Sunday, September 25, 2011
Italy: Whirlwind Part Three: Venice
(If I had a nickel for every time I heard that while in Italy....)
One final city in Italy: Venice! We had heard that you could easily do Venice in one day, so we arrived early in the morning and only planned to stay one day and catch a train that same night. So we arrived ready to go to see the sinking city. We began to walk through the streets and quickly found that what they say is true: Venice is one big labyrinth of tiny streets (or more like alleyways), canals and bridges. There are no cars in the entire city: every street is only for pedestrians, because most streets aren't even big enough for cars. Men make deliveries via cart. There are no buses or taxis, only water buses and water taxis that take you along or across the canals. Otherwise, you go everywhere by foot. They say even the locals get lost frequently. We didn't really have a map, so we just depended on a few signs directing us to major points, and when all else failed, we would just pick a direction or follow a canal until we got where we wanted to go. As you can probably guess, we spent most of the day wandering and getting lost (sometimes intentionally). The city is small enough to see quickly. A few more churches/bascilicas, Piazza d. San Marco, and a major bridge, Ponte Rialto, which is hoarded with touristy shops and of course, tourists.
Ok, every time before when I thought there were a lot of tourists, I was lying. Venice REALLY is the most touristy place I have ever seen. I knew that it was one of the most visited places in Europe by tourists, but I had no idea how crowded the city would be (and it wasn't even high season!). I guarantee that 90% of the population on any given day in Venice is tourists.The other 10% probably all work in the tourism/hospitality industry. The whole city seems to exists solely for the purpose of tourism. Kinda sad, in some ways. The city really is so pretty with all it's winding streets and canals, but it seems to have a lost a lot of culture. At night, the city completely dies. There doesn't seems to be any local culture: no events, no nightlife, no festivals. Just the souvenir shops and the gondolas.
We couldn't resist: we took a gondola ride through Venice! One more quintessentially (er, touristy) Italian thing to check off the list. We met up with some Australian friends that we had met in Rome so that we could all split the cost, bought some brie and crackers and wine, and we were off. It really was quite lovely to see the city from the water, and our gondola man liked to sing songs and point out historic buildings along the way. Maybe a corny thing to do, but it was definitely a highlight of the trip.
We finished off the day with some dinner sitting alongside the water, and then headed back to the train station to say goodbye to Italy and take an overnight train to Vienna!