On Day 10 of Plus3 Italy, we took a little break from Verona and journeyed to the famously beautiful and unique city of Venice! Although the weather was a little colder than I was expecting, I was still in awe of this city and wanting to move there by the end.
The first moment I stepped out of the train station, I knew that Venice was unlike any city I have ever visited. The lack of cars is certainly a very large adjustment; it is very interesting that all transportation there is done by either foot or boat. It was definitely very strange to be in a traffic jam of boats! We were able to take a charming gondola ride to familiarize ourselves with the city and get an initial glimpse of it before being launched into the history of it. It was so bizarre to see doors that lead straight out to the water and have staircases from the sidewalk directly into the canal. I was very fortunate and got to ride with our trip administrator who knew a little about the history of the gondolas; I learned that gondolas, before they were a peaceful, touristy way to view the city, were for the rich to navigate Venice and that the gondola drivers were actually bodyguards for the wealthy passengers.
After the gondola ride, we took a walking tour of the city, where I learned something quite surprising. Because Venice is a bunch of small islands divided by canals, everything in the city was imported. Every little brick on each building, each small piece of a mosaic on the Doge’s palace, and everything else in the whole city has come from somewhere else. This idea is very interesting to think about because Venice was such a wealthy city at its peak because of their magnificent trading network and their silk empire, yet none of its components actually originated in Venice.
Along this walking tour, we also visited the historical site of the Mercy Association, which is a gorgeous building designed with in a very Romanesque style that now houses some magnificent artwork. Because the building seems to have been designed so intricately, it was a shock to hear that before it was an exhibitor of these designs, people used this architectural masterpiece as a basketball court! We likewise visited the Venetian ghetto, where I learned that the word “ghetto” was invented by the Venetians. It means “foundry” because it was formed in vacant metal factories where Jews moved to escape the Spanish Inquisition.
After the walking tour, we were given free time to explore the city and really immerse ourselves in the Venetian culture. One woman we talked to at NAD yesterday told us that the best way to experience Venice is to try to get lost. I decided to take her advice and spend this time winding through the narrow roads, enjoying some cannolis, and watching the sunset over the various canals. Each unknown street I went to was just as pretty as the next. The beauty of this city is truly unmatched from anything I have ever seen before, and the culture is very unique from anything I have observed in the United States. Clearly, Day 10 of Italy was a great success!