It’s been quite the week so far in Venice–it’s hard to develop any type of story thread while keeping it interesting, since I’ve alternatively been doing really cool things (see below) and mundane ones (phone shopping, various registrations and paperwork, etc.). So I’ll just list the highlights and key takeaways below, in no specific order:

  • Venice is a complete maze. (Well, duh.)  I’ve tried to walk to Rialto a few times from San Marco, and I’ve never been able to find A) a fast route, B) the same route I took previously, C) or any successful route before asking for directions.  It would be a lot easier if the GoogleMaps street view car could drive around here and help us out.
  • The Piazza San Marco and the Rialto are, in day, but especially at night, breath-taking.  (Again, duh.)  But also, that’s when they aren’t inundated with tourists, who are the proverbial turd in the Venice punchbowl.  Speaking of which…
  • Tourists here are the worst–there are so many things to take pictures of, but so many more people trying to take pictures of them.  Crossing the Rialto bridge at midday is like a salmon swimming upstream while being surrounded by grizzly bears who, having never been in this part of the water before, want to document every part of their journey. I feel bad saying this as a fellow tourist, but c’mon fellas.  At least act like you’re aware of your surroundings.
  • Gondoliers don’t have it that great.  The gondolas cost a pretty penny (up to about 50,000E), the hours are long, the repairs are frequent, and often gondoliers have to work in a public service role for the city (transporting people across the grand canal for a much smaller fee).  Plus those shirts, although perfect for a Where’s Waldo scene, don’t look that comfortable.
  • Other fun facts about gondolas: there are 425 of them in Venice, one for each of the 425 gondoliers.  The first female gondolier (Giorgia Boscolo) became accredited in 2010, after learning the skill from her father.  The left side of the gondola is 4 cm longer is order to allow straight navigation while paddling on only one side.  Also, they’re constructed from 280 pieces, from 8 different woods.
  • Returning from the main island on Wednesday, while waiting for the vaporetto to take us back to San Servolo, we encountered a number of Germans (from Munich) who were staying on San Servolo for a few days to attend a seminar.  The Germans, when they weren’t speaking amongst themselves in German, or with us in English, were yelling “BABITA-BOOPY” while walking along San Marco.  Good to know that Family Guy exists without borders.
  • Murano glass-blowers (and artists, in general) are awesome: Here’s a sampling of their works and them at work–I apologize for not getting a shot of the other guy smoking while working.

  • Other nice shots from the first few days here:

Weekly Suggestion for Improving Italy’s Economy: Ticket Enforcement on Vaporetto Lines

The Venetian vaporetto lines are like most public transport systems in that they are crowded, slow, and, at any moment, likely to have some fluid sloshing around within them.  For the most part, though, it’s a very smooth ride.

The one thing that they aren’t, however, is an efficient revenue-generator for Venice.  From what little experience I have on American transportation systems, I have deducted that typically, passengers have to give their ticket / pass to a conductor once on board or touch it to a screen, which allows them access to ride or access to the waiting area.

Venice tries to imitate the touch-screen model, as there are these screens at all vaporetto ports.  What they failed to implement was any means of enforcing that passengers use these screens; there aren’t any gates, turnstiles, or other barriers to entry preventing passengers from the boarding area and the vaporetto itself. (A few touristy places–i.e. Piazzale Roma–have staff working around the screen area, but they never pay attention strictly to the screens.) Nor do any of the crew care enough to see if that passengers have tickets with them.  Once on the vaporetto, passengers are threatened with signs saying that if you board without a ticket, tell the crew immediately, or else you will be subjected to a 52E fine.  The next time I see a passenger fined like this will be the first time.

I have a monthly pass that allows me access on all of the major vaporetto lines at no additional cost, but if I were visiting, it would be quite tempting to game this system.  It’s strange that in Venice, where everyone is chasing after easy tourist money, the its most prevalent feature fails to succeed at just that.

Next Week: I go to the Venetian lagoon and start classes for real at VIU.  Hilarity may ensue, but probably not.  Till then–BAPITA-BOOPY!

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