Our recent trip to Venice was very interesting, and not just for all the usual reasons such as the stunning scenery and the delicious food. Yes, there was all that in abundance, however there was also a chance to think about the city in its modern context, not just as a fascinating historical city.
One of the things that I remember seeing in lockdown was photos of dolphins swimming in clear waters in the canals of Venice as the tourists were not there, and consequently there was not the constant traffic of vaporettos, water taxis, ferries and gondolas.
The Grand Canal is amazing, and I loved looking at all of palazzos as we passed and wondering about all the people who had built them and lived in them over the centuries.
Venice is one of the most visited cities in the world, with over 25 million individual visits in 2019 and the pandemic and the restarting of travel has prompted Venetians and others to try and think differently about the city.
There are around 250,000 residents in the greater Venice area and only 55,000 who live on the main island. The population is shrinking by around a thousand a year, partly because properties get sold for tourist purposes rather than being affordable for locals.
I was glad that we had already planned lots of the things that are recommended to make travel there more sustainable. We were staying for a week, when many visits to the city are for just a day, especially from people on cruises.
That makes the central areas, such as St Mark’s Square above, very crowded, and also does not benefit the whole of the city as much. One of the arguments for tourism is always the economic benefit that it brings so I was pleased that we had the chance to visit the more outlying parts of the lagoon in our time there.
I knew that Venice was in danger of degrading, but had not really considered what I as a visitor could do about it. However reading information left at the apartment, and later some websites and books about Venice, made me think about my trip in a different way. I travel not just to look at wonderful things, but also to learn about the places that I visit, and this holiday really made me think.
We also stayed on the outskirts of the main island, a decision made out of practicality for us, as I remember the difficulty of finding our hotel last time, but one which is recommended by those who are trying to save Venice from becoming overloaded.
We had the most gorgeous apartment, Apartment Ganeo, in an area called Sant Elena, situated in a beautiful and quiet wooded area, but still on the main No 1 vaporetto route.
That meant that we could use the local facilities there such as the little shops, and three excellent restaurants and bars minutes from our apartment, that served the most delicious pizzas. I can heartily recommend Vincent Bar for the food, hospitality and the view, as we also got to enjoy some amazing sunsets over the Grand Canal.
We also got a chance to see some of what real life was like for the residents of Venice. Being in a more normal part of Venice, where we were finding out about how the rubbish is collected, (door to door each morning and you sort your recyclables before collection), really makes you think about your individual impact as a tourist.
I came across this book in one of the museums and downloaded the Kindle version when I got back. Reading something like this makes you think far more about the impact of mass tourism, especially in such a small city. I love to travel, obviously, and live in an area of a country famous for mass tourism, so it is good for me to think about what I do, both here and when I go away, so that my travel can be as beneficial as possible for everyone.
I have also ordered Jan Morris’ book about the history of Venice to read, which will be waiting for me when I return to the UK.
One of the things that we did was buy a museum pass, and that meant that we visited museums that we not have otherwise, as there were eleven included. This meant we visited some of the smaller, and less well know ones, as well as the wonderful Doges’ Palace pictured below.
That gave us a really good sense of the history of Venice in many different aspects, as well as the chance to admire some truly splendid ceilings, such as these in the Correr Museum!
On the top floor of the modern art gallery in Ca’ Pesaro is the Museum of Oriental Art , there was an amazing collection of Asian weapons, art and lacquerware. It was fascinating to see this, especially having just visited Japan.
I will share some more of the museums in a future post as there were some really exciting textile finds, as well as wonderful medieval art and maps in the Correr Museum.
I appreciate that by visiting Venice I may be considered part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. However I was glad to know that my impact might have been more beneficial than other types of stay. It is good to be aware of these aspects and was something that I will definitely apply to my future travels.
My friends who were visiting me in Spain have now all left. I have had a brilliant ten days and despite dire forecasts the weather was fine most of the time. It is a really hot day today, so I am getting all of my washing dried and planning an afternoon sewing quilt blocks, possibly followed by another trip to the pool if the forecast rain does not appear this afternoon.
I hope that you have had a lovely week, and are enjoying sunny weather and the Bank Holiday if you are in the UK. Whatever you are doing enjoy it, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.