Today was, for me, one of the most anticipated days of the trip. Venice has always been one of those cities that had been high on my travel bucket list and I’m so happy that I had the chance to see it. The train ride in was perfect because it was not only comfortable but it was also long enough to get a little nap in to get some energy for the walking ahead. We immediately began our first tour as soon as we arrived on sight and we learned a lot about the city itself. One thing we heard a lot of is some issues that come with living in a city like Venice.
First off Venice is considered to be a lagoon because it is a collection of islands. It was built on tightly packed petrified soil that helped prevent water from running underneath its infrastructure. In the beginning the only way to reach Venice was by boat, making it a very exclusive place. While it was under the control of the Austrian Empire, a bridge was built to allow trains to travel to and from the city, increasing the potential for more citizens and visitors to come in. This bridge was later extended to include passage for cars into the city. They also added a bridge that connected the new train station to the rest of the city allowing for foot traffic to have full access. The city as a whole has 456 bridges making it one of the top cities with the highest number of bridges but behind Pittsburgh which resides at number one.
But going back to the fact that they are a lagoon, there are a lot of aspects of the city itself that makes it difficult for the residents themselves. There’s actually isn’t that many citizens anyway since most people have already moved out of the city. One major issue that has occurred is the lack of goods. We passed many grocery stores that were much smaller than any others that we had seen elsewhere in Italy. The reason for this is goods can basically only be brought into the city by boat and even then not a lot of goods can be moved around because the boat needs to be small enough to move through the canals. This leads to high prices due to the high demand and low supply, making the cost of living in Venice a lot higher than other places. Also, along the lines of a higher cost of living, the real estate in the area is astronomical. Apparently a small apartment could cost around 500,000 euros to purchase or 2,000 euros to rent per month. This is definitely going to discourage new residents from attempting to move into the city.
The city is also very old. And Italy as a whole has a very high interest in trying to conserve everything old and not destroy it. Because of this it is almost impossible to renovate a thing in Venice and if someone were to even try to renovate that would have to write up their plan and have it approved by a special board of architects in the city. It is even hard to get permitted to do something to the inside of the building but the outside is even more unlikely. Further continuing with the idea of inconvenience, the set up itself is very inconvenient for many residents. Since there are basically no cars anywhere in the city everywhere someone would try to go would be strictly by foot traffic or by the water. This means that people spend most of the time walking and the rest of the time taking a taxi which, due to strict speed limit laws in the city to prevent huge wakes, would take a very long time to reach its destination. Because of this Venice resides more as a fantastic and beautiful city to visit but not to live in. Not that it’s not an incredible city to live in but just because it’s unique style and architecture makes everyday tasks much more difficult.
One thing Venice definitely made me realize, however, is how important trips like this are for our education. I had always wanted to go to Europe, especially Italy and Germany. Seeing Italy has taught me so much about the world and other cultures. Before I joined plus 3, I didn’t know a thing about Italy or its culture. To that point I had only seen pictures of it’s beautiful country side and timeless architecture. We have talked to so many locals and learned where they like to eat, what they do for fun, and many more things. For example, I’ve learned that it’s weird in Italy to order a cappuccino after noon because it’s like mixing milk with alcohol (mostly wine) which is a definite no go. We’ve also learned that Italians handle heat much different than America. For example, while many of us are swearing shorts and a t-shirt and still sweating, I’ve seen a woman jog by with a full north face jacket on. For them it’s still cool while many of us are coming off a very cold winter so it feels scorching here. Also, ok a more technical side of things I’ve learned how different it is to live here and to visit here. It’s for this reason that I am tying this into today’s blog. When I looked at Florence in the past I had always thought it would be an incredible city to live in. After walking through the city and speaking to the locals, I’ve seen that it is the exact opposite. I’ve seen and heard of the troubles that people would face everyday trying to do many things that I take for granted back home. Trips like this do an excellent drop of teaching the culture and ideas of the visiting country by putting the student directly into it. And, even more so, I have learned a lot about how business are run and maintained by visiting the sites of major companies in the area. It’s for this reason that I feel extremely lucky to have this opportunity and it’s definitely one I won’t forget any time soon.