Mention Venice as a holiday destination and the first response is generally, ‘isn’t it really expensive?’ Well if you want to be a victim of the tourist trap, any city is expensive. And I am always bemused and disappointed by the lack of foresight on the part of visitors who can’t be bothered to research any destination properly before they go.
I am not your average tourist. I plan holidays like a military assault. And it’s simply because I prefer to avoid the throngs of visitors to any destination. I have no desire for beach holidays. I like to explore, to feel the history, to see a place as it is from a local point of view. To make the effort to learn a little language and respect customs.
And I shop around. I get my flights from one place, my rooms in another, my airport parking in yet another. I’ve got flights, parking and self catering accommodation for less than £420 for a week in San Polo in May. I just need spending money and I’m ready to go.
For me Venezia is a step back to my roots. I am proud that it and Murano are a part of my ancestry and my DNA. It is where my story begins. I won’t go there for anything other than that. I want to be immersed in it for what it really is.
If I had the money, if I had the means, if I had the knowledge, I would buy an apartment, live there and nurture my business there. It is after all only one bridge away from mainland Italy. Venice is not a bubble. It is a haven.
Of course it has its tourist ‘problems’. Doesn’t everywhere? But it doesn’t require much effort to see the city at its best. Forget the Piazza San Marco, Harry’s Bar and the Rialto after the tourists have emerged and the cruise ships have spilled out their residents on the canal sides. Go to these places before everyone has filtered through the hotel receptions after breakfast. Go out late at night when you can listen to the cicadas. Go at dawn as the sun rises on the Grand Canal. That is when you feel the history of Venice at its best. And go to the extremes, down the small alleys, to the canal sides, to the local shops, to the Campi as the sun comes up.
This is a city with no modern building, with no roads, no cars. They restore and preserve everything. Which costs huge amounts of money. Venice does battle with the acqua alta on a daily basis. It is its greatest asset and its worst adversary. But that is what makes it so unique and beautiful. So it is ironic that they need the tourists and investment to keep Venice functioning, sometimes at the expense of the local population. It is also a shame that they can’t live side by side. Venice has a multitude of economic problems magnified by its location. But they are the same problems as everywhere else. And everything has an answer.
I am warmed by sites like Venezia Autentica who promote Venice’s way of life. I am excited by the local crafts, the clothing designers, the marginal existence of the gondola builders and the artisan remer. That you can eat like a local if only you can be bothered to learn a few words of Italian and stick your neck out of the safety of ‘Parla Inglese?’
Tourists complain about the expensive hotels (hire an apartment or go AirBNB), the expensive restaurants (find where the locals go – cichetti is how you eat) and the huge price of a ride on a gondola (go and ride one somewhere else then – you can’t btw) but all these complaints don’t take into consideration what you are paying for. Because we never think that far anymore. We are always about the bottom line.
Western society is used to getting things for nothing or less. I am tired of the constant haggle over the price of experiences and handmade products. If you don’t like it, don’t go. Don’t complain and moan about the cost. If you can find Venice somewhere else, somewhere cheaper, then go there. In the meantime, I have two trips this year. And they will both come and go far too fast for me.
You can read my book ‘A Most Faithful Attendant – The Life of Giovanni Battista Falcieri‘ by purchasing it here.