Today a small group of us woke up at 6:00 AM and went to church in Verona! We made our way to church and back walking four miles in total before our day even started. The entire group left Verona and took the one-hour train ride to Venice and arrived by 10:00 AM. As we were getting off at the train station and walking out into the area overlooking Venice, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the city. It was unlike any of the cities we have visited thus far. In fact, I have never seen anything like it anywhere in my travel experiences. The city seemed magical – as if it “floated” on water. I immediately became curious about this city and how it functioned based on its geographic location, land features, and predominance of water in the form of canals, lagoons, and rivers.
I think that Venetian geography has definitely affected movement. The tour guide explained to us how Venice is basically a grouping of many small islands separated by water and connected by many little bridges or walkways. The economy of Venice is driven by tourism and there are many visitors walking throughout the city since cars, bikes, and buses were not really utilized here. Narrow streets and limited access from island to island make road transportation very difficult. Certain areas were extremely congested with tourists, especially in the shopping and restaurant areas. The many bridges allow for pedestrians to walk from island to island. The other predominant mode of transportation in Venice is strikingly different compared to that of Milan, Florence, or Verona. The waterways are the “roads” of this city and a variety of watercraft can be seen trolling the waters. There are no taxi cars to take you from location to location, but there are water buses that can transport visitors along the waterways in a quicker fashion, and if you want to go for a ride – you can always take a leisurely gondola ride. The numbers are impressive when considering the adaptations that have been made to overcome the geographic challenges of being a city surrounded by water. There are 456 bridges spanning across more than 170 canals… and we dare to call Pittsburgh “The City of Bridges!”
Historically, Venice was an established center for trade due to its geographic location and waterways. A few years ago, I remember the learning about the merchant Marco Polo, Venice, the “Silk Road”, and the success of trade . However, in more modern times, things have changed. The tour guide noted that before the 1930’s, there was no effective way for people or goods to be transported in Venice by any means other than boat. They then created a bridge allowing access for trains and cars into Venice which increased the both the volume of tourists and the amount of goods coming into Venice. When it comes to trade/imports, she noted that many of the products needed still come to the city by boat, however some small cars bring them to the island city as well. In the past, it used to be harder before multiple forms of transportation were available to and from Venice, but this has changed in our global world. However, I can see how importing large goods would be difficult in this environment simply because they would be difficult to maneuver in the tight and winding canals with only small bridges (with stairs) crossing from one side to the other. Having to import so many goods has resulted in increased prices of goods as well.
As beautiful as the city is, the lifestyle of the Venetian residents did not strike me relaxing, affordable, or conducive to raising a family. In part, this is because tourists accounted for the largest number of people that I encountered as I explored Venice. Shop workers spoke English, which was very helpful but confirmed the fact that Venice caters towards tourist. Most of the employment opportunities seem to be geared towards the tourist industry in the form of shops, restaurants, and transportation. Within the city, I did not see any evidence of larger commercial businesses that might provide jobs to residents. Since many of their products are imported, prices for basic food items are higher and the cost of living is higher. This ultimately caused locals to leave Venice for more affordable locations. Restrictions on architectural renovations prohibit changes to the exterior of any of the buildings, but do allow for changes to the interiors of the architecture. These restrictions could impede the development of new businesses and better job opportunities.
After our fun tour of Venice, seeing St. Mark’s Basilica, and gondola ride today, I am excited for tomorrow. We have free time in the morning to explore the cute areas of Verona!
|| Alaina All’Estero – “Alaina Abroad” ||