Thursday, 6 October 2016


Venice should not exist. 

Her buildings, basilicas, residences, hotels, etc. are not even constructed on solid ground. Centuries ago, stilts were driven into the ground underwater. Without oxygen, these fully submerged pylons have not yet rotted.

Atop platforms sitting on the wooden stilts, a magical city has been built. It is difficult to believe that the iconic St. Mark's Square lies above fathoms of water. Touring Venice, one forgets that she is a city in the middle of the Adriatic Sea, a sea whose tides endlessly flow in and out. Tides, salt, and humidity eat away at precious buildings lining the canals. Engineers and construction professionals work endlessly at the enormous task of keeping buildings intact. The scope of this job is beyond comprehension. 

With the exception of car parks by the mainland bridge, all transportation in Venice is by boat. To walk the city early in the morning when the mobs of tourists are absent is to hear the early morning buzz of powerboats and to witness these long low barges delivering bundles of daily newspapers, fresh hotel laundry, restaurant supplies, appliances, even building materials. 

Just imagine the services we take for granted in Canada that must be delivered here on water: rubbish collection, bus and taxi, postal and courier service, emergency services, both ambulance and police......the list is endless.

Many deliveries, made in the early morning to hotels, restaurants and shops who lack canal access are dropped on the narrow streets.  It is not unusual to see employees moving these goods over bridges and along walkways in uniquely designed four wheeled carts.

And so we tourists arrive in Venice, stand in awe of her beauty, check off sites of interest, walk the piazzas, eat in restaurants, and if lucky, sleep in town, frequently oblivious to the miracle surrounding us. The miracle that is Venice.

Sunday, 2 October 2016


"Venice is chiefly a museum through whose clicking turnstiles the armies of tourism endlessly pass."

Thirty million people visit Venice each year. Thirty million!  Imagine Belleville, Ontario, with a similar population, being indundated by those numbers. Five years ago when Jim and I were in Venice, we quickly learned how to avoid the hordes. On this visit, we have been stunned and staggered by the crowds. We go tomorrow into full horde-avoidance mode.

Over seven hundred trains and bus tours arrive daily. Add to that the giant cruise ships who sail into the harbour blocking out the city and light, disgorging between 3,000 and 5,000 passengers each. 

Narrow lane ways, bridges and canals become clogged with camera-clicking, selfie-taking humanity. Don't even bother attempting to cross a small bridge with a tour coming in the opposite direction. You risk getting ploughed down as the mindless lemmings follow their umbrella toting leader. Venetians complain that they cannot even find standing room on their own vaporetto canal transit system.

A bridge photo I took today:

The giant avalanche of wake created by cruise ships is weakening the centuries old wooden supports and bindings that have kept them in place. Buildings and steps of stone, worn by year's of gentle footsteps are now being battered by waves. Puddles of sea water lie against aged walls. It is not uncommon to witness a local Venetian raise his fist as a giant ship enters the lagoon. Locals complain that cruise ship and bus tour passengers clog their city during the day and then steal away at night. "Did they really try to understand our city?" they ask. Our property manager, a Venetian since birth, almost cried yesterday when she spoke about a day last week in which six cruise ships were in the harbour. She worried out loud about how long it will be before the Venice she has known all her life, is no longer suitable for living.

An attempted ban on all ships over 96,000 gross tons from sailing along Guidecca Canal through the lagoon to the main cruise terminal and a limit of 5 cruise ships per day was overturned. "Venice is being crushed by the weight of mass tourism" charges Andrea Carradine, head of the Italian Environment Fund. Her concerns appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

St. Mark's Square today:

Jim and I, in love with this most gracious of cities, are I guess part of the problem; we cannot stay away. In our defence, we attempt not to wander mindlessly, not to merely check off the city as "another place visited", but try to absorb and respect the culture, architecture and beauty of bella Venezia. 

Venice is at a crossroads. Does it attempt to maintain its beauty or create simply a profit making centre? For future generations, I pray that they make the right decision. If we want Disneyland we can head to the U.S.