This morning I woke up to another sunny day and we took the train to Venice. If it was 1849, we could have feasibly entered by boat. The train system first appeared when Venice was taken over by the Austrian empire. They wanted to connect Venice to the mainland and that is when the bridge was built. In 1930 the bridge was expanded, and now you can see busses and cars going in and out of Venice as well as the train. When I looked out the window, I was amazed at the beautiful blue lagoon. There were many large ships docked at the shore outside of the city.
When we first came to the edge of the canal in the city, I could not believe my eyes. It was like everything I have seen in pictures and movies but better. The gondolas, men in striped t-shirts, arched bridges-it was all completely picture perfect (and trust me, I took plenty). The buildings and homes were also gorgeous. Most of them were built around 1300 and 1500 and many are now residential. There are not many residents though because it is more convenient to live in the mainland and real estate is extremely expensive. A one hundred square meter apartment is estimated to be around 500,000 euros to buy or 2,000 euros per month to rent. There are a few supermarkets located in Venice, but residents would have to travel to mainland for most of their necessities. Because Venice’s main industry is now tourism, I am sure residents are affected by the numerous crowds as well. Our tour guide mentioned that one resident complained that he wasn’t even able to take a walk on his own streets!
Transportation and movement in Venice is another issue, but in my opinion if I could afford a home there it would not be a problem! Venice is divided into six districts and is made up of 120 little islands. There are 456 bridges in total and each bridge connects the islands. Most residents prefer to take a boat if they have somewhere far to go, but the boats tend to be slow moving. Today we walked around 7 miles, and I can’t imagine having to do that every day. We took a ride on a gondola which was amazing but now gondolas are only used for tourism and not as an actual means of transportation. I can’t imagine having to travel on the water as part of your everyday routine. I never thought about how residents’ lifestyles would be affected if there was an emergency in Venice until I saw an ambulance. But this was not your average ambulance, it was a fast-moving boat! The other boats still had to abide by the rules and move to the side of the canal while the ambulance boat came to the rescue.
With the unique geographical setup, all trade is transported by boat. This could be difficult depending on what is being shipped. The large cargo ships I saw on the way in transported the goods. Once the goods enter the city, they still have to be taken across the canal either by boat or across the bridge that connects Venice to the train station. With all of the tourism supplies in Venice, I never thought about how all of those items actually got there. When we first learned about supply chain management, I learned that trade by boat is usually the cheapest means of transportation but also the slowest. Venice must have to plan exactly when they ship items to make sure everything reaches its destination on time, since they have no other options.
Throughout this entire trip, I have noticed the cultural differences between myself and citizens of Italy. Specifically in Venice, I came to the conclusion that some Italians think that Americans (and other tourists) are gullible. We saw gypsies dressed up in costumes with face paint just waiting for their next victim. I have been extremely watchful of my purse so far, something that I did not worry about at home. In Venice, most waiters and residents spoke English and Italian which was convenient. That has not always been the case throughout our trip. While at Lake Como, there was a man who had an issue with us sitting on “his” bench. He did not speak English, and the language barrier created more tension before we finally moved. Some of the major differences in living and economic conditions is that the places we have visited seem to have very high living expenses. Like I mentioned above, Venice is a pricey place to live which I am not used to in my area. It is also interesting that Italians are familiar with the recent American presidential election. Several times, Italians have tried to make small talk and brought up President Trump. I sometimes have gotten the vibe that Italian adults have been annoyed with tourists, but I think the young people have different viewpoints. When we met the students, they all seemed very welcoming and interested. Although there are obvious differences between Americans and Italians, my interactions have all been experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything.