An art exists to wandering lost. In a city with no cars—only water—my brother Tye and I constantly find ourselves facing canals, our paths often and irrationally concluding with a dead-end. Three days exploring Venice; its beauty complicated by a sense of abandonment.
If cities are themed, Venice owns water. Even before arriving, stunning views of the Venetian Lagoon separate the city from the mainland. Upon arrival, Tye and I opt to walk rather than pay for a water taxi; two minutes later and we had grab our cameras while standing atop Ponte degli Scalzi over the Grand Canal. The sound of water permeates, a serene reminder of what lies as the foundation to the city. Boats buzz past in all directions. Gondoliers sit beside canals throughout the city, always eager to provide a ride for the many visitors. Venetian masks line shop walls, Murano glass crafted into goods of all forms—the Rialto Bridge has all of these plus great views. The palace and Saint Mark’s Square are iconic. Yes, Venice is gorgeous.
Yet for all its beauty, I felt the city itself wears a mask. The main paths are a constant bustle of activity yet one block away feels empty, abandoned. Shops are closed, buildings look forgotten—or at the very least ignored. The constant presence of water is taking its toll. I wonder how true the claims are that the city has more visitors than residents; then again, if the city truly is sinking, I probably wouldn’t choose to live here myself. In some sense, the more we explore, everything we find makes the city feel more and more superficial, a theater for tourists.
Even with such tensions, we meet some lovely fellow travelers and explore some amazing history. Instead of people-watching, Venice has boat-watching. Grabbing snacks and a Bellini and enjoying musical performances makes for some lovely summer evenings. Despite Venice appearing in an incredible number of films, nothing quite compares to the experience of standing in the center of Piazza San Marco or merely enjoying an afternoon sitting beside the Grand Canal watching boats pass.