Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Venice is off the bucket list

Venice is always portrayed in the media as a romantic city that is filled with beautiful places, beautiful food and beautiful people. Movies like Ocean’s 11 give the idea that it is a quiet and secluded city in which only the rich and famous are able to visit or live. The history/mystery of a city that is surrounded by water and the notion that it is sinking gives it even more appeal.

As a result, if you ask people of their top places in the world that they would like see, Venice is usually up there. Most people imagine floating down a canal in a gondola while a Venetian dressed in a black & white striped shirt does all the work. Venice was in my top 10 places to see and this week I got the chance to visit during a rest day here at a team training camp in Italy.

TV lied. Every day, thousands of other tourists come to Venice to do the exact same thing that I wanted; to see this amazing place that TV has made out to be so amazing. This means that it is standing room only.

How does one access a city that is surrounded by water? By parking in an outrageously expensive car park then lining up at the boat-taxi rank to ride to the city center. When you arrive, there are tourists everywhere and every second person is trying to get a photo of that gondola you imagined. Street vendors are everywhere trying to take advantage of the tourists with stalls that sell anything you can image with ‘I heart Venice’ on it.

Since Venice is surrounded by water, there is not much room for public places or public seats so be prepared to be standing for an extended period of time. Head into the small back alleys and you will find tourists that have given up and are simply sitting in the middle of the laneway with a map, trying to figure out where the heck they are.

Like most tourist venues, everything is over-priced. The difference with Venice is that it can be justified. The logistics and costs involved with shipping absolutely everything in by boat is mind blowing. The amount of food and water alone that is consumed by the thousands of tourists each day must mean that truck (boat) loads of supplies need to be shipped in.

Shipping so many supplies in each day brings its own problems because somehow, the leftovers and waste needs to be shipped back out. With such small confines, few businesses or people are willing to take on more than absolutely necessary so you will often find random piles of garbage in the street as people just dump their waste. I could only think of one thing… What does a Venetian garbage truck (boat) look like and how on earth do they collect all of the rubbish from the tiny back streets?

Despite all of the tourists, the high prices and lack of public seating opportunities, Venice is still an amazing place. We made our way back to the car park on foot through a maze of alleyways and narrow corridors that are surrounded by beautiful stone buildings. A city that is surrounded by water is a bizarre concept to understand and running into children playing in the alleys is a strange reminder that people still live there despite all of the tourists. 

I didn’t get my gondola ride but I did get a photo and now I can tick Venice off my list of places to see.   

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