There are no cars here

Dear Venezia,

You are a unique city. I wanted to fall in love with you. I wanted to boast about how beautiful you were, how friendly your 60,000 central Venice residents were, and how I could not wait to return.

Venezia, I’m sorry, but I’m just not that into you.

Camie x

Peter and I kicked off our whirlwind tour of Italy in Venice on Thursday, April 5. Our itinerary was as follows:

  • Three days in Venice
  • Three days in Florence
  • One day in Tuscany
  • Four days in Rome

That’s a total of eleven days and as we learned, eleven days is about four days too many on a vacation. First, Peter is directionally challenged, so I always the navigator. Having my nose buried in a map for eleven days was incredibly frustrating. As soon as I got comfortable with the layout of the city, we departed for the next city. Second, Peter and I love wine and pasta but eleven days of wine and pasta takes a toll on the body.

Our trip didn’t start out on the best jet wheel. Our flight from London to Rome was delayed by an hour and even though time was made up in the air and Peter and I were able to make it to the connecting flight’s gate in time for boarding, we were told that we could not board because the crew did not have enough time to transfer our bags.

Alitalia = The worst airline I’ve ever flown to date.

Let’s start with the geography of Venice. When I started researching our trip, I thought Venice was a city built on low ground in the mouth of a river. I thought it had slowly sunk over the course of time or the water rose, or both. I was uneducated.

In actuality, Central Venice is a collection of 118 small islands within a lagoon off the coast of Italy. The islands are linked by canals and bridges.  The islands were originally muddy and therefore, wooden piles were pounded into the ground and oak planks were placed on top of the piles. On top of the planks resides several layers of marble (impermeable by water) which serves as the foundation for today’s buildings. As the water level rises above the waterproof marble foundation, the fragile building materials are worn away which leads us to the current “Venice is going to disappear soon” conundrum.

There are two main reasons why Venice is “sinking.”

  • The weight of the buildings is driving the piles further down into the marshy land.
  • At one time there were hundreds of wells in the city which removed water from deep aquifers. The aquifers were acting as a “balloon of water,” propping up the city. As the aquifers deflated, the city began to sink.

The literal “sinking” of Venice averages a few centimeters per century and is the first part of a two-part problem. The second and bigger part is that the surrounding water is rising due to global warming.

The Venice airport is located on the mainland and since there are no cars in Central Venice, there are limited ways to get to/from Central Venice. We chose to take the Alilaguna which is a giant boat that seats 200+ people. It runs from the airport to various stops in and around Central Venice, like an airport shuttle but on water.

After I wrapped my head around there being no cars in the city, I quickly came to appreciate the logistics of Venice. Police cars are boats, ambulances are boats, taxis are boats, buses are boats, bus stops are floating docks, wagons and small carts are used as couriers for supplies, and delivery trucks are boats. On an engineering level, Venice blows my mind. It’s amazing and interesting and all those things that make my mind boggle.

In Venice, you will see all shapes and sizes of boats.

Here is a photo of the boat bus stop with a boat bus.

Here’s a delivery cart which is used to transport goods from the delivery boat to shops and restaurants.

Unfortunately, I had some cultural issues with Venice and with Italy in general. Shall we just say that I am not a gal who is every going to desire to live in Italy?

My first cultural issue is that I found Venice to be a very dirty city. There was debris in the canals, cigarette butts on the pavement, and food was strewn everywhere.

My second cultural issue is that I felt every business owner was out to get our money, rightfully so, Venice is a 100 percent tourist destination. Some examples include:

  • Do you want to sit at a table and enjoy your cup of coffee or glass of wine? If so, you will be charged a “cover charge” for the table or pay an inflated price for the beverage (generally 30 percent more).
  • Do you want to eat at a restaurant? If so, here comes the famous cover charge even though there is no physical way to eat at the restaurant without sitting at a table. And if the restaurant did not charge a cover charge, it would then add a 10-20 percent “service charge” to the bill.
  • Do you want water with your meal? If so, you have to buy a bottle because it is not advised to drink the tap water even though it is tested fortnightly. The reason for this is that the pipes from the water supply to the tap in each individual building are not tested and cannot be trusted to be safe.

My third cultural issue with Venice (and Italy) is the toilets. The toilet bowls were low to the ground, did not have toilet seats, and were filthy (though toilet brushes were always available!).

We spent our first half day in Venice wandering around the city and getting our bearings. We spent some time in San Marco square and walked back to our hotel in the early evening.

Here is my only photo of San Marco square. It was crawling with tourists.

On our way back, the flooding problem became apparent. “Catwalks” are used for foot traffic when the pavement is flooded.

Flood “gates” were inserted in doorways of businesses.

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