There are so many reasons to hate Venice:
- It’s crowded
Even in October, the supposed off-season, we found ourselves mercilessly deprived of our personal space as we were stuffed onto a public Vaparetto boat heading to our hotel. Though the lineups to the main attractions were admittedly not that bad, we found ourselves heading back to our hotel when a washroom was needed (faster than waiting in line for one).
- It’s touristy
The tourist trinkets – murano glass and venetian masks – may be unique to the city, but after you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. And there are hundreds of them. It also seems as though the entire daytime population of Venice is made up of tourists, descending upon the canals in herds of camera snapping, rubber boot clomping, English babbling elephants (we fit into this demographic). Many are just day-trippers and don’t actually stay right in Venice (for reasons I’ll explain later) so it’s a ghost town at night. Trash cans full of broken umbrellas and discarded rubber boots, the only indication that they were here.
- The people are rude
I can’t count the number of times we were yelled at for doing something wrong. “Don’t eat in the streets!” You literally aren’t allowed to buy a sandwich and then eat it in a public space like Piazza San Marco. “Get out of the way! Take your backpacks off!” As we made our first attempt at taking public transit by boat. As mentioned, we were packed in like sardines and couldn’t “get out of the way” even if we wanted to. “Pay first, then order!” An impatient voice snapped as I tried to pick out a morning breakfast croissant. “Prego” is a common word for “here you go” or “please”, but the venom in the waiter’s tone as he said it and shoved the bill at us, suggested he more likely meant “screw off!”. Argh, rude people are the worst!
- It’s cold
Not being dramatic, I wore two jackets, three long sleeves, and a t-shirt along with two pairs of pants, cotton socks over wool socks, a toque, mitts, and scarf wrapped around the other visible parts. Pretty much all the clothes I’d packed and I was still bloody cold. Tyler, who is normally a walking heat factory, had hands like ice blocks by the time we took shelter in our hotel for an hour of warm-up time.
- It’s wet
When we arrived in Venice, rubber boots seemed to be the footwear of choice. That, or plastic bags tied around ones legs. We checked into our hotel wondering what all the fuss was about. Sure, the streets were damp, a few puddles here and there, but it was nothing that was going to soak through our shoes. Nothing we couldn’t avoid. What’s all the fuss about? The next morning, after enjoying a lovely breakfast, we exited the front doors of our hotel – except, was this the front door? There was a street here last night, but now it’s a canal. What the heck? October is the time of year Venice floods. The tides of the Adriatic rise dramatically, the streets fill with water a couple of times a day, and rubber boots become a staple. We rolled up our pants, took off our socks, and went in search of some.
- It’s dilapidated
Venice had its heyday once. Glittering palazzi lined the Grand Canal, gilded in gold and decorated with ornate mosaics. The wealthy lived luxuriously: gambling, shopping, and decking out their palazzis in fine murano glass, rich damask fabrics, and sumptuous rococo furnishings. Today, the paint peels, wood rots, and first floors of the palazzis have all but been abandoned to the moss and saltwater.
- The food sucks
Venice has a bad reputation for good food. The guidebook recommends seeking out “a spot where the locals eat”. Here’s some advice: YOU try finding a place where the locals eat. There are hardly any locals in Venice and when you find them and their restaurants, they are not particularly forthcoming in terms of allowing obvious tourists to crowd their favorite watering hole. Here I reference point number three as the main reason we ended up eating run-of-the-mill pasta and stale bread sticks.
- Walk in closet or hotel room?
Our room was the most expensive in Europe yet. With our packs strapped to our backs, we sucked our tummies in and squeezed through the narrow corridor, up the steep steps to room number eight. The stairs tilted ominously to the left, the guest room floor slanted sharply to the right, recreating a slightly seasick feeling as if we were still aboard the vaparetto. Somehow we jockeyed our bags into the room, and rearranged packs, clothing, and furniture until we had a clear space to sleep.
- You get yelled at a lot
I think I covered this in point number three. This point is for emphasis.
- It’s expensive
Need to use the washroom? One euro. Want to sit at our restaurant? 6 euro cover charge, thank you very much. Transit ride? 7 euros per person. Want to go back the way you came? Sorry, no transfers, that’ll be another 7. Hotel room? It’s going to cost you more than anywhere else in Europe. You want to leave Venice? Let me collect the 2.50 euro per person, per night tourist levy before you go. Venice will get your tourist dollars whether you’re ready to part with them or not. Cha-ching!
And FINALLY, one big reason to love it:
- It’s beautiful
Venice might be sinking (or flooding), the locals abandoning it, and prices skyrocketing along the same upward trajectory as the tourist crowds. Forget how much you spent on the hotel, or that you won’t be able to find a decent meal. Bundle up in warm clothing, but first shed the layers of thick skin you’ve built up as a barrier against bad manners. Put on your rubber boots. Splash along a narrow side street or one of the 400 some bridges that crisscross over the minor canals. Look around and savour the fact that you are in a place that is unique to this planet. Listen to a gondolier’s echoing song as he expertly guides his boat through the hidden waterways. Listen to the waves and water lapping at the buildings. Take a moment to admire the intricate glass work or imagine the buildings as they were in their glory days. There’s romance here. We just had to search for a while to find it.