sunday afternoon, shutters are just the ticket to prolong the pleasure. (Who couldn’t use an occasional 36-hour night?)

Now I love my own shutters, and I respect everyone else’s. In fact, their closed shutters evoke only gentle voyeuristic curiosity in me. They’re another outward sign of La Serenissima’s intriguing secrecy and mystery.

Hmm… What do you suppose is going on in there?