On the 8th day in Italy, we took a day trip to Venice, via the high speed Italian train system. We started out the day with a walking tour that covered a lot of the city and then continued on to tour the canals in our very own gondola. Venice clearly has a very unique geographical setting, as it was built on water through brilliant engineering. Today I observed how this unique geographical setting has impacted the movement, lifestyle, and trade of this city in both positive and negative ways.
The first thing that stood me when I got to Venice, was all the water surrounding the train station. I realized that transportation to the city is not easy in any way and has historically been rough. The city was only accessible through waterways until the 1800’s, when a bridge was made to connect the “lagoon” of Venice to the mainland. The bridge was then extended in 1930 to make the city accessible by cars and busses. This issue of lack of transportation still extends to today, as it is almost impossible to drive in Venice and the city’s residents often have to make use of water taxi’s or have to walk to their destination themselves. Another issue with living in as unique of a geographical setting as Venice is the cost of living. Real estate in Venice is very expensive as it is a high demand area. Italians usually buy instead of rent as it is a traditional practice to buy a house, therefore rent is expensive and buying is a long process. Managing the area that is bought is also very hard with constant flooding due to changes in tides. This flooding makes for costly repair, as reparation usually has to come through boats. Because of this tough reparation, Venice also does not have much of an ability to deal with natural disasters. There was a snow storm that hit Venice a few years back and there was no system in place to prepare for it. Another reason why Venice residents might be affected by its geographical setting is because of a large influx of tourists. Thousands of tourists come to Venice every year due to its beautiful canals and buildings and inevitable sinking, making life for locals more difficult and expensive as most services are designed for tourists. Some of these services include and ambulance that travels by water that I was able to observe. This system is effective however it takes much longer than a normal car servie. Venice is also known to often have a distinct smell, as the sewage system in the city often has problems. This can make like unbearable at times for locals, and even put restaurants out of business.
While there are many downsides to living in Venice’s unique geographical setting, there are also many positive factors. Back when trade via boats was common, Venice became a major trade hub, as everywhere in the city was accessible by boat. This gave the city great Maritime power, and ship routes extended all the way to China. Venice is also a city with many nice courtyards, as there had to be room given to people live their daily lives, besides just the streets. These courtyards are typically surrounded by multiple apartments, can be very beautiful, and give lots of room for activities.
In my opinion, Venice is the most beautiful city I’ve seen in Europe, however there are some aspects of visiting the city that made me feel a little bit uncomfortable. One issue I had was the narrow streets. This made it extremely hard for the amount of tourists to fit whenever moving through the streets, increasing clutter and travel time. This also made it extremely hard for navigation. Navigation in Venice is mainly a pain due to the large amount of streets dead ends that lead directly to the water. On the way back, me and my friends were shopping and we took one side street and suddenly were lost completely. We tried google maps but it was extremely hard to find out what the actual right streets to take were as there were so many streets. We then tried to take a water taxi but the amount of time would’ve been way longer than walking. We luckily made it at the end, as a friend sent his location, however it was still difficult with the many streets, and we couldn’t even imagine how we would’ve done it ourselves. This was one of the most fun times I have ever had abroad, however it was very stressful and unnecessarily hard.
My study abroad experience probably saw its peak and I saw many more interesting Italian habits today. One of these was that many Italians see pizza as more of a snack to order in than an actual meal. Many Americans often order pizza as main meal, and many places that serve tourists also serve pizza as main meals. I am also just surprised in general with how much Italians eat. It is common for them to eat one course of pasta and one course of meat. Usually I find the pasta to be plenty to keep me full, as that’s how most Americans feel. Because of this, I am also more surprised that obesity is a lot more common in the United States. Many Italians tell me that this is just because Italians walk more, and I could tell with the insane amount of walking I did in Venice today. I had a great time exploring my favorite city in Italy and am looking forward to having more time to explore Verona tomorrow. Stay tuned!