venice — first impressions

we are now in Venice.

we have only been here a short time.  just enough time to take the vaporetto (water bus) down the entire length of the Grand Canal, Venice’s major street (canal, waterway).

just enough time to wander through the wonderfully wistful and massive St. Mark’s Square.  the square which houses the 325 foot high Campanile bell tower, the Doge’s Palace and the 11th century St. Mark’s Basilica.

just enough time to sit down at one of the outdoor cafes  in the square and take in the scene, while sipping a drink, having a snack and listening to the melodious music being played a few feet from us.

and what a scene it is.  pigeons and people.  lots of pigeons and people.

for me, this is my third trip to Venice.  once, 55 years ago.  again, 20 years ago.

what has changed?

it is too early to tell, but my first impressions are…

that the city is tragically dying a slow death.

20 years ago, I noticed with alarm the deterioration of the infrastructure, the buildings, the color and the vibrancy of the very unusual eclectic architecture.

that is still the case.  the first floors of many of the homes and buildings have been abandoned, giving into the inevitability of the water intrusion from rising sea levels and winter storms.  in addition the city is slowly sinking and add on to that the lack of maintenance of existing facilities.  most everything takes place on the second floor (or, in Europe, they call it the first floor) and above.  the salt from the sea gradually eats away the bricks that all the buildings are built with.  see the salt line in the picture below.

but, more importantly perhaps, is the death of the role, the raison d’etre of Venice the city. historically, the city of Venice played such an important role.  in international trade between the east and western Europe.  in setting a standard for good, enlightened business practice and stewardship as a way for growth as opposed to growth from wartime and land aggression.  in being independent even when faced with the power of the Roman Empire, the Turkish empire, the Roman Catholic church, and others.  what is the role of Venice today?

today it is primarily a tourist attraction. it is a glimpse of years past.


the Bridge of Sighs in the background

very little else is occurring on the 100+ islands that make up old Venice.  the population has declined from over 150,000 to approximately 50,000.   there are few industries or commercial enterprises.

first impressions on this trip is that almost everyone here in Venice is a tourist.  the place is crawling with them.  two massive cruise ships are tied up.

where are the Venetians?  obviously a lot of them are providing the services that the tourists need.  lodging, food, tours, and gondola rides.

but that is the major question I have after just a few hours in Venice on my third trip.

just by chance, as we arrived in Venice, the New York Times August 29th edition on the Op Ed page had an article about the future of Venice.  I recommend it to you for your consumption.  here is the link

this city needs to be preserved.  it is truly an international treasure.  the entire world, not just Italians, need to figure out a way to do that.  if  we just continue the way it is going, I believe that it will die a slow death.

initial impressions…

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