In Italy the day-to-day presence of corruption is shown most vividly in the scene where the art expert, who has been beaten badly by unknown men, draws Inspector Brunetti to the hospital to visit her bedside.
A nurse with a pile of sheets in her arms came into the room without knocking and asked him to leave while she bathed the patient and changed the linen. Obviously, Signora Pettelli had been at work on the hospital staff seeing that the little envelopes, bustarelle, were delivered into the proper hands. In the absence of those 'gifts,' even the most basic services wouldn't be performed for patients in this hospital, and even in their presence, it often fell to the family to feed and bathe the patient.
Throughout Acqua Alta (High Water) the waters of Venice are rising from the combined forces of season, storm and tides. The streets are falling prey to the waters and plans, even plans for police work and rescues, are made around the rising waters. The neighborhoods that are being inundated, the routes and schedules elaborately planned to avoid them and living in a city where gondolas, speedboats, and water taxis are the reality of the work day world makes the exotic more real.
This is the feeling we get for Venice in the Leon series. It is a real city with real neighborhoods and jobs and relationships. It has its own character above and beyond the character of the tourist-flooded world heritage city. To the people who live there it may be of equal or greater beauty but it is also made of dark, cold flood waters, corrupt business and government practices and the innumerable, petty problems of life.
Living on the shore of a Mexican lagoon of great beauty in a Mayan village, we would appear to live in paradise. It is, to the visitor, an exotic, Caribbean destination. To us it is home. To the tourist a cheerful, happy land of Margaritas and lazy days in a hammock. To us it is a known place of dangers and unending corruption, of food shopping and visits to the new mall.