Today was our excursion to Venice, one of the must see destinations of Italy. This is quite understandable because of its scenic destination and geography. Unfortunately, this location has affected the way in which people live, work, and travel throughout the city.
Venice is a city of a collection of islands that are currently connected by bridges and canals. Years before Venice became the tourist destination it is today, it was a town lived in and run by aristocrats. This group of wealthy individuals were mostly merchants. They made a living off of trade and commerce.
The most obvious feature of Venice is that it is completely surrounded by water in the Venetian Lagoon. This presented many challenges for early inhabitants. The only entrance into the city was by boat. For the rich merchants, they traveled through the city by gondolas, an expensive treat for tourists today. Others could travel by their own boats or the bridges that connected all the islands. However, when it came to the merchant’s trade and work, all large deliveries to the city were made by large boats, then transferred to smaller boats that would make the deliveries through the city by its canals.
Not only did the simple fact that water was everywhere challenge inhabitants, but the islands were uneven. Physically, some buildings are uneven because they could not modify the shape of the island. In order to create stronger buildings, they introduced a deep foundation through the use of piles. First, they put the large piles into the ground. Then, they added soil to make the land more even. Finally, they heavily compressed that soil to make sure that no oxygen or air bubbles can make their way inside, thus weakening the foundation.
As times have evolved, Venice too has improved upon its disadvantages. Lanes for cars, buses, and trains now exist as a way to enter the city. Little passageways through buildings help to circulate tourist traffic. Steamboats now ride along the canals acting as taxis for all to use. Brick is used as building material because it is light, flexible, and elastic. Stores and cafes line the streets enabling the city to live off tourism, not just commerce and trade.
However, not everything about Venice can be fixed with evolving technology and standards. Though there are more modes of transportation, there is still very few grocery stores for locals. This is odd because there is food everywhere in Venice, however deliveries for these stores must be much less frequent compared to larger businesses. Although locals can use water taxis to move throughout the city, that can be costly and time consuming; therefore, they must do a lot of walking. The boats along the canals must be very mindful of there speeds as well. When they move too fast, they are displacing large amounts of water. This water displacement can vibrate the buildings’ foundations. Like other cities, the facade of many of Venice’s buildings cannot be changed, only the interior. Finally, the cost of living in Venice is extremely expensive. Our tour guide informed us that a roughly 100 square meter apartment costs €500,000 for purchase or €2000 rent per month. This has caused many locals to move to the mainland of Venice.
It can be difficult to comfortably live and work in the city of Venice. There are also environmental concerns for the inhabitants as well. With the changing climate, Venice has been experiencing very large high tides from September through its winter months. This can cause flooding throughout the city, and therefore a lot of damage to citizens’ properties. Unfortunately, this does not affect just those living in Venice, it affects the unique wildlife of the lagoon. Italy has taken steps to improve this situation. They have raised the heights of some infrastructure to prevent flooding. But most notably, they have developed a floodgate system, called MOSE Mobile Floodgates. This is a fascinating engineering development. The technology is a system of gates that are intended to prevent the large amounts of water due to large high tides from entering into the Venetian Lagoon. Engineers rise and lower the gates according to the tides, which have been affected by recent weather trends. Hopefully, when this system is fully activated it will stop the flooding of the city and protect the wildlife of the lagoon. They are scheduled to be finished around 2019.
Although compared to the other Italian cities we have visited, Venice has many more challenges, but it is still a breathtaking city. It is a gorgeous city with scenic views everywhere you turn, but what is most impressive to me is the combination between such great history and modern development.