Orion's Photos: places - Europe - 2005 - 2005_07_26_venezia
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Sunday we resolved to go to Venezia (Venice). There are several ways to get there: train, bus, and car. The cheapest approach would probably have been to drive to Mestre (the nearest city), use the free tourist parking, and take the bus in (about a 10 Euro fare). We found a bus stop, but couldn't figure out the bus schedule, so we headed back to our car. As you might expect, as soon as we were out of range of the bus stop, a clearly labelled bus to Venezia stopped there! Having no way to predict when the next bus would arrive, and still a bit unclear on the fare structure, we decided to just drive. You can't drive to most of Venezia, but you can get onto the island fairly easily, and there is a huge amount of very expensive parking. We chose the ferry parking garage, whose parking spots were tiny, and we scraped the bumper of our rental car against a concrete wall on the way in. Grrr.
Venezia is indeed as beautiful as they say, but the most amazing feature of Venice, to me, is that there is *nothing* natural left. Like much of Italy, the buildings are uniformly stone or brick, with tile roofs and wood beams supporting their upper floors and porticos. Streets (pedestrian only) are all paving stones, and larger piazzas have closed-over wells. Every building is between two and five stories tall, and either stuck directly onto an adjacent building, or separated from it by a tiny pedestrian alleyway, a canal (Riva), or both. Canals are lined with brick or stone to at least several meters below the water level. There are no ditches, lawns, shrubs, or even dirt to be seen. Occasionally a private citizen will have a garden, but the total number of trees on the entire island seems to only be a few dozen. Tourists form a thick, oppressive mass along the main paths between the Piazza Roma (where parking, busses, and trains arrive) and the main square, but streets even a few blocks distant from these paths (which remind me of ant trails) are nearly deserted. We checked out all the things Venezia is famous for: gondolas (everywhere, but expensive [like 40 Euros per person] and manned by taciturn Turkish-looking guys, so we skipped them), glassworks (scattered, but cheaper off the beaten path, so we bought some), and architecture (everywhere, and very impressive). Everything in Venezia is about twice as expensive as on the mainland--food and drink (a soda on tap is 3 Euros), travel (floating "bus" fare is 5 Euros), and parking (18 Euros in the farthest garage). But you can see why: to resupply a restaurant in most cities, a truck can pull directly up to the back of the store. But in Venezia, the truck stops at a port, the goods are transferred to a small supply ship, the ship goes across the bay and gets stuck behind a long line of Gondolas as it works its way up the canals, finally docks near the restaurant, and some poor guy has to unload the supplies from the ship onto the sidewalk and finally pack them by hand into the restaurant. Venezia also appears to be quite close to a final reckoning with the sea--a typical sidewalk was about one foot above the current sea level (not clear if this was high or low tide); larger piazzas were even closer. Stairs that presumably once led down to a dock now go one or two steps and directly into the sea; several more steps now seem to be permanently below water.
All images taken by Orion Lawlor
and placed completely in the public domain.
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