April 03, 2012


 “For darkness restores what light cannot repair.”
― Joseph Brodsky

At night when its magnificent palaces are reflected in the shimmering water, Venice, in all its unreal beauty does look like a movie set.  

When I opened the window for the first time  I realized that at nine o'clock in the morning the streets were already busy with tourists. The Co-op supermarket only a leisurely five or six minute walk from the house was packed because every budget-conscious tourist seemed to have found their way there.
Nearby there used to be a bakery, a little general store, a butcher, a green grocer, a newsstand, and a cobbler – in short, everything needed for everyday life was close at hand. Now they have all been transformed into souvenir shops. The street is a continuous succession of small shops selling fake Murano glass, pizzerias charging eight euros a slice, tourist restaurants, bars and pastry shops. The post office I could not find for ages.
Venice is a difficult city to live in, normally.  Difficult too, to make an appointment on time because public transportation is so crowded that you have to fight your way onto the vaporetto. The whole infrastructure is geared toward tourists, from the prices in the stores and restaurants to the theatre performances in English and concerts of classical music in churches where the musicians wear Baroque costume. Property is absurdly expensive, and there are fewer and fewer markets, schools, kindergartens, clinics, and hospitals.

In the past fifty years Venice has lost 65 per cent of its population and only 23 per cent, mostly older people, live in the city's historical centre. Just a few decades ago, 150,000 people lived in the old part of town, but today that number is barely 40,000, and it is steadily declining: partly because Venice is too expensive to live in and people are moving to outlying areas, to Mestre for instance, and partly because there is no work for the young and educated. Venice has an excellent university, lots of young people come here to study, but they don't stay. If you don't want to be a waiter or a maid or to help the elderly, you don't have much of a choice.

Many Venetians are renting out apartments others have sold their property and are  nibbling away at their capital. The fact remains, however, that for those who live here – and it is an aging population – life is becoming increasingly hard. One has to survive the onslaught of millions of tourists every year, that mass of people pouring through the streets of this magnificent city of canals and little alleyways that are rarely more than three or four metres wide. Venetians know only too well that they are living not in a city but a museum.

And that Venice is becoming less and less a real, living city, and more and more a museum of Europe's past, embodying all the glory, wealth, power, beauty and art of times long past. That is precisely why millions of tourists come to see it. The mass tourism industry was the first to realize that there was money to be made.

At the same time, the Venice of today is a perfect metaphor for Europe as it once was, the Europe whose culture and values Europeans swear by, take pride in and wish to preserve.


Ms. Edna (squared) said...

Hvala lijepa djevojka

Bernhardt (Bruce) said...

“Warmest” wishes for a bright, promising, and peaceful sunrise. Aloha.

Karen (DB) said...

Last December I arrived in Venice only to find Emma Thompson, Dakota Fanning, and Claudia Cardinale, and a cast of hundreds working very hard to make us believe that it was 1850 again.

Thanks for the post Mz Anja.

frenchtoast said...

So the traveler says to the local...
Could you tell me where piazza San Mauro is?
There isn’t one.
So, what is this piazza?
San Marco.
OK, and where is it? (we’re in front of the basilica)
Don’t miss the boat love!

Anonymous said...

It was distressing for me to see the Carnival Cruise Line there. Out of place in my view.

Charles said...

Funny Anonymous you should say that. Because only a very short distance from Venice, in Porto Marghera on the mainland, there is an enormous industrial shipyard that builds nothing but cruise ships, including Carnival Cruise liners and Cunard liners.
So, you see, freakishly large cruise ships are now as authentically Venetian as Murano glass and carnival masks!

Thank you for the post. Enjoy your stay.

Anonymous said...

I was there in January and I considered it packed then. Can't imagine how it would be during summer.

Bill (SM) said...

All the water and none of the sand?
You could visit Venice Beach, California, and wait for the water to rise.
Or visit Venice, Las Vegas, and enjoy the clorinated version.

Anja said...

Touche, Bill.

Stella (by starlight) said...

When does a vist become an assault?
When at 9:00 a.m. 33,000 day cruisers begin to disembark in groups of a thousand at a pop, from 7 massive ships and 2 ferries. It’s a surge that continues uninterrupted until 5:00 p.m., when the “floating cities” start to sail away.

Ms. Capshaw said...

There are two to four million Americnas traveling to Italy every year (along with eight million Germans, by the way), and all of us are reading the same guidebooks and researching the same Web sites for every charming twelve-room hotel from Venice to Palermo.
Leave the “Homeland” behind. This sounds like obvious advice, doesn’t it? But if you’re not a frequent traveler it can come as a shock that people not only do things differently, but prefer it that way. We may not understand this because in our insulated environment we know what we like and can expect, feel perfectly comfortable demanding it and being accommodated accordingly. That “Let’s see how good you are at giving me what I want” attitude ALWAYS limits. You may as well stay at home where order and logic reign supreme.

Mz. Edna's gaggle of fans said...

Italy is a country not a theme park?

“The gentle reader has no idea what a consummate ass he can become until he has traveled abroad.” -Mark Twain

Thanks for the post Mz.Anja and good luck.

Beata said...

“The eye identifies itself not with the body it belongs to but with the object of its attention.” ― Joseph Brodsky, Watermark

Remember that there is no amount of will, determination, or cash that can force a country to move at anything other than its own pace.

Interesting post. Much love.