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Famously known as “The Floating City," Venice attracts over 20 million tourists per year. I am fortunate enough to be living just over an hour away by train, in a small town called Vicenza. So, this will be the first of my many adventures to this beautiful city.
Going back as far as 400 AD, Venice’s 118 islands are built on logs which are connected by 417 bridges (72 of which are private). Gently flowing throughout the entire city and under the many bridges are 177 canals. The largest being well named as The Grand Canal. Visiting Venice for the first time was the first time since being in Italy that I actually thought “Oh. My. God. I am in Italy." With all of the incredible architecture and history I was insanely excited to begin exploring.
My first impressions of the city were decided as my friend and I were walking down a quiet street. I felt lucky to be experiencing this as it was the earlier side of the day where many tourists were most likely only just awaking from their beauty sleep. Whilst waiting for another friend, we went to a bar about ten minutes from the central train station where we both enjoyed a quick coffee and a bite to eat to ease our grumbling stomachs. Whilst in this bar we were able to witness some locals beginning their day a little differently with a glass (or two) or Campari. They seemed ready for the day, but so were we.
But, having just one day is not enough to really appreciate this city. With so many hidden streets, twisting and turning then suddenly stopping at the water’s edge it is easy to get lost, leaving you feeling like Alice in Wonderland when she fell down the rabbit hole. The excitement and wonder I saw pulsing through everyone that we met; families, friends, young couples, old couples and so many solo-travelers was undeniable.
Although there were thousands of tourists by mid-day, it was easy to slip down a side street and suddenly be alone. Something I discovered on my adventures is that Venice is home to the world’s narrowest street, Calle Varisco, measuring at just 53 cm wide! The reason the streets are so narrow goes back to when the canals were used as the main form of transport as residents wanted a quick and easy way to go between the houses, so came the creation of all the tiny streets. If you want to explore Venice from a different view (and with less walking) then maybe you would like to try one of the 350 Gondolas. If you are lucky you may even get to be treated by the ONLY female Gondolier, who gained this title in 2010.
Whilst the city is incredible, underneath it is not doing so well. As many are aware, the city is sinking at a rate of 1-2 millimetres per year. Flooding has increased, structures have weakened, and the residents are not happy. I can entirely see why, each year more and more tourists are being shipped in on huge cruises. Though I am not a specialist in anyway (I would certainly be earning more), I feel it is easy to see why this is an issue. With the size of these cruise ships not only is a large amount of water being displaced, causing higher tides, but the number of tourists coming in is almost too much for the city to handle. With recent flooding during the Acqua Alta, not only have residents’ lives been taken, but those of tourists too, so far bringing the
In the past 50 years the local population has decreased from 120,000 to 60,000. It has literally halved in just 50 years. Some specialists even suggest that by 2030 Venice could become a ghost town, filled with only tourists. Unfortunately, I can only describe Venice as a city that everyone should visit at least once in their life, which will not help the number of tourists, however I urge you to consider what time of year you visit, the places you visit and even how long you stay for. Do the research, ask friends or family that have visited, get in touch with local guides. Be respectful of this beautiful “Serenissima," and hopefully we will all be able to continue enjoying the historic city.