I want to like Venice. I really do. Of course, I want to like every place I visit, but that feeling is amplified when you take into consideration a millennia-old city that’s sinking and steeped in history. And yet, I couldn’t get out of Venice fast enough on our stopover there this past summer.
I remember liking it OK as a senior in high school when I was touring Italy with my AP English class; then again, it was only my second trip across international waters and everything was shiny and new and exciting back then. We went to a glass-blower. It was Easter week, and festivities abounded. There were crowds, sure, but not in the suffocatingly large herds we discovered to be Venice in July. I even bought the best Italian souvenir ever in Venice: an honest-to-god Versace jacket (I mean, it was denim, but still).
When I arrived at the tail-end of an 11-day European cruise last summer, I was overwhelmed by what a different scene summertime Venice was, 13 years after my initial visit.
We had sticker shock right out of the gate as we hailed a water taxi from the cruise port to the town. It was upward of $100—for less than a 20-minute ride. I balked at that price and refused to paying it, being a seasoned enough traveler to know that everything is always negotiable. Well. Except for in Venice.
Prices are pretty much regulated when it comes to water taxis (and there’s no other way to cross the channels), so we were stuck. Therefore, we found ourselves forking over a Franklin just to get to the train station, where we paid another large sum to store our bags until our train ride to Rome that night.
From there, we walked. And we walked. Then we walked some more, all the way dodging the throngs of sweaty bodies that seemed to be coming at us from every which way. We were salmon swimming upstream, no matter which tight alley we turned down.
Eventually, we found lunch in a quiet spot away from the madness before continuing our stroll and finding ourselves in the heart of Piazza San Marco, aka chaos central. If we thought the narrow, cobblestone streets were crowded, they couldn’t hold a candle to the masses of wide-eyed wanderers in St. Mark’s Square.
Mom, ever the historian, wanted to go in the museum, even though we’d done it before. The line was out the door and snaked its way around the square; I was not waiting in that monstrosity. Dad, SVV and I nabbed a table outdoors and sipped on $11 Peronis instead.
Don’t get me wrong: Anytime this family is all together, we’re having fun. I just prefer it be fun in a marginally cheaper, less congested, stress-free type of place. Like, you know, Montenegro. Or Ponza. Or even the Amalfi Coast, equally beloved by tourists yet somehow not suffocatingly stuffed to the brim with visitors. Not in a city where sticky travelers are butting against you around your every turn and your holding your back tight against your chest out of fear you’re going to be the corner pickpocket’s next victim.
After Mom was done doing her museum thing, we tried to do a little shopping—SVV and I did each find pretty rad leather jackets, so at least there’s that—but the majority of shops seemed to peddle the same ol’ touristy things. Eventually, we all trudged back to the train station, grabbed a table and read our Kindles for the remaining hours until our night train. Suddenly, I was regretting not booking us on the first one that morning, but I had thought we’d want the day to explore Venice, as only Mom and I had ever been before.
I’m not going to sugarcoat things for you here. Sure, you can get a pretty photo or two from Venice, but in reality? It’s dirty. It’s crowded. It stinks (literally). It’s touristy. All of those things have been the downfall of many a city’s authenticity, but Venice in particular has suffered (probably because whereas most other metropolitan areas have room to expand, it has nowhere to go—but in the sea).