The Essence of Venice

Tourists, everywhere. No cars! (which is even more astonishing than the "getting around on water" thing). Churches - I mean ... wow. Most stores and tourist sites are closed from 1230-1530. Don't think about eating before 1930 at night (the restaurants are closed). Refosco, Raboso, Prosecco - wine is very cheap and very plentiful, and if you don't have a glass with lunch there's probably something wrong with you. Grappa ... Italian wine-derived rot-gut made good - I like the white, don't like the yellow, and thought Storica Nera would kill me. Wide "streets" are 20 feet wide, narrow ones are three feet. The claustrophobia of the alleyways, buildings rising five storeys above you, and no green space. Listen to the other tourists - you'll hear Italian, English, French, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and more. San Marco Basillica is unbelievably magnificent and tacky. Carnevale masks, marbled paper, garish Murano glass, leather-bound books.

Perhaps my imagination isn't as flexible as I thought, but the reality of Venice surprised me immensely. I knew there were canals, I knew there was great art and architecture. But it was so much more than I expected. You have to go. I don't care where you live, it's so different from anything you've ever seen or imagined that you really, really need to see it.

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by giles