- -  Day # 272  + +

EU > Italy > Venice

Tourist spotting

Venice, IT (View on map)

Venice is the perfect city for observing tourists and trying to find out where they are from. Most tourists however don`t come to Venice to look at other people. They would much rather arrive in an empty Venice so they can actually see the city instead of walking in line from one place to the other, and having plenty of fellow tourists spoil their photographs. My mission for the day is focused on people more than on buildings. Questions: where are you from, what took you to Venice and how do you like it?

Jari (30):

`I am a history teacher, visiting Venice with a group of scholars from Finland`
Venice is more touristy than any of the countries and cities I visited since I was in London in January, and I would even bet that it beats London when it comes to international visitors. There`s hardly any way to escape the stereotypical loud Americans, the ever-photographing Japanese, the Dutch family with children than keep beating each other up and the English girls who pretend to have style. From the railway station Santa Lucia, take either the first turn on the left or one of the ferries, and you will submerge in an international cacophony. For a more quiet Venice experience, cross the first bridge on the left and turn right. I would have chosen the last option if the tourist masses did not happen to be my target group for the day.

The first people I speak to are a newly wed couple from Summerset in England. Neil (31) and Melissa (32), as their names read, got married last Friday and arrived in Venice yesterday. `It was Neil`s choice to go to Italy, and my choice to go to Venice`, Melissa explains. `From Venice onwards, we will take a train to Siena and Rome, then fly to Malta and get a ferry to the island of Gozo.` Melissa calls Venice `an assortment for the eyes`, while Neil says that there`s no place like Venice.

Pawel (28) from Bialystok, Poland, is also visiting Venice with his wife. `Venice is a magical place`, he says. `It`s very beautiful and romantic. Unfortunately, today is the last day of our long weekend. We will fly back to Warsaw later today.`

City excursions
Christiana (23) and Ana (24) came all the way from Canada to visit Venice. `We flew into Paris, stayed around for a few days and then came here. On the way back, we will pay another short visit to Paris. Venice is remarkingly cheaper than Paris, except for the hotels. Food is quite affordable here in Venice, much more that we had expected`, they say. Christiana calls Venice `overwhelmingly beautiful`, although she doesn`t find it much different from what she thought it would be. `The reason we are visiting at this time of year is because our home town is close to the Niagara Falls and welcomes a lot of tourists in summer. We work during most of the season and try to go on small holidays just before the season starts, or right at the end. We haven`t traveled a lot outside Canada and the US, so being here in Venice is quite amazing to us. It`s just a shame that it`s so packed with tourists`, Christiana explains.

Sanchia (23) and Jenna (23) came to Europe for two years. Before starting to look for jobs in London, they chose to go on a 18-day trip through 9 European countries. `The concept is called `Kontiki`, Sanchia tells. `We left London 9 days ago and have visited Berlin, Prague and several places in Austria before coming to Venice. The next destinations will be Florence, Rome, Switzerland, Paris and then back to Rome. The schedule is quite strict and tiring. On most of the evenings, we don`t go to bed before two in the morning, while the wake up call comes at 6.` Jenna has soar feet from all the walking. She likes Venice, but the weather could have been better, the canals less smelly and the streets less crowded. `It`s hard to meet locals or to get a grasp of the local vibe on a trip like this. When we get to London and start working, we will use the remaining two years of our stay to do some more in-depth traveling.`

Natasha (23) from Russia is visiting Venice with her sister. `We just came to Venice for the day`, she says. `Our hotel is in Rimini so we go back there tonight. Rome is the next city we intend to visit. Before Rome, we saw Miniature Italy in Rimini which was a perfect way of seeing all of Italy in just a part of one day. We bought some souvenirs there and will do so in other cities too, but not in this area of Venice. It`s just too expensive.` Natasha was unpleasantly surprised by all the small and crowded alleyways in the city: `I was happy to get to San Marco square to have some open space and fresh air again.`

Tim (25) and Sam (25) came to Italy to see their friends play a rugby match. `We are originally from Nottingham, England, and came over to Venice just for the day. We actually stay in Parma, which is where the rugby tournament was taking place.` Both of them find Venice beautiful, apart from the rainy weather. `It looks just like it does in films`, they say, naming The Italian Job as the first film they think of. `We don`t speak Italian, but our friends know some words which is enough to get by. Buying beer is not exactly the most complicated procedure in the world.`

Jeroen (22) from The Netherlands is visiting Venice with parents in-law. They stay in a mobile home in another city but Jeroen doesn`t really have any idea from where exactly they traveled to Venice in the morning. `This is my first visit to Italy and it`s kind of like what I expected it to be. The weather sucks, everything else is fine.`

Many of the groups that haunt the streets are composed of noisy Italian school kids aged between 8 and 12. Groups of scholars from abroad are usually older, typically between 15 and 18. Jari (30, photo) is one of the eight teachers leading a group of secondary school pupils from the North of Finland. `I teach history so there is plenty of interesting material for me to see here. The scholars are now on their afternoon off, which gives me some time to wander around on my own`, Jari says, explaining that the morning program consisted of obligatory site-seeing for the entire group. `We traveled from Finland to Berlin, and then then came to Venice. We will reach Florence and Rome in the next couple of days before heading home again. The children will unfortunately have to miss the 1 May celebrations in Finland. We will be on the ferry from Rostock to Helsinki by then.`

As Jari explains me, the Finnish school trip is organised in such a way that it perfectly fits with the education schedule at home. `Before leaving, the scholars had to do their own collective fund-raising to make this trip possible. They also needed to investigate the history of the places we would visit. Throughout the trip, we ask them to keep a travel dairy to report about what they learn. School excursions like these are rather common in Finland. They are usually organised in this time of year, before the final exams and before the start of summer holidays.`

Giorgia (22), who lives in Venice, explains me that she is not always all that happy about the many tourists in town. `I came here to study literature. I am originally from Vincenza, about one hour away from here. But I just love Venice and I am happy to study here. It`s very pretty but unfortunately also very expensive. And there`s the herds of tourists. It`s easy to tell who`s from here and who`s not. Tourists walk in the middle of the road, constantly need to look at their maps, they stop for every single bridge.. Locals walk fast, know where they`re going and oftentimes walk around with their pet dogs.

Many public services in Venice are operated by boats: package deliveries, movers, ambulances and the normal public transportation all have to compete for space in the water. Giorgia never takes a boat to get anywhere. `If you know the way, walking is almost always quicker. And, not less important, it`s for free. The boats are nice for tourists, but not for students like myself.`

Giorgia may have got used to living in Venice, she still likes to take photos in the city. `But my way of taking photos is a bit different from how the tourists do it. I don`t need to take photos of every single bridge, like many of the Japanese do. I take advantage of the odd quiet moments, which mostly occur in November. During most other seasons, the city centre is packed with people from all over the place. We are well aware that tourism is the main source of income for the city, but sometimes I feel like it`s just too much.`

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