Thousands of people gathered in Venice's St Marks Square for the funeral for Valeria Solesin, a 28-year-old Italian student killed by Islamist militants in Paris. Solesin, a PhD student studying demographics at the Sorbonne University, was one of the 89 who died at the Bataclan concert hall and the only Italian among the 130 victims of the attacks on 13 November. She was shot as she entered the theatre with her boyfriend. Five gondoliers rowed her flower-draped coffin aboard a black gondola up the Grand Canal to St Mark's Square.
At her family's request, Solesin's friends and religious leaders of various faiths spoke at the funeral, which was held outdoors on a sunny morning in front of the arched doors and domes of St Mark's Basilica.
"I want to thank the religious figures – Christian, Jewish and Muslim – who are here together in this square as a symbol of our common humanity at a moment when fanatics try to turn a massacre into an honourable act by invoking a faith," Solesin's father, Alberto, said with her mother, Luciana, by his side.
The ceremony, which began with the playing of both the Italian and French national anthems, was broadcast live nationally by Italy's state broadcaster RAI. At 12pm, the funeral paused for the tolling of the church bells. The funeral was attended by Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti. At the end of the ceremony, to the notes of Ludwig van Beethoven's Ode To Joy, the casket was put back on the gondola, which made its way slowly towards the cemetery.
Solesin had lived in Paris for several years. She had gone to the concert at the Bataclan with her boyfriend. They lost track of each other as they tried to escape. She had been working at the Sorbonne as a researcher while completing her doctorate. While at a university in Italy, Solesin had worked as a volunteer for the Italian humanitarian aid group Emergency. "It is tragic that a person so young, who is trying to understand the world and to be a help, find herself involved in such a terrible event," said Emergency regional coordinator in Trento, Fabrizio Tosini.