For my first post about Venice, I wanted to look away from what makes this city so famous – the canals. Anything that represents Venice, shows its big Lagoon, romantic views into the narrow canals, with a gondola where a couple in love sits enjoying the views and each others company (currently, usually with a selfie stick as the third wheel… but I don’t want to judge! I understand. It’s a beautiful and expensive experience. Completely understand why you would want to document).
This is going to sound really strange for someone of my generation – a millennial. But my eagerness to go to Venice did not come from Instagram. I remember first falling in love with their Carnaval. I will talk about this topic in another post, but to me, there is a dark, mysterious beauty to their Carnaval that I simply always felt drawn to. And then, as a child (and I know this sounds odd, but I’ve been an odd one) I had asked for a collection of books still sitting at my parents home about major works of art around the world. That’s when I found out about Turner, Canaletto and Tintoretto. These three painters – the first British, the others Italian – introduced me to Venice. The Venice I could no longer get to know, but a place I definitely wanted to have in my future and I could dream about.
I did go to Venice with that big fear that this place was overrated. Venice has become almost like an adjective – how many times have you heard “this town is the Venice of….”? Many times. There is even a Venice in Portugal… and I never fall for these things. Every single place is unique, and comparing Venice to any of those other places that were called the “Venice of…” it’s absolutely insane. I would say it’s blasphemy. Even here in London, we have our “Little Venice” – it’s just a small canal running through the city.
Venice is an actual floating city, composed of about 118 islands. In a place like this you find a church in every corner, as there was a time people could not cross the canals – there were no bridges. We are also talking about a water depth of an average of 5 meters, so if you fall and you don’t know how to swim, and even if you do… you may get in serious trouble. Imagine living surrounded by water on tiny islands. Everything in there is literally floating – and you either walk or you use a boat. Yes, swimming is out of the question. No cars. Ambulances, fire brigade, police… it’s all in the water. Now, what fascinates me – living in a place like this it’s not easy now – with the crowds of tourists that have invaded the city in the past few years, then left with empty pockets when Covid hit. But it couldn’t have been easier then, am I right? Perhaps for the big merchants, the noblemen and noblewomen living well off in their palazzos. Yet, can you imagine such a tiny city, with so much going on? Especially when your whole world becomes constrained to a tiny island?
Perhaps that is one of the reasons why the Floating City is quickly becoming a Sinking city as well. Venice sits on top of the tectonic plaque of the Adriatic. It seems in the past thousand years, Venice has sunk 7 centimetres, which doesn’t seem like much. But during the 20th century, a span of 100 years, it is said Venice sank about 23 centimetres, which is absolutely insane! It seems like at that time, the authorities had started to pump water from underneath the city, causing it to sink even faster. This was stopped and now it is estimated that the north part of Venice is sinking about 2 to 3 millimetres a year….and of course, we have global warming, accelerating the whole thing. And, in my very non-scientific opinion… look at all the weight of these buildings, added with the weight of the millions of tourists invading the tiny streets every year?!
But those busy days of then, when Giacomo Casanova was furiously breaking hearts and indulging in such a live culture Venice had to offer. When the painters I mentioned above so rigorously spent their ink on portraying the episodes of those days… When the city received so many prominent figures of all corners of Europe, being a centre for artists, intellectuals and those who simply sought a good time at the Carnival…Venice is just wonderful. And yes, the canals are a big part of it. The little bridges, the blue waters against the orange bricked walls, the gates from the buildings leading directly to the water. And so my fingers clicked and clicked on the shutter, unstoppable. And I ended up getting way too many photos of this city that I’m so much struggling to decide which ones to put in here, which ones should be left out.
I have yet to see so much of this world. But something tells me there is nothing like Venice. Venice isn’t an adjective. Venice is an Individual.
And stay tuned, there will be more to come about this individual.