Civilized and composed, yet family pain reflects in long faces. The horror of Bataclan has reached even to the burial island of San Michele, to the coffin in Piazza San Marco, to the grandeur of the parade with the four gondoliers in gala uniform. The public greeting protocols that exceed even the highest causes, the flags of two nations at half-mast, the official music.

Valeria Solesin was (and, moreover, still is) an unmistakable girl, resistant to stereotypes. The symbol of the best Italian youth abroad returns to “her Venice” as a figure reduced to rhetoric, propaganda and mystification.

Valeria’s funeral takes away any excuse even from the institutional walkways.

Mother Luciana, father Alberto, her brother Dario and boyfriend Andrea Ravagnani embody the extent of the reaction to the blind folly of ISIS.

There is Gino Strada representing Emergency, two steps behind, because the first ISIS Italian victim was a volunteer for the NGO that cares for civilian casualties.

There are the words of the local Imam Hamad Al Mohamad: “We ask Allah to have Valeria and all the victims in his glory, to help his family and to protect Europe, Italy and this city from evil and give peace to our souls.”

There is no godly consolation for Valeria’s relatives, but symbolically it is the same in Piazza San Marco. With the intervention of patriarch Francesco Moraglia, who humbly prays together with Islamic communities and representatives of the Jewish religion.

But especially in these days of mourning there was the embrace of thousands of Venetians and non-Venetians, with lighted candles and then during the funeral, as well as during the ceremony yesterday, during a sunlit morning that made the tears of intense and collective emotion, which could not be contained, shine.

Valeria — who passed away in the arms of her beloved — was (and still is) the young researcher in search of freedom, always and everywhere: freedom from the murdering merciless fury and from the ruling powers.

The desperate silence of her brother or the terrible memory of her boyfriend do not begin to scratch the profile of a 28-year-old devoted to the study of independence, the desire to be there for those she did not know.

Her parents really set a lesson, demonstrating their decent legitimate pride of a very different Italy from the one reflected in the media and the corridors of power.

For Valeria, there were in attendance the President of the Republic, the wife of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, the Defense Secretary Pinotti, the President of the Veneto Region, the mayor. But the hearts of the people in the Piazza San Marco broke with dad’s farewells: “I thank the representatives of all religions, Christian, Jewish, symbols of the journey of men at times when fanaticism would ennoble the massacre with the appeal to the values ​​of a religion.”

And again: “If it is remotely true what has been said in recent days, that our composure was an example for the country, it was a duty. If it was true only in part, I want to dedicate it to all the Valerias and Andreas of the world, who do not give up.”


funerali valeria solesin venezia foto lapresse
Muslim imams at the funeral of Valeria Solesin in Venice – photo Alvise Busetto/LaPresse


Then the heartfelt thanks to the Italian ambassador to Paris and to the crisis unit of the Foreign Ministry. And to the Quirinale “that wanted to provide a sign of national unity with its participation” with the other institutions.

But Valeria was (and still is) the portrait of an Italian abroad: “In France, she started to define her life project pushed by her curiosity of the world. Looking back on my daughter, I do not want to separate her image from the context in which she lived in Paris, the Demographics Institute, the university, the bistro where so many boys and girls like Valeria loved to meet at, joyful and industrious, facing a future that all, like her, want to make better.”

So, at the place of acqua granda of half a century ago, of the two patriarchs intended for San Pietro, of the Pink Floyd concert that averted the Expo and the “serene commando” that climbed the bell tower, Piazza San Marco in fact became again with Valeria the open space where the most beautiful city in the world also registers the message of the President Francois Hollande: “She came to us for the sake of life and culture and was killed under terrorist fire.”

The coffin may leave the stage, but Valeria’s Venice will be — forever — the best antidote to the “war” in the name of others.

–> Originally published in Italian at il manifesto on Nov. 25 2015