Monday, May 23, 2016

Venice from Another Perspective

Piazza San Marco from the Cruise Ship
I've written some fairly mean posts about Venice. What an awful place. Too many tourists. So unfriendly. It stinks. The sewage. The mediocre overpriced food. The jaded, bored gondoliers who just don't want to sing anymore. Just another example of Italy's indifference towards the never-ending flow of tourists (Florence and Rome tie for first place in the We-Don't-Have-to-Provide-Quality-to-Tourists-Because-We're-Ancient-and-Everyone-Has-to-Come-Here-Once Award).

Actually, I'm reluctant to be nice now, but last week I experienced Venice from another perspective: At first, from the eleventh floor of a cruise ship. Looking down at Venice, I could see all the places I'd never been (although I've lost count of how many times I've been to the world's most beloved tourist trap). I'd never been to the park along the southwestern tip of the island. I'd been to Lido, but there were lots of islands that I'd not been to. Here's the thing: I was judging Venice on the tourist-trap center where millions of tourists hoard like maggots on a carcass every year. I was hating the Venice that Venetians hate.

There is so much more to Venice than Piazza San Marco. You will enjoy Venice more if you resist being a typical tourist. Resist doing what you're expected to do. Take the water bus a stop further than Piazza San Marco, to Arsenale, and explore the part of Venice where few tourists bother to go.

Did you know that Venice is divided into six neighborhoods? In Italian they're called i sestieri di Venezia. This graphic makes it look like seven, but Giudecca--itself made up of eight islands connected by bridges, which the graphic also doesn't show (way to choose a great graphic, Chris)--is part of Dorsoduro.

On our trip last week, we concentrated on Castello, or the skinny part of the Venetian drumstick, as I like to call it. This is with certainty the greenest part of Venice. There's a park with a residential area on its northern border and a military zone at its westernmost tip.

Another place I've never been, or don't remember walking through, is Cannaregio with its important history. Did you know that our word "ghetto" comes from this neighborhood of Venice? And did you know that geto was the Italian word for foundry or iron works in the fifteenth century? With time, as the Jewish population was concentrated in this area, the word became synonymous with the Jewish quarter in all Italian cities (at first not as negative as one might imagine); but because of the history of discrimination and antisemitism, the word became more and more pejorative.

Me sporting a new mask with six dots for the
six neighborhoods of Venice
The meaty part of the drumstick--Santa Croce, San Polo, Dorsoduro and San Marco--is where tourists mope along through narrow alleys like ants in an ant farm. I guess you have to do this once, but don't bring a weapon along if you tend to get antsy in crowds. I avoid these areas unless I want to go to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum or unless I want to buy a mask to add to my collection. This time, I bought a Casanova mask with the six dots to represent the six neighborhoods of Venice--to remind me that I have not seen all of Venice.

I must be off,

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Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Eclectica Magazine's 20th-Anniversary Best of Speculative anthology, Indiana Review, Night Train, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly: the Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, [PANK] blog, Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel, and lots of other good places. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.