Location: Venice, Italy
Visited: August 13-17, 2012
Background and Opinion:
If you have the dream of a quiet, romantic getaway taking a gondola with a native Venetian singing Solemio, about 200 million tourists thought of it first. Is that to say that Venice is not worth going to, not in the least! Everyone should go at least once! However, Venice gets 20 million visitors a year, which adds up to around 70,000 a day during high season in a city that is not very big to begin with. The crowds are something to consider since during peak season, some streets are bursting at the seems with people, especially those traveling in huge groups by cruise ship.
Venice is one of the most unique places I have ever visited. It is composed of over 100 islands linked together by bridges. Even with a map, it is quite the labyrinth. Probably the most refreshing thing about Venice is not seeing a single car (if you stay away from the bus station that connects to the rest of Italy) in the entire city. The whole transportation system is water based, with boat cops, firefighters, trash collectors, taxis, buses, etc. To truly appreciate Venice, try walking around in the middle of the night when it is finally quiet. Of course, very few places will be open, but the canals will finally settle, and you can even see the tide go up if you look at the steps that lead to the boats (you’ll know what I’m talking about when you get there).
Venice is the home of Marco Polo, the famous explorer who made it all the way to China and returned to tell his tale. It signified one of the first direct contacts between the east and west. At the time, Italy was fragmented into many city-states, and Venice was one of the most powerful. To this day, Venice is proud of its past independence and boasts a very unique Venetian flag.
1) Completeness and Originality (9/15): The lagoon and canals of Venice are in pristine condition. The water still retains a very pretty and vivid color. However, many of the people who represent this culture, don’t live in the city at all. When we were finally leaving Venice to head to the airport, we noticed the buses arriving with dozens and dozens of workers from the mainland of Venice. While they are still technically Venetians (since the city expands to the mainland), it begins to make sense why their attitude isn’t always the most cheerful, since to them, it must feel like working in a theme park. Furthermore, authentic mask shops are being replaced in some places with masks made in China. While authentic shops still exist in force, the culture is slowly being chipped away by cheaper Chinese alternatives. Given that an authentic mask can sell for up to 300 Euros, who can blame people wanting a less bank bursting souvenir
2) Extensiveness of the Site (15/15): It is an entire city. It could take upwards of a week to see it all.
3) Cultural Significance (18/25): The significance of European sites are often inflated compared to much older and longer lasting empires due to their current role of dominance in today’s world. However, Venice’s importance can not be understated since it started an era where two of the dominant powers in the Eurasian landmass (Europe and China) became fully aware of each other (with the journeys of Marco Polo, if I was being too subtle).
4) Personal Impact (12/15): If you arrive by train, the Grand Canal is right outside of the station. If you arrive by cruise ship, the San Marco Cathedral is there to greet you. You can’t beat that. Although it is truly unique, the massive crowds make it feel a bit like an amusement park.
5) Logistics (5/10): Arriving from Milan was cheap and easy if you book WAY in advance through Trenitalia. Seriously, the savings are 60-90%. Everything else was expensive, including a gondola which are set at 80 Euro per 40 minute ride (100 USD), but you have to try it once. As for food, don’t expect to get any amazing meal for less than 20 Euro a person (28 USD).
While the site is magnificent and I expected a high price, I had a hard time shaking the fact that one Italian after another was incredibly rude. While I did meet a few nice Italians, they there definitely the minority.
It also would be nice not to be pushed around by 100 people tour groups along tiny alleys.
6) Uniqueness (16/ 20): There are canal cities outside of Venice like Amsterdam, Xochimilco, and so on. But they all tout to be the “Venice of…” No other canal city has the scale, beauty, or history that Venice enjoys.
Combined Score: 75/100
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Related Articles / Useful Links on this Site:
Related Articles / Useful Links on other Sites:
1) Trenitalia is great to book trains from anywhere in Italy to “Santa Lucia Venezia” (Has huge early big discounts)
2) Venice Location on Google Maps
3) UNESCO Entry