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?