Venice: The Abandoned Beauty

What comes to mind when you think of Venice? The Carnival, gondolas, canals, bridges or the pleasure of getting lost? When I think of Venice, I think of emptiness, fragility, and instability. Venice is surely as charming as a scene from a fairy tale. Yet, I cannot help noticing how globalization has affected Venice, not to mention how the climate change can damage this floating city.

Recently I read an article about the exodus of Venetian residents on The Local Italy. According to BBC Vietnamese, there are only 55,000 locals (there were 175,000 in the 1950s) while 65,000 visitors come to Venice every year.

These articles remind me of how I felt in Venice. A local touch is something I always yearn for while traveling but what Venice offered me were mainly soulless buildings and tourist traps.  I anticipated that because I and my parents stayed near Piazza San Marco, the most touristic location of them all in Venice. Though we still had a good time, Venice got me thinking.

At noon – Together with a lot of visitors, we arrive on San Marco, where we encounter even more tourists. We get tired from the heat and the crowd. I feel bad for taking a long time to navigate us to our hotel… in an almost secret place because the street is not shown on Google Map.

Let us get off the beaten track and find some poetic, tranquil scenes. We will wander around the narrow streets and the magical bridges of Venice… as if no one will follow us. Luckily the majority of the tourists we saw earlier remain at Piazza San Marco to take photos and queue for getting inside The Basilica of San Marco.

Now that we are lost, I suddenly realize something… The city is missing something, something precious and fragile. That is the energy of locals. No clothing hung outside windows. No old lady watching from the comfort of her room. No Italian conversations.

Instead of homes, there are hotels, restaurants, shops… and empty, run-down buildings.

There is even a huge cruise ship, which is used to be banned but not anymore. Have you ever thought how it can affect the waters of Venice?

Venice is beautiful but is this beauty authentic and everlasting? Where is the real soul of Venice?

Observe, be mindful and embrace reality.

19 August 2016


Update on 20 November 2016: I wrote 65,000 visitors come to Venice every year according to BBC Vietnamese but this is likely to be the average amount of visitors at any given time. The total number is 20 million tourists a year.

Published today, the article Will Venice be loved to death? by Lawrence Pollard asks a similar question to mine: “Will Venice end up killed by its own beauty, loved to death?”. Interestingly, Pollard pointed out successful replicas of Venice in Dubai, Qatar, Istanbul, and Las Vegas. He suggested that creating replicas could be the way to save Venice because not everything in Venice is even genuine – the horses on The Basilica of San Marco and the medieval bell tower were all restored. What do you think about his proposal? Are you willing to visit a Venetian replica if there is one near you? Could this be the only way if none of the governmental plans works out?



36 thoughts on “Venice: The Abandoned Beauty

  1. Yeah, there’s no an easy solution, but realizing there’s a problem and the various points of view is a beginning.

    I’m so sorry you were almost tricked, eager shopkeepers are the worst 😡

    Thanks to you! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I live not very far from Venice and every time I hear tourists saying Venice is a tourist trap and even “overrated”, I admit I cringe my teeth a bit. I can understand why people say it doesn’t look “Italian” and it surely has tourist traps, but the tourists who take their time to really understand and learn about the city are few. People complain about the fact it seems set up only for tourists and that “you can visit it in only 2/3 hours, an entire day in Venice is wasted”, but this mentality is exactly part of the reason why Venice is “dying”. Venice offers to tourists only the things they want to see and buy: fake and cheap trinkets, Piazza San Marco and Ponte di Rialto, stop. They want a city they can chew in few hours, some famous spots where they can take their selfie and nothing more.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s not only tourists’fault, the administration and the tour operators let them use the city in this way, but I’ve yet to see conscious tourists who visit the Arsenale, the real core of the city, or roam around most of the calli, which are literally deserted in comparison to St.Mark square.

    Concerning Venetian people, they are leaving because: a) it’s too expensive leaving in the city, they are all moving to Mestre or Lido di Venezia; b) can you imagine going to work in the morning with all those tourists in the streets and aboard the vaporetti? It’s really difficult moving around the city; c) they are exhausted, I saw videos of some of the residents yelling at tourists who were roaming around the calli IN BIKINI or HAVING SEX along the canals, CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?

    So I guess there are a lot of people who have to do a self-examination: the city administration that allows the passage of those cruise ships endangering the city, the local shoopkeepers who are rude and trick people, but also disrespecteful tourists. Lots of them think that Venice is an entertainment park and not an actual city.

    About building “copies of Venice” to preserve it…well, we complain that Venice is fake and then we build copies of it…it seems logic, lol. The journalist stating that the horses of the Basilica are fake, fails to mention that the original ones are inside the church to be protected from the humidity.

    Oh God, I wrote way too much. I hope I didn’t sound too vehement or sarcastic, but I was feeling very involved. Sorry for that.

    Thanks for writing about Italy, you have an awesome blog. Congrats.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sara for sharing your thoughts with us! I totally understand your viewpoints. The bad things happening in Venice come from many directions including tourism and administration. I was also almost tricked by a staff of the chocolate store Venchi inside the main station. I feel so bad for the Venetian locals who wanted to stay but could not. There is no easy answer to this problem but at least people should be aware of it. If I come back to Venice, I will definitely check out the Arsenale and other deserted places. Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Vy, thanks for stopping by my blog! Really interesting, I’m going to Venice (and Italy generally) in July next year and I’m sure I will feel exactly as you said… But the scenery is soo mesmerising we can’t help but put Venice on our travel bucket list! 😍

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sadly, but truth. I had a nice time in Venice, but you are right about missing local touch. While we were walking around we discovered many little squares and streets where the tourists usually don’t go, and I was happy at first, but then it was like “hey, but where are the locals? why there are no kids playing around? does anyone even live here?”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is what happen with mass tourism… you’ll earn a lot of money but losing your identity. What you see in Venice is happening in a lot of little villages that are becoming only big hotels. And for me, as Italian that has relatives living in this situation, is a little sad. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is very interesting . Also the city centers in Florence and in other cities are suffering mass tourism. I really love arts. It is a crime prevent tourist to visit this cities. But we have also to preserve our heritage. It is hard to say what is the best at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Really informative and interesting post! Just over half a year ago, I jumped on the opportunity to visit Venice for a day. While I did enjoy my day in the city, I completely agree with your observations – it’s really set up and marketed for tourists.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely! I think there was a statistic released recently about Croatia and/or the Greek Islands – a scary statistic about how much of their economy depends on tourism, and how locals are trying to escape.

      Liked by 1 person

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