When arriving in Venice by rail, one cannot help but notice the huge amounts of water lying by the rails, and the vastness of the port area, including the oil refineries. But this can be forgotten really quickly when one reaches the St Lucia train station. Despite appearances there is only one source of revenue.
Tourism. Venice is a tourist destination. But not exactly in the way of an average tourist resort. In fact it has a cross-age appeal. In its streets one can see middle aged couples, pensioners, students and families walking around town. Venice has a bit of everything. Romantic rides for lovers, expensive and cozy cafes for fashion and lifestyle victims, and of course a lot of sights. But there is a sign of the city’s dependency on tourism. The prices on everything from hotel rooms to food and drink, can be high. Good thing I am staying in a student hall. The area around Piazza Santa Fosca, looks like an average neighbourhood housing university students and, of course, student bars.
“Not all who wander are lost”, explains a sticker on the ceiling of one of those bars. “Fair enough”, I think, but that does not have anything to do with Venice. If you don’t have a map, you can spend hours wandering around the streets of Venice, trying to find your way to the area you want to visit. The ambiguous street signs contribute to this too, since they just inform you that there are more than one ways to reach your destination, offering no further explanation, since the distance between them can be huge, leaving lots of uncovered crossroads in the meantime.
Exhausted from the hours of searching for the piazza, I finaly find my way there, and try to enter the famous basilica. First, I find out that there is a huge qeue in the entrance. Discouraging sight number one. Then I see that backpacks or bags are not allowed inside, and I have to go to a baggage guarding service, to leave my bag. That, of course might mean that I will be charged like hell, and this is not really good for the budget of a backpacker like myself. This is the second discouraging point. Wic h makes me decide to ditch the effort and try to explore a bit more. Maybe go to the islands surrounding the town, or make a go for the gardens I had spotted on my arrival, yes the ones next to the Santa Lucia station. I go for the second option, and pass a quiet afternoon there, before I return to the hall.
My roomies are a small picture of the kind of people travelling to Venice. An elderly American professor, a teenager from someplace like Vermont, and a family from England, all of them on vacation travelling around Northern Italy.
Venice does try to resemble the rest of the region. And though the rest of Veneto is being industrialized (especially the areas of Treviso, Marghera and Mestre, Venice does not really fit in the picture. And that because the whole of the area’s heavy industry has a really small economic impact compared to its prime export, tourism. And probably this is the reason why the Camora is trying to dig in the honey-vase called Venice. The mob has probably understood that there is a huge potential on the areas of tourism and constructions in the area, securing a profit for its more legit branches. Mind you crime is very low in Venice, but that does not prevent the financial sector of organised crime to invest there. Some of the most recent construction works have been undertaken by the mob, including the renovation of buildings. And the extent of the busyness probably extends to the handling of municipal waste too.
Another problem the city may face, is the rise of sea level. The city may not be under the threat of constant flooding yet, and it is everything apart a from being a deathtrap, but if the sea levels continue to rise and the water defences of the city are not upgraded, a Katrina-styled catastrophe can be highly inevitable within the next few decades.
There are also some other problems that locals currently face, the main one being the expensiveness of public transport. A one way ticket for the distance between Piazza San Marco and the Station of St Lucia, a very popular route that covers the distance of about 3 kilometres, costs about 3 euros. I can imagine the cost of the same route. using a taxi or a gondola. Much more expensive for sure.
My short stay in Venice is terminated at the dawn of Wednesday, when my long trip to the south of France begins.
Nevertheless, my impression of Venice is that it is a nice little town to visit and stay in, for a weekend. Not for a longer time, I gather. A picturesque town, a tourist magnet, an absurd town of the renaissance.