Venice is magical.
Yes, Venice is dreamlike. Anyone who has spent more than a few days here knows that you can never free yourself from her. She haunts you. You go away but she keeps her grip firmly around you, like a rubber band stretching and stretching but never breaking. You’re stuck.
I live in Venice. I wasn’t born here but I came here, fell in love and got stuck. I’ve tried to leave, I’ve gone away for weeks, months, years but eventually, I always come back. And the reason for this is of course, that she is magical.
Not the most beautiful city in the world. The most beautiful town in the world is this one.
But Venice is magical. And in many ways:
There’s no traffic.
Think about it. In almost every town, city or village in the world there is always the sound of traffic. Sometimes like in New York, Paris or Rome it’s an oppressing, frustrating blanket of sound from which you never escape. It’s always there in the background even if you try to run away from it inside your soundproof house or deep in the city park.
Sometimes it’s more like a whisper from the parking lot in your neighborhood, but it’s always there, or at least almost always.
In Venice, we only have the sound of traffic around Piazzale Roma, where the bridge from the mainland comes in. Further away from that square the sound dies.
. There are still motors in the boats; taxis, Vaporettos and others but no street sounds. And that gives her a totally unique atmosphere.
She is old.
In the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, the industrialism rolled over the western world swiping away the small town structure and mentality. The big cities became even bigger and they grew out into suburbs surrounding the cites and other suburbs surrounding the suburbs. Even the centers became modern and the concrete downtowns flourished. Then came the shopping centers, the industries, and the traffic. And the traffic needs roads and bigger roads, highways and so on…
Venice doesn’t have any of that. There just isn’t room for it. All the development from 1800 and on happened in Mestre and Marghera on the mainland. Venice stopped aging somewhere around 1900.
This and the fact that Venice, like all of the antique Italian city centers is super protected,
You can’t move the doorbell knob without asking some city architect for permission… And often you don’t get it… (neither the permit nor why you didn’t get it). This gives her an aging touch, even compared to other, very old Italian cities.
The presence of water is a huge problem. Houses smelt. You can see it on the walls. Up to a meter and a half, the color is darker. That’s where the wall is humid, and it makes the houses smelt into the lagoon. Venice is magical also in this sense. The cost of maintaining a Palazzo on Canal Grande and preventing the ground from just floating away is enormous.
But the water creates a sad, sleepy mood and it makes living in Venice a dream-like experience. It’s like being inside a film or a book by Thomas Mann… Yes, I’m thinking of Death in Venice. If you come here in November or January, the only time of the year when Venice isn’t crowded with people, and you find yourself in some distant corner of Cannaregio or Giardini, maybe looking out over the grey lagoon that disappears into the fog, then it’s possible to enter the second level of consciousness. You become one with everything and you suddenly understand it all… The reason why we live.
Just bring a warm coat. January is cold.