I’ve been here four times in the last fifteen years, and I’ve gathered some impression that I’d like to share.
Venice is a grand, albeit aging, city unlike any other in the world. No cars, fabulous cathedrals, boats traveling the canals, church bells ringing to mark the passing of time, and some of the most wonderful restaurants in Italy. It is exciting, lush, picturesque and unique.
The down side is that it is crawling with tourists, many of which have made rude an art form. Much of this incredible city has lost its charm because it is overrun with hoards of sightseers, and the locals have cheapened the city by selling crap everywhere you look. Of course, the epicenter of tourism is Piazza San Marco and the area around the Rialto Bridge. It doesn’t, however, take much walking to get away from these tourist traps and find a charming neighborhood with a quaint piazza that boasts a few sidewalk cafes. The further you travel from San Marco, the more lovely this city becomes.
I’ve seen a dozen churches and cathedrals in the last few days. Their grandeur is second to none. They are dripping in opulence, to the point of being obscene. The Catholic Church has wrapped its riches around itself like a dazzling cloak, making it clear that the thing Christians worship most is wealth. That’s what draws the ‘faithful’ into the churches, to get their piece of the golden pie.
Speaking for myself, while in Venice, I find that I spend an inordinate amount of time eating. Meals can last three hours—which is partly due to slow service and mostly to do with nothing here is rushed, especially eating. I see a lot of tourists wolfing down pizza, but the seafood and pasta are the best dishes by far. I don’t see how the locals can stay so slim. I’m gaining pounds by the day.
Venice is sinking, and can’t last forever, but she is still a wondrous old gal, always ready to surprise and delight.