When you think of Venice as a destination, what do you think? The most romantic destination in the world? The most beautiful city in the world? The place the rich and famous go to visit? A mixture of the above?
What did Chris and I think of Venice? It is a complicated answer.
We can appreciate the beauty of Venice, especially on a sunny, warm day. The architecture of the buildings, along with the contrast of colors with the color of the sea is very charming. The innumerable bridges and the maze like layout of the city with the narrow cobblestone alleyways is endearing. We can appreciate the novelty of the city, an aquatic paradise. It is unlike any other (easily reachable) destination in that the roads are waterways navigated by boats and gondolas rather than cars. It is unique. It is different. We do appreciate this.
What we can’t ignore is the underlying tone of sadness that emanates from the city itself. It is overwhelmed with tourists, all touting “selfie” sticks completely ignorant to those around them. To try to navigate the streets during the day is next to impossible. It is exorbitantly expensive. It is painfully not authentic, merely playing to what the average tourists wants, and is willingto pay. It is a giant contradiction. The most romantic place in the world? Yes, you and the 22 million other visitors to Venice each year jostling for views of the canals, places to eat, or simply a place to walk is the definition of romantic. It’s beauty is beginning to show the weight of this massive tourism industry. There is rubbish everywhere, including the charming canals. How can a city this size possibly keep up with the trash from visitors that is more than 366 times its population? (Rough numbers, I found it difficult to find up-to-date information but you get the idea). Speaking of its locals- where are they? They are simply abandoning the city due to tourism, among other reasons.
What about the issues with water? We witnessed the state of the city after rainfall. Businesses could be seen lowering the metal gates that try to keep the water out, cleaning their floors from the water that did manage to make its way in. A massive stretch of tables is erected through the city to allow people to walk over the flooded alleyways. Hawkers capitalize on the weather by selling boots, gators etc. You cannot distinguish where the main canal ends and the sidewalks begin. How long is this sustainable?
Enrico Michieletto is an Italian film maker who coined the term, “Veniceland.” Sadly, it does certainly feel that Venice is a themepark for the rich. He also has a documentary by the same name for those who are interested.
Have Chris and I contributed by visiting Venice? Absolutely. However, I am hoping this blog will raise some awareness to the social issues going on here in Venice. We were unaware before visiting, besides the cliché “Venice is sinking, better see it now!” It is food for thought. Are there other, more romatic cities out there? I believe so. Cartagena, in Colombia was infintely more romantic of an experience (for us) than Venice.
A further thought that stems from our experiences here is what is responsible tourism, and how can we ensure that personally, and at the societal level, we travel in a responsible way. What is our footprint? What is positive tourism for a community/city/country vs. detrimental?
Perhaps a bit heavy for a simple trip to Venice you may say! That is what this blog is about. Our (honest) experiences and insight into our travels. We are traveling to become more educated on the world and what is going on, as well as to grow as individuals and a couple. For some they view the trip as a year long vacation, but it is much more complex than that. At any rate, our opinions are our own and certainly not the gospel. The tourists will still visit Venice in droves. But hopefully, something will be done to change things here for the better.
On to brighter topics! I received a lovely message from a childhood friend and classmate, Alexandra Mclennan, saying she lived only 2 hours from Venice and we should visit. We were more than happy to figure out a way to Milan to meet up, and very luckily we were able to make it happen. It was a wonderful day spent catching up (very hard to believe it has been 7 years since seeing one another, and since graduating high school). We enjoyed being led around and not having to figure out where to go, or eat. And boy did we eat well! (The major bonus of having someone who knows the area be your guide). We had fantastic pizzas for lunch, the cheese was so plentiful and gooey it was heavenly. In the evening Alexandra’s other-half Francesco was able to join us for an aperitivo which is a drink and food combination meant to cleanse your palate and prepare you for dinner, or something to that degree. We went to a lovely spot where for 9 euro you got a drink as well as an all you can eat buffet of snacks. They were all very delicious, especially the cold salads. After that we parted ways, Chris and I to make our way back to meet our BlaBla car ride, and Alexandra and Francesco to make their way back home.
There is nothing like a familiar face to make you feel a little bit closer to home. Lets hope it won’t take 7 years and a foreign country for us to meet again.
Tomorrow we head to Frankfurt, Germany where we will stay 2 nights before meeting Monica to head to Mannheim. We are so excited!