Thursday, June 8, 2006

Finding the REAL Venice. (You have to look for it!!)

Venice can be hard to take, especially if you go to THE tourist areas.

Piazza San Marco is a surging throng of tourists pushing their way to the Palazzo Ducale, or the Basilica, which dates to the 9th century.

I found it absolutely impossible to take in the Basilica treasures. I'd been waiting decades to see the mosaics and sculptures, but a few minutes is all one can get. You are part of a continuously moving line which begins at one door, snakes its way through the immense structure then ushers you out through another portal. The whole experience lasts just a few minutes. Even though Mass was in progress in one of the chapels, the constant hum of a thousand whispers never subsided. In fact, it was even punctuated by ringing cell phones. I was really annoyed by the lack of respect.

However, there still is a lot to enjoy in Venice, far from the madding crowd. Having grown up on a small island, I adored the ubiquitous proximity of water. As you probably know, there are no streets in Venice (well, there are streets in parts of Venice, such as Lido, out of the main tourist thoroughfare.) Instead one gets around on foot and by boat.

Above: pull your boat right up to your doorstep!

One evening, I saw a couple of men standing by water's edge with a leather sofa and love seat. They were obviously waiting for transportation to take their newly-acquired furniture to their home. Venetians probably wouldn't do well with massive Costco shopping trips.

Above: one of the larger canals in a busy area.

The next two shots, though, show a very different canal scene - one I loved. A narrow little canal in a residential area, at dusk. All the boat motors were silent, and the only sounds I heard were of peoples voices - talking, laughing, some singing in the distance.

(Love that laundry line hanging out ACROSS the canal!)

This is another little canal, in daylight. I took this picture while riding the back of a private "taxi" to a great glass factory on Murano Island.

Here's the audio spot I sent from Venice about the difference between San Marco and the quiet areas.

I was last in San Marco at the height of tourist season, in July 1971. I don't remember it being choked with people. Arianna told me that these days, the Piazza is just as busy in January as it in July. And Niccola (a local) told me that Venice can accomodate 20 thousand people a day, according to environmental studies....yet there are at least 40 thousand visitors daily! No wonder it's sinking.

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