Really, Venice shouldn’t exist.
The city’s existence is based on a series of extremely unlikely events: Barbarians invade Italy around 500 AD, so the people of Venice sail out to the lagoon to get away from them. Then they drive a bunch of tree trunks into the lagoon floor, build some platforms on top and start building a city that, amazingly, doesn’t sink. Then the Venetians (great sailors) establish trade routes around the world, become filthy rich and powerful, conquer some people, and for a time the small strange unlikely city is one of the world’s greatest superpowers.
Or something like that. Regardless, Venice is just so … bizarre. Not a car in the whole city. Some streets are so narrow you can nearly reach out and touch both walls on either side. The entire place sits just slightly above sea level, so high tide means a flood. And everything is decaying, slowly and elegantly.
Although Venice is (and has been for centuries) a touristy place, it still feels authentic. I loved wandering around the strange little streets, allowing myself to get lost, then reorienting using signs that just point in the general direction of major landmarks. I loved wandering with Amber to St. Mark’s Square after dinner, listening to the orchestras playing outside the historic cafes (like Caffe Florian, in business since 1720!). I loved the odd twists and turns of the city, the way shafts of light snuck into the narrow deep crevices that are the city’s streets, I loved the dead ends, the hidden plazas, the bridges, the crowds and the slow bustle of a living monument to a grand and strange past.
(Click the thumbnails to enlarge … )