VenicePosted: February 3, 2011
Venice – One word evokes such striking images of Italy, ancient buildings, beautifully carved Gondola with their Mr Curly ends, handsome, straight Gondoliers, all stripey topped and broad shoulderd! Masks, intrigue, an abundance of beautifully arched bridges over the canals. Venice is simply elegance, but in a crumbly way.
I have never seen women, and men dressed as in Venice. I know Italy is known for its dressing style, BUT Venice, in my view, is one apart. I walk jaw dropped, trying not to be rude, but wanting to take in every detail of elegance from shoes, stocking, dress, sweaters, vests, coats, scarves, hats, gloves, earrings, necklaces, outer coats! You name it, the best dressed Venetians are wearing it, all at once and all styled within an inch of its life…….. naturally.
A day in Venice is for lolling around, walking slowly, not being concerned which part of a labyrinth a left or right turn will take you down, feeling the age, observing aforementioned outfits, browsing in shop windows, and even when game, stepping inside. Each lane-way hosts both tourist vendors and exclusive, upmarket shops. I once entered a shop to find a pillow case worth $1000 Australian dollars. I did not need to check the price of the sheets!
The streets are made for walking & browsing, as of course no vehicles can possibly enter the “islands in the lagoon.” All motorized transport is by Vaporetti! A very efficient, relaxing mode of water borne bus.
All is not great in this classical city. There is a problem. I understand that it’s not so much that Venice is sinking, the city is built on timber stilts which have petrified over the years and would now be as hard as rock. It’s just when the wind blows from the south it brings the swollen seas that flow through the 3 main entrances of the lagoon that Venice sits in. This year has been especially bad, 200 days Venice has been flooded. Gumboots, seriously, are becoming a new Venice fashion statement. Timber and iron catwalks, about 1/2 a meter high, are stacked ready in St Marks square. Not for the local designers seasonal parade, just so ordinary Venetians and tourists can walk about without sloshing in water I heard a story of a shop assistant, unaware that the water would flood that evening, was called to work in the middle of the night to help place stock on the higher shelves.
Enter Berlusconi! Always a controversial figure, about 7 years ago he launched a plan, with a group of international engineers and conversationalists. Its success is debatable considering the amount of money required to implement but is has gone ahead and should be complete in 2014. It has been tested and found working in “Little Venice” down the road, Chioccia. A series of hinged gates will be built across the 3 main entrances of the lagoon. The gates can be filled with air to become buoyant when high seas are forecast, and form a barrier to incoming waves!
A similar approach could be said to help the social network of the city, and perhaps keep the locals in. 30 years ago Venice had a population of around 120,000. That has now declined to around 60,000. Local government offices try to fill the city with real people in real jobs, but tourism and the plethora of mask and trinket shops that it brings, are flooding the city in another way. Young people want cars and to own a car and park it on the main land most of the time, is prohibitively expensive.
All adds to the elusive feeling of the city. A floating city, thousands of years old, an Aristocrat of an age well past, struggling to hold identity in a modern world.