I've finally landed in Venice. It feels great after 32 days of traveling from one city to another every third or fourth day. My 25 kilo suitcase, also not fondly known as the "red beast", is no longer a burden. The first thing I did when I arrived was let the beast free and rid it of all its contents. It is resting silently under my desk in my apartment. Yes! I'm in an apartment with my very own room, no hostels (for a while, anyway) and a kitchen! You can look forward to me cooking and recipes in the very near future.
I'm here for a month and will also be studying Italian. I'm taking courses at Istituto Venezia. We'll see if the Italians are more patient with my mispronunciations than the French are. (A little disclaimer for the French---I've actually studied Italian for quite some time in the past---so I should be a little better at speaking it than French.)
I spent the morning of my first day here riding the vaporetto around the the Grand Canal and the edges of the Venetian Islands.
During my first class, we did an exercise where we had to guess a few "fun facts" about Venice. I was astonished to learn that in Venice, there are:
116 islands (Venice is actually made up of these islands)
176 rios (little canals)
170 campaniles (bell towers, and YES, they still chime starting at 7am!) Long ago, these used to be used as light houses to guide the Venetian sailors. Am I the only one who wishes they were still light houses and not morning alarms?
only 60,000 actual Venetians living in the city
a whopping 12 million tourists a year, on average
and in 2007 they had a record number of tourists visiting --- 21 million (My mouth actually dropped when the teacher said this number was the correct answer.) The Venice Tourist Board must be doing something right; the magic and beauty of Venice doesn't hurt either.
Of course, my American business mind kicked in and I asked who is making the most money from all the tourists? The gondoliers was the teacher's first response.
She also commented that you should pay 80 euros for a 30-minute ride. And, those gondoliers that offer a "discount" of 40 euros for 15 minutes, aren't doing you any favors. Humm, I have a fascination for gondoliers, anyway, and am always snapping pictures of them. And, to find out that not only are they cute, but with all these tourists they must be rich.
Note to self: Find a gondolier!