In 1995 I visited a performance in the La Fenice opera house. I didn’t come back to Venice until 2017. Can a place famous for looking as in olden days really change? Yes – and in this case I have to say – unfortunately it can. Venice is one of the most beautiful, impressing, diverse and rich places I have ever seen. It is a cradle of European culture and economy, in this regard only comparable to Florence. One has to get lost in Venice: strolling through the narrow contorted streets, experience the unique atmosphere, admiring the fascinated buildings, where every brick spreads history. Venice deserves to be explored and experienced. Strangely enough most visitors don’t do this. Whenever I mentioned that we are staying for four days people were surprised. It seems the mean residence time is about four hours not days. No idea what one can really "see" in Venice in a couple of hours?
One day we turned around the wrong corner near Fondamente Nove and suddenly found ourselves on a place near a church. We sat there in a nice café watched children playing, mothers strolling with buggies and enjoyed the town. At this moment I envied the Venetians. Living there must be wonderful. I revised this opinion immediately when I arrived a day later at the Rialto bridge. A birthplace of world’s economy has degenerated into a crammed junk mile. Years ago, you only had to be afraid of falling into the canal at most. If you are walking from Rialto to San Marco today you must be very careful to be not attacked by a mobile phone on a selfie stick. Has someone ever thought to declare these sticks as dangerous weapons?! If you are lucky and survive the selfie sticks you can get crushed or treaded down. I didn’t meet any Italians there but uncountable tourists, who give the impression of being remotely controlled. They walk in groups like lemmings without respect for their surroundings or fellow men. And when they stop it is worse. No matter what you try to pass by, they won’t move, suffering from, what I call a heavy Luther syndrome: "Here I stand, I can do no other." (Yes, I know, Martin Luther has never said that.) What shocked me even more was the similarity with another historic person. Like Christopher Columbus the majority of the people had no idea where they were going, when arrived there, they had no idea where they were and when they returned didn’t know where they had been. While Columbus could bring forward some excuses I can hardly find any excuse for the stubborn ignorant behaviour of some visitors. In 2019, I witnessed someone asking which "Ponte" to select in the pedestrian navigation: Ponte di Rialto or Ponte vecchio!
Venice is neither an open-air museum nor a Renaissance Disneyland. It is a town with inhabitants who have to struggle against a lot of serious problems. Yes, every tourist, including myself, is a part of at least some of these difficulties. Being aware of that on should behave like a good guest, which means diminishing the problems and not increasing them. Of course we could all stay at home, so that the 55.000 Venetians can enjoy their hometown and may be their number will increase again. But in the end staying away doesn’t seem to be a good solution. I don’t want to call anyone to "punish" the people who earn their livings in tourism. Neither do I want to punish myself by not visiting such a wonderful place. The highly recommendable website Venezia Autentica not only provides interesting information about Venice but also useful advice how tourists can contribute to the welfare of the town and the Venetians. Yes, I will go back to Venice to discover more of it and enjoy the places where one can meet people far away from rushing, uninterested selfie maniacs. Venice and its people have so much to offer and are willing to share it with the visitors. In return they could expect some time, interest, and respect.