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Thoughts on Travel, Photography and Life from Ian Lloyd

Venice. Magic!

Venice is drowning in tourists. It is also drowning in water but the more immediate concern is the sheer number of visitors that flock to this artificial island. Actual Venetian resident numbers have decreased because of soaring real estate costs. Local anger towards tourists has manifested itself in posters, graffiti and targeted publicity campaigns. Imagine that if you lived there, just getting to work on an overcrowded vaporetto would be a nightmare. Weekly grocery shopping would require long trips to the mainland. It’s Disneyland on water with too many gawking tourists.

And yet, Venice is extremely beautiful, culturally rich and yes, magical. It still reaches out to the world to come and visit for film festivals and art biennales. It also offers one of the biggest cruise boat terminals in the Mediterranean. So how to square this dichotomy and enjoy the city without feeling overwhelmed? For starters you could visit in the midst of winter which I am reliably told is much quieter, colder and relatively untrammelled. But if you want to go at a warmer time or if you would like to visit the Venice Biennale as I did, you’ve got to brave tourist crowds or come up with a strategy and a plan.

My workaround was to get up at sunrise each morning which in June was about 5:00am. This is a special time with the whole city quiet and deserted for about three hours. I was able to walk anywhere and pretend I was in the Middle Ages or the Renaissance as all the buildings and bridges haven’t really changed in many many years. The only slight anachronism came from the occasional barge delivering flowers or vegetables to a market or taking laundry from a hotel. Around 7:00am the working Venetians started to arrive and cafes opened to fortify them with a bracing expresso and a hot pastry. The canals were still relatively empty and gondoliers emerged to lovingly prepare their craft for the day’s work ahead. By 8:00am I was finished with my photography. I had enjoyed all the best light, and had caught Venice in a relaxed mood. As the first foreign tourists started to appear in the piazzas at 8:00am, that was it for me. I headed back to my hotel to join my wife for breakfast knowing that I had already explored the city and had done a good day’s work. After breakfast, while others bustled out for crowded tours, we headed to the cool interiors of Venice’s many churches, museums and art galleries to beat the mid day heat. I repeated this routine every morning for 5 days and I must admit that every day was unique and inspiring.

On the way in to Venice we had dragged our luggage to our hotel from the train station over numerous bridges and cobblestone streets (there are no taxis) so we decided to splurge when leaving and took a sleek wooden water taxi to the airport. As we zoomed along the Grand Canal taking in all the famous sights I felt like George Clooney for a few minutes with my Italian driver beside me wearing his striped shirt and cool mirrored sunglasses. And where in the world could you pull up in a speed boat under an international airport and ascend an escalator into the Departure Terminal? Venice of course. Pure magic!

by Ian Lloyd