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A Walk through Venice on a Sunny Post-Covid-19 Day

A Walk through Venice on a Sunny Post-Covid 19 Day -
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Venice on a sunny day is a sight for sore eyes.

Especially, if you have been cooped inside for over two months in a world dominated by social isolation and Covid-19 news. 

There were many thoughts that were rushing through my head on the bright and sunny Sunday morning but I preferred to concentrate on what my eyes were experiencing at that moment in time.

Venice – beautiful and surreal – was emerging from the water and I felt happy inside to have seen it once again.

Colourful houses on the Fondamenta delle Zattere glimpsed from the window of the ferry - Venice, Italy -

The ferry boat from Fusina, a small place on the edge of the Venetian Lagoon, was plowing the sparkly blue waters, its bow higher up than its stern, thus leaving me sliding sideways on the leather seats inside while I craned my neck to look at Venice, rapidly approaching us, trough the windows speckled with water and sea salt.

The Fondamenta delle Zattere glimpsed from the window of the ferry - Venice, Italy -

After remaining closed for months due to Covid-19, Venice had re-opened for leisure visitors earlier last week and I made sure that I headed to my dream city as soon as I could. 

Just like everyone else on the planet, I had read the news circulated by the world media during the lockdown weeks about the canals of Venice getting clearer and cleaner due to the lack of heavy water traffic. But trying to glimpse an octopus or a sea horse in the Venetian canals was not high on my wish list for Venice this time. 

The Grand Canal with a fire engine boat seen from the Accademia Bridge - Venice, Italy -

Instead, I longed to see this special and unique city free of the tourist throngs that usually besiege it and to feel its charm in the most authentic way.

Venetian canal - Venice, Italy -

After all, when my husband and I had moved to Italy six years ago, it was specifically with the idea of spending as much time in Venice as possible. I had been a long-time devotee of the city on water and we had gotten engaged there in 2013 during a snow-swept Carnival.

When in 2014, we finally decided to get out act together and relocate to Italy – something we had been discussing on and off over the preceding five years – we chose to live as close to Venice as possible without, actually, basing ourselves in it as, at the time, we were not sure we would have been able to navigate it with a very small child.

Calle della Chiesa in Dorsoduro - Venice, Italy -

Hence, we ended in Vicenza – a pretty Palladian town that is an easy 45 mins away from Venice on the fast regional train. In the years that followed, I made as many trips to Venice as I could. I have to admit though that the relentless tourist crowds and certain Venetian quirks (like leaving neatly tied dog poo bags along the edges of their beautiful city’s canals) quickly dented my fascination with the city on water.

And then, on the opening night of the Venetian Carnival in 2018, I got caught in the crowds trying to navigate the Strada Nova and remained stuck there for hours lost in the endless human mass desperately worried that my child, much shorter than the adults tightly packed around us, would end up crushed by the people who kept mistaking the apparent void next to me as a place where they could push in.

Salizzada Pio X leading to Rialto Bridge - Venice, Italy -

That night something snapped in me. And while I remained in love with the idea of Venice, my feelings for the real thing were a complex mix of my original fascination, disillusionment, and that devastating sensation you get when in the cold light of the day you see a dream broken into million pieces with dangerously sharp edges.

Basilica di San Marco - Venice, Italy -

I continued my exploratory trips to Venice any chance I had, seeking refuge in the city’s hidden corners while avoiding at all cost the Strada Nova and the sights with the heaviest footfall. I observed the people, both locals and visitors, with a detached curiosity noting the transgressions against Venice everywhere I went: 

A cold, dismissive shopkeeper tired of dealing with tourists and their many questions.

An elderly tourist couple seemingly exhausted after walking around for hours and with the man so indignant that there were no readily available rubbish bins right next to him that he threw his rubbish at the door of a house as he and his wife were walking past it.

An ever-growing number of shops selling souvenirs produced cheaply abroad instead of supporting historic local crafts. 

A stall selling bottles of beer and tourists buying them and drinking them straight on the streets as they were walking around.

A family, tired legs stretched wide, picnicking directly on the ground between two houses.

And, once, a huge yacht going up the Grand Canal, tightly squeezing underneath the Accademia Bridge.

Graffiti against the big ships - Venice, Italy -

It seemed that Venice was in a state of self-inflicting the deepest wounds. Yet, I was not in a position to judge seeing that with my day trips from Vicenza to Venice, I had become a dreaded day tripper myself.

Instead, it was easier to seek refuge in the farthest corners of Venice, its many churches, and its lesser-known sights where I could spend time marveling at countless priceless works of art and completely avoid the crowds. 

In fact, a cherished memory from those times is walking past a small block of flats on a tiny campo lost somewhere on the outer edges of Cannaregio and suddenly a smell of freshly fried fish came wafting through the open windows of the kitchen of the ground floor flat. Inside someone was laying the table for lunch and I walked away quickly so as not to disturb this moment of domestic bliss that I didn’t expect to still exist in Venice.

Decorative elements on the wall of a house in Dorsoduro - Venice, Italy -

Then, the devastating acqua alta of November 2019 happened bringing Venice down on its knees and just as the city pulled itself together and was in the whirlwind of its famous Carnival, the world was put in lockdown.

For more than two months our lives here in Northern Italy were strictly limited to the insides of our houses. If we needed a walk, we could only move in a radius of 200 m of our homes. A distance that was so short that it was not even possible to do a full circle for there was always a house in the way where the 200 m limit was reached.

In the meantime, Venice once again was front-page news. Lack of boat traffic in its canals had led to their water turning crystal clear and it was reported that all sorts of marine life – from dolphins (later debunked!) to octopus and sea horses – had been spotted swimming up and down.

Seagull swimming in a Venetian canal - Venice, Italy -

I didn’t know what to make out of all this. I had always found the water in Venice’s canals to be an exquisite colour, a shade of blue I have always struggled to describe, so poetic and unique that I lack the words to do it justice. Is it a dove blue? A Veronese blue? A stunning turquoise blue?

This blue of Venice that is also green and shimmery and the more you look at it and the more you notice how the sunlight falls on the canals and the lagoon, the more you understand the paintings of the great Venetian artists where light and shadows seem reflected by water even in the depictions of strictly earthly subjects.

As for the sightings of marine life, what did the news reporters expect, exactly, I wondered in my mind? With Venice being part of a lagoon where fishing has been practiced for centuries and where seafood has always been a staple sustenance for the locals, was it really so amazing that a sea horse had found its way up or down the Grand Canal?!

The Grand Canal seen from Rialto Bridge - Venice, Italy -

After all, many times I had seen schools of tiny fish hovering around the large wooden poles stuck in the Venetian canals.

On one memorable occasion, I had also glimpsed a huge jellyfish in the canal that runs next to the Porta Magna of the Venetian Arsenal. That was in 2017 and as there was no Covid-19 at the time the world media didn’t write about it then.

Only now it was focusing on these sightings in Venice of small forms of sea life infusing them with an almost mythical meaning.

Jellyfish spotted in a Venetian canal - Venice, Italy -

Instead of focusing on a seahorse, my thoughts about Venice during the Covid-19 lockdown were wandering in other directions.

Venice is a city that had lived through many bouts of infectious diseases. After all, this is the place to which the world owes the existence of the term ‘quarantine’. It comes from the Venetian word quarantena meaning forty. This is because the crews of the merchant ships arriving in the Republic of Venice would be isolated for forty days on a small island in the Venetian Lagoon prior to being allowed to reach the actual city of Venice for fear that they would bring in unknown diseases from faraway lands.

Lazzaretto Vecchio - Venice, Italy -

Called Lazzareto Vecchio, this small island also gave us the word ‘lazaret’ as through the centuries, it was used to house thousands of plague victims, most of whom never left the island for surviving this terrible disease was not an easy feat.

Lazzaretto Vecchio - Venice, Italy -

Legend has it that Giorgione – one of the most enigmatic painters of the Venetian Renaissance – also died there, his life cut short by the plague.

Basilica della Salute - Venice, Italy -

To this day, one of Venice’s most iconic buildings – the Basilica della Salute – is a daily reminder of the suffering the city on water endured in centuries past for it was built to give thanks after Venice survived a particularly terrible wave of the plague in 1630.

The votive bridge seen from Accademia Bridge - Venice, Veneto, Italy -

On 21st November each year, the Venetians celebrate the Festa della Salute – the Feast of Health – which is considered to be the most heartfelt Venetian celebration in the annual calendar of events taking place here. This is also when a temporary bridge is erected across the Grand Canal and the local people cross it on their way to light a candle and pray in the Basilica della Salute.

Basilica della Salute - Venice, Italy -

With a history intrinsically connected to periods of disease and health that ruled its economic fortunes and a present that is heavily dependent on tourism, I was wondering what it meant for Venice to be completely cut off its main source of income during the months of Covid-19 lockdown.

I was thinking about the priceless works of art – thousands of paintings and sculptures by worldwide famous masters – that were now closed inside the dark echoing rooms of churches and museums. I was thinking of Venice’s unique architecture – bridges, ornamented facades, Gothic windows – with no-one to admire them, to touch the marble handrails, to lean against them, to photograph them time and time again. And I was thinking of Venice’s narrow, dark and curving alleys, with the shops all shuttered down, what must have felt like to walk there without the throngs of people that usually block them.

Above all, what was happening behind the closed doors of the Venetian homes?!

Basilica della Salute - Venice, Italy -

In a place so reliant on tourism and footfall, what was happening to all those hundreds and thousands of people employed in the service industry here? What was their fate now that the incessant tsunami of tourists that used to besiege Venice on a daily basis bringing both its downfall and salvation has dissipated without a drop behind it?!

These were questions with no easy, immediate, and unilateral answers. And considering how scary and, at times, soul-destroying the period of strict lockdown has been for me, tucked in our home in Vicenza, I can only begin to imagine the full scale of the worrying, the thinking, the hoping, and the fear that have taken over our thought process this spring in Venice, the Veneto, Italy, and Europe.  

Basilica San Marco - Venice, Italy -

When last week the news arrived that Venice had been opened for visits of leisure, I couldn’t quite believe it. We had lived with so many restrictions, with such slow, gradual steps towards returning to some sort of normality here that reopening Venice for all sounded quite the impossible freedom to have back.

Torn between my desire to see Venice again, especially without millions of people suffocating the city, and my fear of going there only to be stopped by the police and fined for breaking the restrictions of Phase 2 of the lockdown, I wanted to be absolutely certain that Venice was definitely visitable again.

Gondolas and the island of San Giorgio Maggiore - Venice, Italy -

I sent a polite message to Ms. Luisella Romeo – one of Venice’s best professional guides and someone whose writing on the untold stories of Venice I have admired for years.

‘Are we really allowed to travel to Venice now?!’, I asked. And ‘we’ in this case meant strictly the people living in the Veneto as travel between Italy’s regions was still very much off the table.

In line with the latest decrees of the government of the Veneto, apparently, we could. Elated by the news, I exchanged a flurry of messages with Luisella. For tour guides who spend their days introducing the wonders of Venice to eager for knowledge visitors this period of imposed inactivity must have been particularly difficult.

Luisella has started leading virtual tours of Venice. A great idea making it possible for people in love with Venice all over the world to visit this wondrous city from the comfort of their homes.

Campo Sant'Angelo - Venice, Italy -

At home, we celebrated the news that we could now go to Venice. It felt like such incredible freedom! 

This is how on Sunday we found ourselves on the ferry from Fusina to Venice.

People admiring the view of Venice seen from the Fusina Ferry Terminal - Venice, Italy -

The drive from Vicenza to Fusina took only 45 mins and the ferry crossing about 20-25 mins thus giving us quick and easy access to the city on water. Most importantly, it helped us avoid completely the dreaded by me Strada Nova – the long and wide street that starts from Venice’s train station and leads you into the heart of the ancient city while you battle through a constant human hubbub.

People walking along the Fondamenta delle Zattere - Venice, Italy -

The ferry docked at the Fondamenta delle Zattere – the long promenade along Venice’s Giudecca Canal. This is the place where in the past the wooden piles on which the lavish Venetian palaces are built, would arrive on water from the forests of the mountains that are a stone’s throw away from Venice.

In front of us, the marble facade of the Church of the Gesuati stood white and sparkly in the strong sunlight. The sky was an incredible shade of blue and white clouds were dotted around it like sketched by the dexterous hand of a Venetian Renaissance master.

Sign announcing the reopening of the churches for religious services - Venice, Italy -

A sign next to the church door was welcoming the faithful back to mass thus confirming the reopening of the churches and the resuming of religious services in Venice.

Dressed in brown habits and with sandals on their feet, two monks passed by us, masks covering their faces.

At the outside tables of a nearby bar, a group of old friends was having coffees and chatting from behind their masks. Tables were spaced out with ample aisles left between them. An old lady was sitting by herself at one of them, reading the local newspaper while her fluffy dog was fast asleep at her feet. A mother walked past us, her child on a small scooter. Both with masks on and making sure that there was more than a meter of distance between them and us.

And although Venice was fully masked and keeping a strict social distance, the city felt a light and happy place in the sun. A place that has seen some really bad days but right at this moment in time, it was looking firmly to the future. I didn’t feel that overpowering and terrifying fear of people that had plagued me during the weeks of the lockdown.

For the first time in many weeks, the slogan of the fight against Covid-19 – Andra’ tutto bene (Everything will be alright) – rang true to me.

Gate with an Andra Tutto Bene poster - Venice, Italy -

To celebrate our arrival in Venice, the blue sky, and this overwhelming feeling of lightness inside, we headed to Da Nico, a small gelateria-cum-bar on the Fondamenta delle Zattere, and treated ourselves to their famous specialty.

Gianduiotto con panna!

A gianduia semifreddo served on lashings of whipped cream! 

The secret to enjoying it to the max is to have a bit of patience and let the semifreddo very gently start to melt in the sun. Then, mix it with the whipped cream and have a big spoonful! 

Gelati Nico at the Fondamenta delle Zattere - Venice, Italy -

From Da Nico we headed up the Fondamenta delle Zattere with the goal of reaching the Punta della Dogana – that triangular piece of land that cuts between the Giudecca Canal and the Grand Canal and affords splendid views of the Doge’s Palace and the tiny island of San Giorgio Maggiore.

We stopped at every few steps or so to admire the views.

The Church of Redentore and a beautiful yacht seen from the Fondamenta delle Zattere - Venice, Italy -

A gorgeous yacht passed by. The Redentore Church stood in all its Palladian splendour on the opposite end of the canal. 

Without the crowds, Venice was a joy to walk around. The light breeze making the sun feel just the right shade of hot. 

Pensione Calcina on Fondamenta delle Zattere - Venice, Italy -

Memorial plaques, small reliefs, and other decorative elements adorned the walls of the colourful houses we passed by. Having the day at our disposal and with no museums yet open in Venice, we had all the time in the world to stop and read them and then marvel at the names we recognised.

White ibis fishing along the Fondamenta delle Zattere - Venice, Italy -

A white bird flew past us. An ibis, perhaps! Then it swooped in the water, trying to catch a fish.

The Bucintoro Rowing Club on the Fondamenta delle Zattere - Venice, Italy -

Just ahead of us, a few Venetians were using a pulley to pull a boat out of the water. A large gate stood open right behind them revealing an immense dark space inside that was full of light boats. The sign on the wall told us that these were the premises of Bucintoro – Venice’s largest rowing association. 

A few more steps… 

Approaching the Punta della Dogana on the Fondamenta delle Zattere - Venice, Italy -

and we found ourselves at the triangular Punta della Dogana.

Punta della Dogana - Venice, Italy -

Behind us stood the large building of what once had been one of Venice’s customs buildings and nowadays functions as an exhibition hall. In front of us, there was a gorgeous panorama. 

The Doge's Palace and the St. Mark's Bell Tower seen from the Punta della Dogana - Venice, Italy -

A digger, parked on a floating platform, right next to the fondamenta’s edge, reminded us about the hard and constant work that it takes to keep Venice viable in our modern world. Repairs, readjustments, making sure that everything works well, it takes an enormous amount of planning and adaptive thinking.

A digger on a platform at Punta della Dogana - Venice, Italy -

People were arriving in small groups and would stop to enjoy the view for a few moments.

Admiring Venice from the Punta della Dogana - Venice, Italy -

A couple of policemen, both with masks on their faces, walked on the Punta della Dogana, too and started reminding people that no assembramento (crowding) was allowed and to keep circulating.

We turned the corner and soon the gigantic body of the Basilica della Salute loomed over us – a visual testament that Venice had seen worse days and still it had continued forward.

From here we followed the narrow streets to the beautiful and allegedly haunted Ca’ Dario, to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection…

The side gate of the Peggy Guggenheim Museum - Venice, Italy -

and then all the way to the Accademia Bridge. 

Shops in that little corner of Venice were almost entirely closed.

Shop window covered with newspapers - Venice, Italy -

Old newspapers covered the window displays, handmade Murano glass jewellery and figurines were standing still on shelves.

It was very quiet and we walked fast, quickly covering double the ground than on a typical tourist-filled day in Venice.

Andra tutto bene poster on a house in Dorsoduro - Venice, Italy -

It was in one of these quiet side streets that we caught up with the two policemen that had been doing the rounds and reminding people not to crowd Venice’s campi and alleys.

‘Are you foreigners? How did you get here?’, they asked us.

We are foreigners’, we explained, ‘but we have been living in Vicenza for six years and came as soon as we knew that Venice is open for leisure visits.’

‘We were curious, curiosissimi‘, the policewoman said, ‘if the tourists are starting to return to Venice!’

‘How were things here during the strict lockdown?’, I asked

‘Difficult!’, the policewoman said.

‘I had never seen Venice like this!’, added the policeman. ‘We were doing rounds and the streets were dark and empty. Venice was empty.’

And then he added the word I would hear many times that day when asking a shopkeeper or a bartender how it felt to be in Venice during the lockdown: ‘Paura! Fear!’  

‘You felt paura on the empty streets of Venice!’, the policeman said.

The Grand Canal seen from the Accademia Bridge - Venice, Italy -

Soon, we were on top of the Accademia Bridge taking in one of the world’s most iconic views. The Grand Canal, in a gorgeous sparkly teal, led the eye all the way to the domes of the Basilica della Salute. A fire engine boat came rushing down the canal, firemen with masks on board. Other than that, this once busy water thoroughfare was almost empty of traffic.

We headed to Rialto Bridge – another of Venice’s most important sights. We took our time losing ourselves in the maze of Venetian calli. Over the years, I have found that the best way to navigate Venice is not to follow a strict street-by-street itinerary but to walk in the general direction of what you want to see and let your feet instinctively take you there. You end up losing yourself several times along the way and sometimes you walk in circles or end up at a dead end. But this approach eliminates the stress and you end up finding at least a dozen other things of interest to look at while on the way to the place that originally you wanted to visit.

St. Mark's Bell Tower seen from the Bridge of Lova - Venice, Italy -

This is why I don’t trust Google Maps’ time estimates in Venice.

‘It takes 14 minutes from Accademia Bridge to Rialto Bridge’, the disembodied voice says self-assuredly.

‘Nah’, I think to myself, ‘it will take at least double that.’

There are too many hidden corners and curious side streets to explore on the way. Add to this my burning desire to take a photo of everything, to commit to digital memory the beauty around us, the colours, the blue sky with the white clouds…

Campo Sant'Angelo - Venice, Italy -

the Santo Stefano leaning bell tower…

The flag of the Veneto - Venice, Italy -

the Veneto flag flapping in the wind, the barbacani supporting the medieval buildings around us, the many seagulls.

Seagulls, it seems, are the new lords of Venice. They have always been there, of course, but now they have pushed the old rulers, the pigeons, out. Everywhere we go, we come across seagulls…

Seagull on a boat - Venice, Italy -

relaxing on top of a moored boat…

The Basilica della Salute with a seagull - Venice, Italy -

watching over Venice atop the head of a statue that is several centuries old…

Seagull with gondolas - Venice, Italy -

counting gondolas…

Basilica San Marco with a seagull- Venice, Italy -

photobombing my photo of the St. Mark’s Basilica…

The Winged Lion of St. Mark - Venice, Italy -

and even gracing the symbol of Venice – the Winged Lion of St. Mark’s.

By the way, how many seagulls can you spot in the photo above?

We dip in and out of dark narrow streets.

Lunching out - Venice, Italy -

We cross sunlit campi where restaurants have positioned their tables outside and waiters, masks and gloves on, bring menus to people eager to enjoy an alfresco lunch on a sunny day.

Measuring the temperature of a client - Venice, Italy -

We pass by the open branch of a large multinational chain where the security guard at the door measures the temperature of the shoppers waiting to go inside.

In the narrow alleys, people check to see if anyone is coming from the other end and patiently wait for them to emerge first before venturing down the alley themselves.

Signs on a shop window - Venice, Italy -

We stop to have a look at the window of a closed cafe where posters, side by side, reference the two events that blighted Venice in the last six months – the exceptionally high acqua alta in November 2019 and the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020.

Ornamentation above the entrance of the tax office - Venice, Italy -

We walk and stop every minute or so to take in the details, to photograph a view, to notice thousands of things that have escaped us before when we had been walking these same streets with thousands of other people around us.

Admiring the view from the Grand Canal seen from Rialto Bridge - Venice, Italy -

An hour later, we emerge at Rialto Bridge.

People are already crowding there eager to take a photo of themselves with one of the most beautiful views in the world. There is not much of a social distance here on this hotly disputed for photos spot.

The Grand Canal seen from Rialto Bridge - Venice, Italy -

‘Let’s take a photo with the masks on and another without the masks!’, I hear a lady saying and then she positions herself right next to me.

Precautions and social isolation are all good. Yet, they can never win next to our human desire to look good in photos.

Italian TV station interviewing passers-by on Rialto Bridge - Venice, Italy -

Siete stranieri? Are you foreigners?’, a reporter and a cameraman from an Italian TV station approach us. 

All through the day, we only heard Italian spoken around us. No, scratch this. We met one other English-speaking couple and one Spanish-speaking family. All the other communications around us were strictly in Italian and sometimes in the Venetian language. 

Although many people are holding cameras and are eager to photograph Venice without the tourist crowds, it seems, we all are from the Veneto – interregional travel in Italy is still strictly restricted.

‘We are foreigners’, we explain. ‘But we have been living here for six years!’

The reporter, mask on, looks a bit dejected (if you can trust to read emotions purely on the basis of seeing just the eyes of the other person). Having worked as a journalist many years ago and having started my training as a reporter interviewing people on the street to canvass public opinion, I can guess how incredibly excited he would have been to have come across the first real foreign tourists to have arrived in Venice to give its economy a boost after the Covid-19 lockdown.

As it happens, we don’t fit the bill. Still, he interviews my husband asking him how we have found ourselves in Venice and what we are doing there.

Fame at last! At least for one of us!

Salizzada Pio X leading to Rialto Bridge - Venice, Italy -

We continue our walk. The Rialto Bridge looks resplendent in the sun. Almost purely white. I think it has always looked gorgeous like this. My husband thinks that the bridge must have been thoroughly sanitised.

A few of the shops on the bridge have now reopened.

Rialto Fish Market - Venice, Italy -

We walk the short distance to the Rialto Fish Market nearby which, seeing that it’s Sunday, is empty of stalls and customers.

Colourful canoes at Rialto Fish Market - Venice, Italy -

Still, right next to it, we spot a gaggle of colourful canoes sunning themselves in front of Venice’s oldest wooden bridge which leads to Venice’s oldest restaurant. Unfortunately, we find the restaurant closed. 

WeNice at Rialto Fish Market - Venice, Italy -

Instead, we stop for a quick lunch at WeNice – a fish and seafood shack I have popped in several times before during prior visits to Venice.

Hand gel is positioned around the shop for customers to sanitise their hands. Plus, you can only enter provided you have a mask and gloves on. 

WeNice at Rialto Fish Market - Venice, Italy -

While we wait for our food to be prepared, we chat with the people behind the counter.

They have been lucky in so that their shop had been closed only for a short amount of time during the lockdown. They re-opened when food deliveries to homes were allowed and spent many days walking around Venice bringing freshly cooked seafood dishes to clients.

The word paura resurfaces in our conversation.

‘It was pauroso to walk around, it was so dark and quiet! We had never seen Venice like this’, they tell me with heartfelt emotion. 

Lunch out of the way, we stop for coffee at a nearby bar. We sit outside in the sun, tables carefully positioned away from one another. Groups of friends are sitting at the other tables. The waiter, in white trousers, a black shirt, and a white mask, brings aperitivi all around.

A wooden head - Venice, Italy -

Two policemen on jet skis slowly drive down the Grand Canal.

A woman without a mask walks out of a shop and is immediately stopped by a group of three armed policemen. Hers is one of very few faces I have seen all day. The policemen are not impressed and give her a stern talking. They don’t let her go until she had taken her mask out of her bag and covered her face with it.

Kids chase after pigeons and look desperate to make friends with each other. The respective parents smile apologetically at each other and yet again remind their offspring that they can’t play with kids they don’t know.

Signs outside of a bar - Venice, Italy -

Signs attached to the large window of a nearby bar tell patrons where to sit and how to behave while enjoying a drink in front of the premises. 

Scala Contarini del Bovolo - Venice, Italy -

Slowly, we walk through the maze of streets to see the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo and admire its famous spiral staircase that is encased in a tower with lace-like railings. 

Piazza San Marco - Venice, Italy -

In the late afternoon we reach St. Mark’s Square. Compared to this morning, the number of people has certainly swelled up. It almost feels like it’s any other day there. But instead of crowds of tourists, we see Venetian families that have come out to far el liston – to enjoy a nice relaxing walk on their city’s gorgeous piazza.

Giardini Reali - Venice, Italy -

A quick stop at the recently re-opened Giardini Reali at the back of St. Mark’s Square and we head back to the Accademia Bridge which now is teeming with people. 

We arrive at the Fondamenta delle Zattere with half an hour to spare for the ferry. We have one final gelato for that day sitting on a bench in a small leafy area next to the I Gesuati – the 18th-century Dominican church. I watch two older Venetian ladies, friends by the looks of it, who – masks on – are sitting on the opposite to us bench lost in conversation.

I wonder how much longer it will be before the crowds of tourists return and this relaxed Venice is wiped off once again by the relentless tsunami of tourist groups and Instagram-obsessed people. In my head, I think up crazy plans how best to regulate the tourist flow to Venice:

  • A compulsory exam for all would-be visitors to prove that they are coming led by their interest in the history and art of Venice rather than simply because it’s fashionable to see the city on water?!
  • A proof that the would-be visitor has pre-paid visits to at least six different museums, churches, and sights in Venice as opposed to simply walking around the streets in search of instagrammable spots?!
  • Complete abolition of the cheap souvenir shops and shops not selling traditional for Venice crafts?!

Then again, Venice needs tourists. The city that once was the beating heart of a huge empire and where art and culture flourished has nowadays cornered itself as a bucket-list romantic destination where people go to take nice photos of themselves to put on social media.

Can this be reverted at all?

A ferry arriving at the Fusina Ferry Terminal - Venice, Italy -

On the ferry back to Fusina I remember a chat I had with the owner of a small coffee place in Venice earlier that day.

‘How was the lockdown for you?’, I had asked.

Disastro!’, he had replied.

And then after we had chatted about coffees and whatnot, he had said half to himself:

Passera’! It will pass!’ 

Hopefully soon and hopefully in the best possible way for Venice.



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  • Thank you for the wonderful tour through the city. Your photos are beautiful. I also cannot wait to return. Pre-Covid I had planned to spend several weeks in Venice this year including to see the Festa del Redentore for the first time. As an American I don’t expect to be able to return for quite some time.

    • Many thanks for your kind words!
      I really hope that you have a chance to return to Venice soon.
      Best wishes from me! 🙂


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