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A Writer in Venice


The tourist buzz about Venice says don't go there. Word on the street: It's an overcrowded, overpriced tourist trap. But when I told my sister and her husband--long-time residents of Italy--that I was skipping it, they were aghast. To say they dragged me there would be an overstatement. Let's just say I took some persuading.

The trip got off to a bad start. Jennifer and Claudio were to pick me up in Urbino, but there was a mix-up about the meeting place, so we ended up waiting for each other in different spots for two hours, and when we finally connected, one of the group was pretty hot under the collar (since you've asked, no, it wasn't me). Then we had a long, hot drive to Venice. We arrived tired, hungry, sweating, and silent. I couldn't help smiling to myself: typical family vacation. As regular readers of this blog know, I hadn't seen my sister for more than a decade when I arrived in Italy. So being a family again is good, even with the warts.

Monday was a new day. We were up and on our way early. We walked all over Venice, toured the Palace of the Doge, and went to the top of the campanile from which Galileo first viewed the sky through his telescope. We crossed the famous Bridge of Sighs, my niece Anna fed the pigeons at St. Mark's Square, and, of course we took a gondola ride. The gorgeous young man with his arm around me is our gondolier.


And believe it or not, I was thoroughly enjoying this gondola ride, although you can't tell it from my expression!

At one point, we stepped into a little store to ask for directions. The shopkeeper's went from my Korean sister to my Eurasian niece to my Italian brother-in-law and to blonde, Scandinavian me. "You're all mixed!" he said. But he said it with such frank, almost childlike curiosity that all we could do was laugh in agreement. All mixed, indeed.

In short: Yes, Venice is most definitely an overcrowded, overpriced tourist trap. But it is a spectacularly historic and beautiful tourist trap and, in my book, totally worth it.

Venice from the campanile at St. Mark's Square.


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Venice is grand

When I think of "tourist trap," I think "theme park" or "Vegas." Venice is not either.

The Venice you get in Las Vegas is a mere eye blink to the history, grandeur, and surrealism that is the real Venice. My family and I went last year to Venice, Italy, for our first time, and it's unique in many ways. First, there are no cars. You can walk everywhere. You can also take a water taxi. There are few straight lines. The narrow streets wind around. Some are so narrow, they are only two-people wide. How buildings can butt up to water, I still don't get, but it's amazing. Sting performed in San Marcos Square our first night there.

Venice is where opera was invented. The place was the first great crossroads of East and West. So much wealth passed through there, merchants became rich as kings and built palaces to prove it. We saw some of these eye-opening places during the Venice Biennale, where a few of these private enclaves were open to the public for the first time in centuries if ever, to show art.

The city can be expensive, yes, but also affordable if you eat off the main walkways, and we had a beautiful bed and breakfast that was my favorite in all of Europe and affordable. Any good guidebook will offer you great restaurants and B&B's. The city is now mainly a showplace for art, with hundreds of museums and galleries. New art, old art, it's a marketplace of ideas. The Biennale, which runs every two years, will be June 1 to November 24, 2013.

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Great insights into this remarkable city. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

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Many years ago I lived in Padova which was a short train ride from Venice.

I used to love to go to Venice to meander around and have a coffee on San Marco square.  I particularly enjoyed walking the cobbled streets on a misty winter night when the streets were deserted and I felt as if I was in a Shakespearean story.

Over the years I have been back many times and each visit is as magical as the first.

My visit last Summer however, took away the joy of Venice for me.  As a result of the many cruise ships departing from Venice and the hoardes of tourists you can no longer see Venice for all the crowds.   I had to push passed throngs of people up and down the small bridges, through the narrow streets and the beauty of the place became obscured by the masses.  It was a mission finding a place to sit and eat.    

The world is getting smaller and more people are able to enjoy more places.  It is a blessing and a curse at the same time.