Site Logo  Venice
Iíve put off writing this page for ages, I donít think Iím bad with words but need to be on top of my game to do Venice justice, not in some ways the most beautiful city in the world but in many ways definitely so, refreshingly unique and one of those places people really really should visit.
There are places I like more, you could almost say I have to be objective about Venice to be fair because in some ways Iíve never quite had a good enough time there. Once when I went it was so crowded I could barely move, another time I had no coat and it felt at least about minus 10. Another time I went I missed my train back and had to wait in the station until the middle of the night. And every time I went the place was full of tourists.

None of this is Veniceís fault, I suppose you could say itís not the cityís fault itís beautiful just in the same way you could say itís not Vivaldiís fault he was gifted. One has to do what one can, and Venice makes the most of an enviable predicament, languishing in the top two or three most visitable cities in the world and suffering the dreadful dignity of being just about the most fascinating place on Earth, and water (simultaneously). Itís a hard life!

Many of the websites online would do a better job of selling Venice than Iíll try to here, and as Iím not going to try to the theory checks out. Instead, within the context of trying to live in Italy as a local and not an ex-pat, I ventured over to Venice not as a tourist but as a visitor. It was almost the neighbouring town, and while Italian cities have always had very distinct cultural definition, I felt I had enough in my toolbox to do get the job done the Italian way.

I was right, and wrong. The tourist trail is full of people who come into contact with tourists so inevitably know how to speak to tourists. In the absence of a sign or printed T-shirt declaring myself otherwise I could only really expect the tourist treatment. I got it. Fairís fair, this is how they make their living.

Meanwhile, just a few paces from the packed quads and main walkways can be found dinky town squares with a whole different feel to them, where Venetians sit and chat about Venetian life, where the occasional lost tourist ambles through taking photos and remarking to themself how theyíre glad theyíd strayed off the beaten track. Here I was more in my element, I was back in Italy, not just geographically and architecturally but socially and culturally, everybody round me was Italian again, it felt good.
Venice has a population of some 200,000, not therefore a sleeping village with a mere single relic of historical interest, but a living city with its own identity which may well coexist harmoniously with the tourist industry but which remains, for its own survival, quite apart from it. I am more fascinated by the thought that people live and work there than by the bridges and squares, by the fact that they have motor boats than by the fact I can go on a gondola. I wonder at the secrets locals must know, the information they donít pass on to tourists.

The carnival season is a good time to go, the masks are a great statement of commitment to their traditions and people are understandably fascinated by them. I wonder at what the carnival must have been like before the age of the mass movement of holidaymakers. Obviously, without tourism, Venice would seem very deserted, but it would be nice to experience it for what it is, the real Venice. Getting lost among trattoria and in secluded piazze is the best way to get a sense of this now, sadly not a happy nostalgia in many ways, and even this proud city is becoming a product of the modern age.
Having said this, I intend to teach in Italy again someday, and Venice, as opposed to Mestre, would be quite a temptation.