I have been wrangling with my thoughts over what is it about Venice that I find so compelling. Is it the canals that still bear some semblance of the trade that used to fill the coffers of the merchants of yore? Is it the decadent yet crumbling buildings, ornate palaces, and kitschy shops that jostle together at haphazard angles, barely keeping their toes out of the capricious tides? Or is the gondoliers and their gilded rides–which apparently tourists can’t do without?
I think, in the end, it’s the temerity of man to build a city of opulence in the middle of the sea, propped up by a hundred islands barely keeping their noses out of the water. It’s the tenacity of it’s people to build–with great feats of engineering–one of the greatest cities of the middle ages.
Also, it’s the ruin left behind by the passing of the times. I look at Venice and I almost see it in shades of gray, like a passing dream. You were filthy rich, decadent, and extravagant, la serenissima, and also, debauched.
And you were beautiful. You still are. Like Helen Mirren. Somewhat.
Venice definitely has a tourist problem. Tens of thousands of tourists disgorge themselves onto the city everyday, a good size of them from cruise ships that make one day stops here. Can’t imagine the local population being happy about that. I google lensed a graffiti in one of the more obscure neighborhoods here which read, “Tourists, go home.” Us visitors need to do a better job of being mindful of our presence.
Why would man build a city on a marshy collection of islands in the middle of the sea? Money of course. Venice’s unique location made it a prime port in the 1100’s as the gateway to the western routes for spices and trade coming from the Middle East and Asia. That plus their f0rmidable navy and favored tax status made them the prime destination for merchantmen ships.
I really try my hardest to imagine what this city must have looked like in the middle ages. I see myself in the piazza watching the galleys come to port spilling goods and riches onto the merchant republic. Then comes the 1300’s and then wham, Black Death.
With space at a premium, buildings in Venice tend to impose themselves vertically, as well as crowd each other shoulder to shoulder. Lavish buildings plus sparse land area equals tiny alleyways. Or as in the picture above. No alleyways. I always found it curious to that these churches sidle up to each other like rivals. Almost like having a Starbucks right next to another Starbucks.
I’ve always wondered how these marvelous buildings were built in the first place, and how they’ve withstood the elements and the salt water. Apparently there wasn’t enough land to lay any foundation so the ancient engineers drove piles of waterproof wood to serve as the foundation on which the buildings were built. Normally wood rots. But the type of wood they used was extremely water resistant, coupled with the fact that the high concentration of silt and sediment eventually caused the wood to petrify. Pretty neat huh?
Italy is living history. Venice is no exception. And our trip was definitely one for the books.
We saw an asian couple get married here and have a wedding photoshoot in the quieter part of town. (Pro-tip, Venice is terribly romantic, and there are beautiful, less-trod neighborhoods that are a great backdrop).
I always wondered how Venice dealt with trash. Multiplied by the factor of 10,000 daily visitors.