'Duri i banchi!': the meaning of a famous motto in VeniceFigures of speech
'Duri i banchi!': the meaning of a famous motto in Venice
The Venetians are a people of workers, proud and deeply attached to their city, and for these reasons, they never surrender to hardship.
An example of this incredible tenacity is the recent episode of the exceptional high tide on 12 November 2019: Venice was hit by heavy rainfall and a strong sirocco wind was blowing over its lagoon. The tide kept rising to a record level of 187 centimeters. The water flooded the city with such violence that it rose over the bulkheads and seeped through every crevice causing incredible damage. Venice was on its knees. But at the sight of such devastation, its inhabitants did not lose heart, on the contrary, they rolled up their sleeves and, to take courage, they would affectionately pat each other on the back and utter the traditional motto ‘duri i banchi!’ (i.e. hold fast). And these words began to resonate among the many streets, shops, houses, hotels and then spread all over the world.
But what is the origin and meaning of this Venetian way of saying?
The expression ‘duri i banchi’ was born during the times of the Serenissima when during defense or conquering battles at sea, the moment before firing cannons or ramming into a ship, the rowers of the galleys were ordered by the command bridge ‘duri ai banchi’ to warn them to let go of the oars and hold hard to the benches in preparation for the ensuing impact force.
Over time this saying has abandoned the sea to take on a new meaning: it is used as a form of encouragement and moral support and therefore means 'stay strong!', ‘don’t give up’!
Today more than ever, in these difficult times when we are fighting a new, pernicious and rampant enemy, the Coronavirus, we want to shout at the Venetians and the world all ‘duri i banchi’, ‘Don't give up!’, because it will be thanks to the courage and strength of each of us that we will together succeed in defeating this invisible and powerful enemy!
Venice, 24th March 2020
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