Venice Travel Notes (August 1998)

Mary McCarthy observed that there was nothing new to say about Venice - but she neglected to attribute this observation to Henry James, who had the grace to point out that this sentiment was not original to him. JG Links attributes the remark to Canon Pietro Casola, passing through in 1494 on his way to Jerusalem. Clearly, it has not stopped anyone, including me, from trying.

Venice had been a theme park for several hundred years when Napoleon marched in and put an end to the Republic. More than most sites of historical and cultural interest, it mocks the genteel fiction that you and your party are the only travellers in a sea of tourists. There, it is clear that you are looking in a mirror. Everywhere else, I wrap the guidebooks in brown paper and keep the maps out of sight in public. Not in Venice. No one would be fooled. There is no ingratiating yourself with the locals; everyone either bitterly resents you or is pleasant so they can make money off you, and frequently both. This is not to say that every encounter must be a cynical transaction; basic human kindness does come through. But it is not something to take for granted. You cannot blame them: you or I would act the same in their place. The conscientious traveller will feel many pangs of annoyance in Venice, but how much more frustrating it must be to actually live or work in this city.

These notes are a description of my family's trip to Venice, August 14-31, 1998. They don't contain much insight, and there is a little too much obsessive detail on itinerary, food, kid behaviour, and details that would only be of interest to close relatives (and perhaps not even them). But they might be useful to those who want to examine one approach to actually living (and cooking!) in the city for a while, as opposed to just visiting it for a few hours. You can read them sequentially, or, if you want, you can skip to a particular day, though until I get some sort of index information in here, that's not too useful.

These notes, totalling about 20,000 words (100K for all files) were written in Venice itself (except for the last two days' worth), during siestas and late at night, using a Newton MessagePad 2100 with attached keyboard. Minimal HTML conversion was done by hand.

Here's the beginning.

Here are the individual day links.

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