|The Campo dell'Abbazia della Misercordia|
I fear that by the time I finish typing this sentence its point will no longer be true--as that's how short the tourist off-season in Venice now is--but today was a gloriously gray, cold, foggy-ish December day during which, in the course of my errands around town, I do believe I actually saw more residents than tourists. No doubt this experience had something to do with the parts of town to which my errands took me, but it wasn't just that, as in the very same parts of town on most days of the year tourists outnumber residents. No, I realized that we're now in one of those all-too-short-lived and rare tourist lulls, a period whose difference is not just seen by residents but felt. Even the rather mercurial fruttivendolo (vegetable and fruit seller) in Campo Santa Maria Formosa, who can bounce in a flash from brightly hailing kids and their parents as they pass to or from a nearby school to snarling at a tourist for touching an eggplant, seemed as beatifically calm as the Buddha. Venetians seem noticeably less tense, less bitter, less despondent during such lulls. The old (or older) timers among them--but not only them--might perhaps be quick enough to say that this is how things should always be, and how they once were. But there's a sense that for them, too, so long removed from what once seemed like a given, such lulls now appear as nothing less than magical periods, as charged and wondrous as Christmas morning is for children, and like children they move through these periods a bit breathlessly, haunted by the constant sense of how soon they'll be over.
|The view from behind the brass nose (of Sior Rioba)|
Precisely the reason I use the entirety of my time off now that I have graduated university to visit Venice (and only Venice) every December. However, it is always a little bittersweet; I have loved this city since as a very troubled child I saw photos of it in books, and something about it seemed to help me, and I subsequently devoured every other book I could get my paws on related to it ever since. I worked very hard to be able to go there- it was a driving goal for me. I am careful about which lodgings I pick, usually staying with a friend from Marghera. I'm even careful about how and where I spend my money so that I support local business owners as much as I can. I'm a very anxious person so I'm always a little worried that people secretly hate me because I'm in that 'tourist' category (though I'd give anything to be able to call myself a resident! Struggles and all, would be worth it to me.) I'm even too scared to talk to people or go in some shops or restaurants, even though I'm fluent in italian - unless my friend is with me and I can have him speak for me (I can't speak venetian...yet. He can.) I've never received anything other than the most gracious hospitality and friendliness, though, so hopefully my love shines through? Cheesy, but one can hope :) -Andi (NY, USA)ReplyDelete
Thanks for your comment, Andi, but I think it's important to remember that there's generally a big difference between Venetians' attitude toward the overwhelming mass of tourists who clog the city and those 1 or 2 or 3 tourists with whom Venetians actually have a chance to interact at a particular moment. When we talk about the "tourist problem" in Venice we are talking about the undifferentiated mass AS A MASS, not as a collection of individuals, almost all of whom--with very rare exceptions--are quite pleasant. Sure, the rare hooligan tourists are the ones who get the headlines and, yes, there may be Venetian cranks who dislike anyone who can't speak Venetian (including full-time and now long-time resident "outsiders" such as myself), but most Venetians are perfectly willing to deal with the visitor or visitors right in front of them quite kindly as individuals. That is, when they are given the chance to interact with them AS individuals, instead of as a relentless wave of humanity washing over the city.Delete
I understand shyness, but it seems a shame not to speak a language in which you're fluent when you visit the country in which it's spoken--and if you can bring yourself to speak Italian in other parts of Italy, you should most certainly do so in Venice without fear. In fact, I think it's safe to assure you that almost without exception Venetians are especially pleased to encounter visitors who speak Italian and you'll find a whole new Venice opening up to you if you do so.
Thank you for the great post and for your answer to Andi. There's tourist and tourist, and Venetians appreciate who truly shares their love for the city.ReplyDelete
Thanks for your comment, Anonymous, and I think it's generally important for people to remember that if they're reading this or any other other blog on Venice they're instantly separating themselves from the "eat and run" crowd of whom Venetians are sometimes less than fond. The problem with that crowd is they can't be bothered to learn anything about the city, they're in a rush, they're looking to grab what they can, or to simply exploit the city for some "extreme" personal experience. As you point out, Venetians know the difference between this kind of visitor on a rampage and those like Andi, and for that reason the latter have no reason to feel guilty, no reason to feel they have something to prove.Delete