The only thing that Venizia and Pittsburgh may have in common is bridges. The history of Venice is rich, dating back to around 400 AD. Ancient buildings are common in Venice, with a history including the famous merchant Marco Polo, Saint Mark,the Austrian Empire, the Byzantine Empire, Renaissance, and the Middle Ages. The geography of Venice is some of the most unique in the world, boasting buildings older than the country of America itself, separated by a vibrant turquoise water and connected by more than 400 bridges. The first buildings in Venice were built on sand, and eventually stone was added at the beginning of the 1800s. Every building in Venice is a historical site, with most buildings being built from the 1300s to the 1500s. One of the most famous palaces, the Doge Palace, is from the 14th century!
Until the 1800s, the only way you could reach and depart from Venice was by boat. Then in the 1800s a bridge was built that would connect Venice to the rest of Europe, opening up a large opportunity for trade and transportation. Our tour guide told us that centuries ago, if you wanted to travel to oriental countries it could take as long as ten years to make the journey! That being said, movement to, from, and throughout the city of Venice has been extremely complicated due to its geography. If merchants wanted to get foreign goods, they had to sacrifice a lot of time and money to do that.
Because of the unique geography of Venice, it is very difficult even today to live there. Our tour guide explained that today getting basic amenities like groceries is a hassle for Venetian residents, so I cannot imagine what it would be like to live in Venice in the Middle Ages! Our tour guide told us today that Venetians collected rain for water until the 1800s when they started building pipes from the mainland. Venetians also must be acclimated to the constant flow of tourists in their city, which is not something that is enjoyable for the residents to always deal with. Trade in Venice is also greatly affected by geography, as until the 1800s everything that came into and out of the town had to be transported by boat! Now it is a little bit better with the bridges, but it still is not an easy and simple process.
I learned some very interesting things from our tour guide today. I had no idea that Venice was a Byzantine town until 1300s, but the Byzantine architectural style was evident in Saint Mark’s church we visited today, which contains the tomb of Saint Mark. Another interesting thing I learned today was that during the Middle Ages all of the churches had a porch out front for the poor, but during the Gothic period this trend dissolved. Despite this, there is still one church in Venezia that still has a porch left from the Middle Ages. Another fun fact that I learned was what a Moretta mask was. Rich aristocratic girls would wear this dark mask that covered their mouth and prevented them from talking in their distinguished, educated dialect when they went outside by holding a binky that the girls would bite. Another fun fact I learned today was that gondoliers used to wear all types of striped shirts, the color being determined by the color of their family’s crest.
My current travel experience to date has been eye-opening. I have never been out of the country, so it has definitely been an adjustment to be hearing all of this Italian! Despite this great transition in language and culture, I have enjoyed all these new experiences, from our walking tours to trying to navigate these foreign cities. Travelling with my peers has been wonderful, as I have grown a lot closer to a lot of people who I never would have known had we not been on this trip together. I decided to go to Italy for a couple of reasons. First, I am part Italian, so it only makes sense for me to visit the country my ancestors lived in and go back to my roots. Second, I thoroughly enjoy the art of fashion. I could look at VOGUE magazines and study pedestrians’ outfits for hours, so studying fashion in Italy seemed like a perfect fit. Lastly, I think it is a good professional experience to study abroad because many companies value international experience in a job candidate, and I think that travelling can teach invaluable lessons of life regardless. Before I was selected for Plus3, I knew a moderate amount of Italian business and culture. My sister lived there for a few months, so I definitely had a good idea of what it was going to be like. Visiting a new country for my first time is always going to be a shocker no matter what you think you know about it though. I’m so glad I chose Italy, and I’m going to savor this next week here as much as I can.