Domenica 8 luglio 2007

Our sojourn in Venezia (or Venice, as the tourists prefer to call it) was partly motivated by its fame and supposed dazzling beauty, partly so I could tick another thing off the list of things to do before I die, and partly because we’d lugged a rather large guide book to Venice and the Veneto (I think the Veneto are an alien race from Doctor Who—quite why they share a guide book with Venezia is beyond me) with us everywhere thus far, and it seemed a bit silly not to make use of it.

It was a mistake. I fucking hate the place.

Why oh why has nobody let this impractical mistake of a city sink throughout its hundreds of years of history? Why are so much time, money and effort being spent on shoring this place up against the inevitable advance of the oceans? If the sea’s so eager to gobble the place up, then let it, and the vermin it’s crawling with (a vile mixture of tourists, bastards out to fleece tourists and pigeons) with it.

As you leave the station, there should be a giant sign arcing over you saying “Welcome to VeniceWorld!”, because the shithole is no longer a functional town so much as a bizarre, full-scale theme-park-cum-tourist-conveyor-belt, powered entirely by that least efficient form of human transportation, boats. The canals are obviously not navigable by foot so, if you were thinking of walking anywhere, forget it. To go directly across one requires you to walk double the distance to the nearest bridge—which is fucking miles—and, when you get there, you’ll be greeted by the same rabbit warren of endearingly useless, high-sided streets, down which, if there are any shops at all, you will only be able to buy fantastically overpriced food, glass or masks.

The Murano glass industry has a bizarre side-effect on shopping in Venezia: the glass workers on the archipelago are known for their meticulous glasswork, and it’s possible to buy a glass nearly-anything. As a result, you very quickly become tremendously suspicious of any shop display: are they really selling something, or are they just selling an elaborate glassware replica? You must live in constant fear of buying a glass sandwich and a glass can of Lemon Soda for lunch, or a glass postcard, or a glass T-shirt proclaiming “My friend went to Venice and all I got was this lousy glass T-shirt which, apart from being impossible to put on without shattering it and cutting yourself to shreds, caused one Hell of a fuss at customs”.

When you eventually find a little café and elect to buy a drink, it could well set you back €5 for a couple of cans of Lemon Soda and, at a mere two quid for 330ml of sugary water, Heaven forfend you should want to sit down and enjoy your purchase—“eet eighta Euro if you wanta sitting down!” they cry, shooing you out into the thronging, baking hot alleyways.

Even breathing is expensive; every inhalation of the saline air, reeking with the stench of ten thousand digital cameras unwisely held over the side of a gondola and now rotting at the bottom of the Canal Grande brings you half a breath closer to an inevitable exhalation, losing you a small amount of water vapour and accelerating the impending inevitability of spending €5 on another two cans of Lemon Soda.

The whole place is like Glastonbury—it feels as though any little job, any journey, is mainly spent wading through mud, like the place was never built for this many people. The difference is that Glastonbury lasts a few days, and then the whole thing resets. Venezia just keeps on rolling, stinking, crowded and oppressively hot, towards the tourism event horizon.

We should’ve stayed in Vicenza.

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