It’s really hard to find the words to say this. But Venice stinks. Not literally (well, it does a bit, but that’s not really my point).
No-one can deny the breath-taking, heart-stopping, vision-overloading, senses-overwhelming, Alice-falling-down-a-rabbit-hole-and-emerging-in-another-world feeling when you step out of Santa Lucia station and the Grand Canal lies before you. It’s something you can only experience once and it is gob-smackingly amazing.
I was there just for a short weekend break. It wasn’t my first visit to Venezia and it probably won’t be my last, though were I never to go back there again I would not be that bothered (I would never say the same about Milano, Roma, London, Paris, Sydney, New York, Bangkok, Honk Kong and many other cities I have visited over the years). The city is tangibly dead, a decaying monument to a glorious past, pilage, rape and plunder are set to the maximum before it finally just sinks into the sea under the weight of its own inability to manage itself.
I haven’t followed Venetian politics (I have a hard time with Florentine ones, what hope do I have of following ones with a difficult accent and an incomprehensible dialect?) and it may be that I am talking absolute nonsense, but it would certainly appear that Venice is intent on suicide.
One single espresso coffee at the Santa Lucia station, Euro 2.50
A “tired” fish meal for 3 adults and a small child (2 starters, two pasta dishes, 3 mains, 3 desserts, one bottle of wine, two coffees) came to Euro 220. The service was lovely, the food (good god I am SO Italian!) was exhausted having been prepared at least several hours if not days before.
I bought a useless knick-knack at a market stall. Having noticed the stall also sold a thousand Pinocchio’s I mentioned to the lovely Asian kid who served us that Pinocchio was not from the Veneto region but was Tuscan. Not only did he not know what I was talking about, he clearly did not know where the Veneto region was, much less the Tuscan one. I reckon he also had no idea who Pinocchio was either.
Our fabulous Venetian Gondoliere (Euro 120 for 5o minutes …) rents a single room in a palazzo from which he is being turned out at the end of the month. The owner wants to try and sell the building for hotel developers, or rent to students who are prepared to live 2/3 to a room. This will be his last year in Venice in the winter, it’s too hard to make a living. Before picking us up he had made just 80 Euro in 4 days working his assigned (not particularly favorable) patch. Next winter he plans to stay with relatives in Brazil where he can winter at much lower costs (giving up his rented room) and will return to Venice just for the silly summer season.
Our final lunch just off the Piazza San Marco came to Euro 84 for just four dishes (three pasta and one main) with water; no wine, no desserts, no coffees. Our waiter, from Romania, told us where we could get us the “best ice cream” in Venice and packed us off to the corner bar about 15m from the restaurant itself where there was no sign of ice cream making facilities and I would be prepared to swear that the stuff came out of packet with “add eggs, add milk” instructions.
The number of inhabitants of Old Town Venezia has dropped below 60,000.
I could go on for hours, but you will be pleased to hear I won’t. I live in Florence, work massively in the tourist sector and moan about Florence and the Florentines all the time (a god-given expat right, you choose to live there, bring your family up there and then you trash it on a daily basis). But we fight with each other, we are passionate about what we think is right for the city, we have thousands of different cultures who work alongside us, who know about our values and our history (you think that there is still a Florentine restaurant run and worked by Florentines??)
Yep. I say “we”. I have lived here for 21 years. I get to say “we”. I am as passionate (and possibly more informed) about Florentine issues than many that were born here (many! not all).
I don’t think many people in Venice say “we”. And it shows.