The Alberoni, a protected oasis where a 27 year old girl runs a small piece of heaven all on her own.
The Alberoni (Venice) – It certainly is not the beach with the easiest access in the world. The people that reach it are those who live nearby, those who – either for personal preference or through word of mouth – spend the holidays there – maybe by booking a holiday house on Hundredrooms.it – and, of course, Venetians who are willing to make an hour long travel, between vaporetto (waterbus) and bus rides, to cross the fresh and fragrant pinewood that awakens sweet childhood memories.
At the sole mention of the Alberoni, there is not a single person that knows it and that doesn’t feel immediately at home. They find themselves playing mental images of an oasis, images that recall corners of some distant place, only in appearance more exotic than this one. The area of the Alberoni is the last strip of land on the Lido of Venice: in winter there are only a few dozen people that live here but in summertime it is a whole new world.
Those who come here to have their dogs run happily on the sand or that come to relax under the sun, often raise their heads when a merchant ship passes through the Malamocco harbor entrance. Just a little farther on, the cranes of the infinite and tortured construction sites of the Mose remind us of beauty’s great fragility: the beauty of Venice and of all those natural paradises that need care, attention and good politics in order to survive.
Dunes, pine trees, and the silence of the open beach: the Alberoni present a quiet that is great for Venetians in need of escaping from the suffocating grip of summer tourism in the historic center.
Through the thick, full-bodied green alberi (trees) that breathe the sea air and give the name to the protected oasis – today under the protection of the WWF -, elegant gentlemen duel in long and intense rounds of golf on the only green in the city of Venice specifically designed for this use. Between one hole and the other, a 27 year old girl named Elisa Zanella offers smiles from behind a wooden counter where you cannot order drinks or plastic cups: at the “Macondo” it is better to ask for fresh fruit juice or lemonade made with her real lemons. This, though, only before lunchtime, when it serves a triumph of pasta and salads with Pantelleria capers, Apulian mozzarella, almonds from Syracuse and bussolà (biscuits) from the local bakery, just a few kilometers away.
Elisa, with her bright green eyes, is the soul of the Alberoni and she tells us about the place fondly and with tenderness. “I was born here, I live here, and here is where I will stay. I know everyone, this is my home”, she says. And I believe her, since at the age of 22, after working six years as a waitress in other local pubs, she decided to buy herself the small bar with colorful tables that, along with the historical Bagni Alberoni (the bathhouses where the great Luchino Visconti filmed his Death in Venice), is the last refreshment venue you find before having to ferry to the “other island”: the lovely, and just as quiet, Pellestrina.
“This place is my creation, my baby: you have work here every day from April 15th to September 15th, including rainy days. If I had it my way, I’d even keep it open during the winter. My dream, yes, it to turn it into a small hut by the sea”. Dreams are dreams and, as we know, the will of those who want to accomplish them is grander than anything. Elisa’s dream has always been that of working in a bar because she likes to be with people, to feel at home, and to welcome and embellish an environment because she knows that every touch brings something special.
The petunias, oleanders and sunflowers that color her outdoor tables prove this, as do the strings of shells that hang from the trees and the empty bird cages that carry small bouquets of wild herbs.
“The possibility of managing, alone, a place like this came much earlier than I could have immagines but I took the chance by storm, putting together all the financial assets I earned in my years of work during my school time. It was very hard at first but it got better and better with each year that passed”.
Elisa, engaged to her future husband Daniel – her young and faithful companion of nine years – studied educational psychology in liceo (high school) in the city of Venice, making two hour long vaporetto trips every day for five years to get to school. Could she have gone to university? Maybe. But maybe not.
“I never really was interested in studying but I always enjoyed working and I don’t regret my choice. I may have grown up faster than my peers but I am happy because at 27 I do not feel lost: I know what I want”.
She then adds:
“Some people think it is easy, with a business like this, to make a lot of money and that’s that. But seventy percent of my earnings go in expenses and taxes. When the season is over, we close up everything only to open it back up the following year: there are many sacrifices to be made, it’s not always a bed of roses”.
It sounds strange to hear a 27 year old girl say: “Sacrifices must be made”. These are words I have heard my grandmother say many times and they have always made me feel a bit blue. Sacrifices are always made for something. During the war, you made sacrifices to bring home bread and to support the family as best you could.
Today, fortunately, sacrifices can also help us become what we want and aspire to be.
This seems the case for Elisa Zanella. Her way of thinking and her life philosophy of “persevering” also comes from her ten employees: the cook is the place’s old owner, then there are different young people that study and work during the winter, in Italy and abroad, and come back to the Alberoni for opening season: “For me, there is no bigger satisfaction than seeing my employees happy to work here. I have had a few disappointments from time to time: it’s not nice to be dumped in a moment’s notice from someone you count on. Unfortunately, it has happened. When you are faced with a lot of hard work, you start looking around and contemplating other options: not everybody finds this job as fantastic and gratifying as I do”.
Elisa says that to manage a place like this on you own is not a matter of intelligence but of hard work and willingness. This may be true but I would add that intelligence is essential in order to understand that hard work and willingness take time, like growing vegetables in a garden: sometimes it gives you juicy tomatoes, and other times it just gets on your nerves. “The younger generation is like a sponge: we learn a lot and quickly. And working is never a bad thing. Working is the only opportunity we have to understand who we are and where we want to go”.
“All you have to do is begin… and continue on. Always”.
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