Allure of the Sinking City.

I didn’t have my boots. But luckily I didn’t need them this time. There was no aqua alta. No water came up onto the streets, squares and court yards like I had witnessed when I visited Venice a few years ago for work. However, major flooding, covering almost 15% of the city, now occurs about four times a year when the converging high tides and sirocco winds push more sea water into the lagoon. And minor flooding happens more and more often. This beautiful city is sinking.

Venice pictured from the lagoonPart of the sinking is due to natural compaction of the sediments on the 118 islands that make up the city, but a slightly larger part is due to human activity, such as conservation and renovation of the historic buildings. Some say the huge number of tourists descending on the city center on a daily basis also contributes, at least indirectly, to the sinking. And it doesn’t help that the water levels in the Adriatic Sea are rising due to global warming.

st Mark's Square Piazza San Marco VeniceI felt a bit guilty being one of the about 30 million tourists visiting Venice annually. Tourism has clearly made it more difficult for the locals to live, and afford to live, in the city. Many have already moved to the mainland. And tourism contributes very little towards the overwhelming challenges of conservation and protection against the rising waters faced by the residents. I am all for an entry fee for visitors and all the other limiting measures now contemplated by the Mayor and local government of Venice.

cruise ship in Venice_edited-1I also believe that banning the huge cruise ships from sailing into the lagoon would be a good step in the right direction…just check the scale of this ship compared to the buildings next to it.

my waterbus in VeniceThese thoughts in mind, but happy it was not raining, I set out to navigate my way from the (in comparison) small boat towards Piazza San Marco, or St. Mark’s Square as we call it in English.

I passed the Doge’s Palace, which I had already admired from the water. It had housed over 1000 Doges, elected rulers of Venice, before the “job” was abolished in 1797. The palace had also contained the court, administration and the prison systems of Venice during the medieval and renaissance periods.

the Doge's Palace VeniceOnce at the Piazza, I was fascinated by the gorgeous, intricate details of the Basilica San Marco. I just walked around it and zoomed in on one detail after another.

the horses of st Mark Basilica cavalli di san marco venice

nativity scene at saint marks basilica in Venice

mosaics at San Marco Venice_edited-1

painting on Saint Mark Basilica in Venice_edited-1The sights around the Piazza were just stunning. One beautiful building,  statue, detail or pigeon next to another.

Piazza San Marco Venice

Doorway in Venice

Detail of a pillar in Venice

the clock ringers in Venice

pigeons at Piazza San Marco VeniceI stayed there for quite a while and came across this ancient “letter box” in the wall. It was not one of the famous Boca de Leons through which citizens could anonymously send accusations to the Doge. This one had a more serious clang to it. The accusations of crime had to be signed with the name and address of the accuser. If, after a thorough investigation, the accusation was found correct and a crime had been committed, the accused would be punished. Sometimes beheaded. But should the accusation be unfounded, the accuser would be punished. Ouch. Judging from the discolorations around the letter hole, it seems this method of getting justice had been used quite frequently.

letter box for accusations non-anonymous in VeniceThe “weatherman”, as Venetians call the angel at the top of St. Mark’s clock tower, predicted overcast skies and some wind but no rain for the day. Encouraged by this good forecast, I decided to take a gondola ride.

the weatherman at the top of the clock tower in VeniceI walked to one of the “Gondola stations”. I wanted to see the ordinary houses where people lived, and some of the 430 bridges, cruising through a few of the 170 narrow canals.

gondola station in VeniceAnd after a short wait I was onboard. My gondolier worked hard to get us out to the Grand Canal. It should be noted that it’s not easy to become a gondolier. While the license is often transferred from father to son, the aspiring gondoliers must go to gondola school, do a formal internship of 6-12 months and pass a practical exam in front of 5 gondola judges. Among the approximately 400 licensed gondoliers today, there is only one woman.

My gondolier in Venice

gondolas in venice_edited-2

in the gondola on the great canal in Venice_edited-1We passed many beautiful buildings and churches exhibiting more exquisite mosaics.

mosaic on a house wall in Venice

exterior mosaic painting Venice_edited-1From the Grand Canal we entered the narrow, residential canals, sometimes navigating through traffic jams of gondolas, residents’ boats and water taxis.

canal and gondolas venice_edited-1

my gondola navigates in VeniceBoats were “parallel parked” in the front of the homes just like we would see cars elsewhere.

street parking in VeniceWe glided under some of the beautiful large and small bridges.

on the water in Venice

venice canal and bridge

in the gondola in VeniceAnd I witnessed, with some heartache, the true romance of gondola rides…a musician and a soloist onboard entertaining a couple. But “O’ Sole Mio” didn’t help to bring out the sun.

gondolier musician and solist in VeniceThe gondola ride was a unique experience to say the least. After the ride, I visited a glass factory. Or rather a workshop and sales quarters of one of the producers of the famous Murano glass. They had a small workshop in the city, while their main factory was…on the island of Murano. I watched the Master create a vase, and of course ended up buying some small, but still fairly pricey gifts.

glassblowing venice

Murano glass in Venice_edited-1Walking back to the boat over numerous brides, I got lost. The best way to see Venice, according to some. I noticed I was surrounded by several restaurants and realized I hadn’t eaten since my light breakfast at 5:30 a.m.

bridge in VeniceAfter some pizza and a glass of red wine, I regained my bearings. …and encountered some of the mysteries of this unique city.

mask Venice_edited-1From behind my Volta mask, I wish you all a beautiful Sunday and a great week ahead.

87 thoughts on “Allure of the Sinking City.”

  1. Striking photo-series,you did capture the splendour and grandeur of this glorious city,dear Tiny!Venice has been a very special destination for ages now,one can never get enough from this charming and unique city.Loved all your photos,especially the Doges’s Palace,which is a superb example of Venetian Gothic architecture.Happy Sunday 🙂 xxx

    1. Oh, thank you so much, dear Doda, for your kindness. I agree that one can never get enough of Venice. The charm is palpable, the history is fascinating and the mystery always lurks behind the corner 🙂 Have a wonderful week, my friend. XX

    1. The mosaics were among the most beautiful I’ve seen anywhere…I so enjoyed all the delicate details of the art (whatever form) in Venice. Happy you came along, Nancy.

  2. Venice is on my bucket list, though through these stunning pictures I felt I was there. This city is gorgeous and your photos did justice to them. Thank you for sharing. 💞

  3. So much beauty you experience and shared with us. I have enjoyed going through the photos several times. Your writing is great and gives a clear feel of what is happening and of the buildings.
    I so agree with these huge cruise ships.
    miriam

    1. Thank you, Miriam, and sorry for my tardy response. Somehow I had not seen your comment. I am happy you came along for a short visit in this beautiful city.

  4. What a treat to see this magnificent city through your eyes. The photography is stunning and I’m pretty sure I learned more about Venice by reading your post than if I had visited the city myself. Thanks for sharing your incredible experience with all of us!!

    1. You are very kind Deb. The presence of art everywhere was a delight to the eye…and got me back into photography. Feeling a bit more like myself now, which you have noticed, I’m sure.

    1. Italy is a country I have always loved. The presence of times gone is palpable. I am happy I could spend time there on this trip…and glad you enjoyed the tour, my friend.

  5. I’m a huge fan of Italy and feel blessed to have enjoyed Venice a few times. And I agree with your thoughts are their sinking dilemma. Additional tourist fees would be a small thing for us while helping them preserve their way of life. As always, I love the photos you captured!

    1. Nice to “see” you Cyndi! Glad you enjoyed revisiting Venice. I talked to a few Venetians on this trip and they are really worried about the future of their city…a huge budgetary and scientific/technical challenge. We visitors should contribute more.

    1. Thank you my friend. It was a trip of huge admiration of their historical inheritance, but also a bit sad because those treasures are at risk now.

    1. Happy you enjoyed experiencing this fascinating city trough my lens, Carrie. I am rooting for preservation of all these treasures for generations to come.

    1. Thank you, Val, for joining me for a gondola ride. Venice is truly a magical city…and lots of TLC is needed to protect it in the future. I was happy I could see quite a bit of it on this trip, which was quite helpful on many levels.

  6. Beautiful captures Helen. We were there in 2011 and they were all saying then, how dangerous the water levels were. I somehow think Venice will survive a little while longer. There is a beautiful romantic energy there, I am so glad you are experiencing such beauty.

    1. Glad you visited Venice again with me, Karen. Life there is getting more difficult for sure for the local population with more frequent flooding and rapidly rising cost of living. I hope that the now ongoing protection project will soon be completed and that this magical city will survive for a long time to come…

  7. A wonderful journey with you, Helen. Yes, I too had a little lump in my throat and a tear in my eye when listening to the musician aboard the Gondola; how very special for the couple. And the glassworks afterward would have been such a joy; I do love glassworks, although they do come at such a great cost.
    A very special post, dear Helen. It’s truly lovely to see. 🙂
    xoxoxo

    1. Thank you dear Carolyn, for coming along on this little tour and listening to the magnificent acoustics of the performance on the gondola in that narrow canal 🙂 I am reliving my trip now that I have started to look at the photos I took….more to come. I hope your week is going beautifully. XXOO

  8. Beautifully captured of this glorious city. I still remember the thrill of seeing Venice which was a decade ago. Thank you for the wonderful tour, Helen!

  9. How are you my friend? Your photos are gorgeous! I’m glad that you’re full with inspiration and enthusiasm again. Great work Tiny! 🙂

    1. I am doing a little better now…with quite a few good days and fewer really tough days. This trip certainly helped me to get back to photography, which I love but was not able to do since July. Thank you, my friend.

  10. I can’t believe they let such big ships come in. Yes, they will be bringing revenue but not enough to compensate for damage to the city. Your post showed us the beautiful mask of Venice but didn’t shy away from the issues underneath. I like that. Thank you.

    1. The gigantic ships sail right into the fragile lagoon…and those visitor are just “in and out” … crowding the streets, not spending on hotel beds and hardly on food. Finally the city government is considering some measures to ensure that tourism is managed and contributes more to the challenges of conservation. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

  11. Dear master! Thank you once again! The photos and the story are great👍👍 I hate the big cruisers which come to the Venice and will distroy that unice city😐

  12. I have not yet been to Venice, but have seen many pictures and read many travelogues of Venice, but yours is somehow more informative and interesting. Your photos of Murano glass are striking, and no wonder why you bought some.

    1. I hope my post was a little “teaser” to visit Venice. It is a very interesting city, with lots of history and incredible beauty … and big challenges. The glass factory shop was fantastic…I just couldn’t walk out without some glasses and jewelry.

  13. Stunning tour of this magnificent city, Tiny. Against the backdrop of fragile palaces and ancient churches, those cruise ships are indeed monstrous. They must add to some of the wear and tear as well as being big blots on the townscape. I gather the sudden influx of tourists from same is not welcomed by locals either.

    1. Thank you Tish. I had some very interesting conversations with local historians…and it is true that Venetians now more and more want the influx of tourists to be better managed. They are also genuinely worried about the increased flooding and the fact that more and more of the city’s real estate now serve tourism in one way or another. You can imagine the newest cruise ships having a passenger capacity of 5000 and even close to 7000….and those crowds descending on this fragile city for a day. The bridges, palaces and churches were extremely crowded…

  14. I really enjoyed your amazing pictures of Venice and the so very interesting information about the city. What a good eye you have for capturing things so perfectly and such a talented way with words . I felt like I was traveling through the city myself. Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. You are very kind, Kathy. I am happy you enjoyed the tour of this fascinating city…in addition to the beauty of the historical sites, I felt I had to share some of the challenges they face as well.

  15. Wow! 😀😀 This is a gem of a post on Venice and transports me there with your vibrant feast of photographs. They are some of the best I’ve ever seen (this is a place I dream of visiting so I browse a lot of travel magazines!), truly superb and stunning. I love the personal angle in this post, both through the images and also your description…who knew about the training to be a gondolier – and only one woman!! A striking and wonderful travel article…wishing you well. Xx

    1. Thank you, Annika. I am so happy you enjoyed my “report” from Venice. I felt I had to take some time for myself and see something beautiful, like Rome, Pompeii and Venice, at the tail-end of this trip – in addition to taking care of my father’s estate in Finland and doing some work in Milan. And it paid off…I am doing a bit better now. I hope you will be able to visit this magical city in person soon. XXX

  16. You captured the many faces of Venice beautifully. We were there some years ago and thankfully I don’t recall seeing any cruise ships. I understand the locals of Venice are leaving to live on the mainland as they just can’t manage a normal life in the midst of so many visitors.
    Sending hugs your way and your post really transported me back to our very special time in this sinking city.

    1. Thank you Sue, and sorry for the tardy response. I am glad you revisited Venice with me. The locals complain that there’s no longer space for them ..on the streets, in the vaporetto and in housing because tourism takes more and more of the inventory. And what remains is far too expensive for a middle class person. And the huge cruise ships now routinely dock in the lagoon…No wonder that the city has started to consider some limiting measures, some of which are already in place.

  17. How lovely! You capture such beautiful images. Both the glorious mosaics as well as the commonplace bridges and residential views. I truly wish I had had the opportunity to visit there while I was in Italy so many years ago. But, back then, there was actually drought complications and they claimed that the canals would shrink to nothing. Let’s hope the challenges of a liquid city wax and wane with the seasons. Though, the buildings were sinking even then. So, I suspect it is an inevitable decline. Hopefully it will gain the same fame and allure of the lost Atlantis–Venice will be remembered as a cultural and scientific wonder and no one will question that it ever really existed.

    1. Thank you for visiting Venice with me. The sinking of the buildings is now monitored every 10 days by a special satellite…and they are working hard to come up with some protections so that the city will not be under-water by the end of this century or mid next. That is a formidable challenge.

  18. The magic of Venice ~ boy how you have brought it out with your photos and words Tiny. A place I hope to visit at some point, just to capture the flavor of the culture of this great city.

  19. Venice is magical, thank you for the tour and I am with you about the idea to ban the huge cruise ships – at least they have to limit the size or perhaps dock it somewhere bit further away..

    1. Thank you, Indah. Yes, Venice is magical. I’m glad you enjoyed the tour. It would certainly be much better if the huge ships docked further away and not right there in the lagoon.

  20. I have always wanted to see Venice! Your photos are awesome. Admittedly, I did not know the city was slowly sinking. Oh no!
    I am Italian/Irish….I still hope that one day I can travel to both Italy and Ireland.

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