Yah…I hate Venice
I know, it feels completely blasphemous. Recently I was talking with a friend about some of my favorite places to travel and other places that I don’t feel the need to go back to again. Venice is quite near the top of that list. But how can it be? Standing in the middle of St. Mark’s Square, a place that Napoleon himself referred to as “the drawing room of Europe,“ was genuinely breathtaking. There was beauty for sure, but also a hell of a lot of birds and if you’re not interested in getting poop in your mouth, it’s best to remain vigilant. But what about the food and art? Yes, it is beautiful and there are definitely some amazing restaurants, but let’s be honest. At this point you are already in Italy, it is not a far stretch to find equally beautiful art and probably better food not tainted with the tourist kiss of death nearby.
So here’s a few reasons why I just don’t like Venice.
The bridges. Obviously it is quite inconvenient for someone that uses a wheelchair most of the time to try to navigate these little fu**ers. I’m not talking about five or six bridges. There are literally over 400 bridges in the city and many of them include stairs on both sides! Thoughtfully they installed some wheelchair lifts to help those of us that prefer to enjoy life with a couple of wheels as accompaniment. But – they took those down because the salt water made them too expensive to maintain. Priorities. This makes for some seriously inconvenient and time-consuming navigational issues.
You get to sleep in a closet for the lovely price of €200 a night. Although the building codes in Venice do require some wheelchair accommodations – those only apply to updated or renovated buildings. Guess how many owners have decided to do that? Well, I don’t actually know the answer – but it is not a lot! If you are lucky enough to find a hotel that has a room on the first floor chances are your options will be limited. Small bathroom, very small room, but hey – they might let you move the nightstand into the lobby so you have enough room for your wheelchair. There are actually a few hotel rooms listed as wheelchair friendly. Yay. But guess what? You have to get over the bridge to even get near the hotel.
It’s expensive! Need to use the restroom? €1. Want some help carrying your baggage over the bridges? €20. Just need to sit at a restaurant for a minute? €6 cover charge. Public transit ride? €7 per person. Ready to go home? No transfers, that’s another €7. And just to make sure Venice knows how important you are let’s go ahead and tack on a €2.50 tourist levy per person per day.
Out of my way. This place is crowded, even in the off-season! It’s like Vegas on the water. You won’t see the neon lights or get handed cards for hookers but you will get that same cozy feeling of being shoulder to shoulder with someone, vendors calling out you trying to get your attention, and standing in lines that no one really knows why they are there. The overwhelming number of visitors spilling into the narrow streets and a variety of boats, gondolas, and vaporettos in the water literally make everything into a traffic jam.
It’s a tourist trap. Loud clompy herds of mostly English speaking tourists fill the city with their selfie sticks, camera snapping, maps, and squawking to each other. Yes, I was one of these people as well -and yes I used my selfie stick. About 30 million tourists visit Venice annually. However, only about half of these tourists stay for the evening. So it creates this really chaotic, dine and dash mentality. The tourist contribute very little socioeconomically, but still manage to plug up the streets and public water buses – which are already vastly overcrowded. When these visitors head out for the evening they manage to leave behind trash cans full of once use rubber boots, broken umbrellas, windowsills full of sticky gelato remnants, and litter that the city scrambles to try and clean up before the next wave of stereotypical day trippers elephant their way through the city.
It’s…wet. Yes, you expect some of this because the city is built on water. It’s easy to head out for the day looking at these ridiculous tourists with their boots or plastic bags on their feet and side snicker that they are just huge weenies. After all, it’s just a few puddles – it couldn’t be that bad! However, you’re forced to eat your words when hours later you can’t get to your hotel front door because where it once existed you now find a canal. Or, after spending an hour in St. Mark’s Basilica you exit to find calf high water flooding the square. The tides of the Adriatic are quite dramatic and a few times a day nothing can stop the water from covering the streets. So, you find yourself in boots and plastic bags, or stuck waiting for the tide to go out.
But let me say this. There is one good reason to visit Venice.
The absolute charm and beauty of La Serenissima. Venice’s vast architectural, artistic, and musical heritage is awe inspiring. It has been the birthplace or residence of many influential and talented people like Casanova, composer Antonio Vivaldi, super adventurer Marco Polo, and painters like Canaletto. Each of these people and countless others have left their mark on the city for us to discover and learn from. Venice is probably sinking, constantly battling with foul odors, expensive enough where you’re forced to choose to send only your favorite child to college, and struggles to keep any amount of locals in the city. But if you can slow down a bit, forget how much money your hotel cost, and put on your patience panties for the day a few special memories will be your reward. Have a glass of wine outside and listen to the waves and water lapping, welcome the calls of the gondolier’s songs as he expertly guides his boat through daunting canals. Wear those rubber boots and forge ahead to see some of the special monuments and one of a kind glassworks. There’s a reason Venice is known for being a romantic city. It’s a special kind of romance though, one that requires patience, a little digging, and gentle kneading.