Venezia, mio tesoro unico
Venice, my unique treasure…
Written by Elyse Popplewell.
For a visitor of Venice, sauntering in the historic calli is like taking a limoncello shot. It’s overwhelming, gloriously intoxicating and very, very Italian. Living and studying here is a little bit different. Don’t be mistaken, each solo stroll by the canals is so surreal that you feel like you’ve floated over the last 28 bridges instead of stepping over pigeons at each turn. Unlike tourists, you’ll be graciously pulled back to the stone streets by the intrigue of Venice as the most unique city in Italy, the way only a residente can see it.
Coming from fast-paced Sydney, there has been a few quaint experiences that revealed cultural differences. Much of the Italian lifestyle is very relaxed, and Venice is of no immunity to the pace of Italian bureaucracy. A lot of shops close between 1pm and 3pm for pauso pranzo and every single time you make a purchase you have to receive a receipt. My bedroom is littered with tiny pieces of white paper and all they do for me is serve as a reminder for just how much gelato I’ve had this week (hint: too much but also never enough). You shot your coffee at the bar rather than having a warm, caffeinated companion to carry around with you as you peruse the Rialto markets. In the grocery store, everyone walks the aisles in smooth Italian leather boots, cloche hats, and tailored coats. At University, there are no lectures, only classes not dissimilar to those you took in High School, and every professor humbly boasts of Italian passion and charisma. Adjusting to the mannerisms of Italians took some time to learn about before embracing, but it was all the more fascinating being somewhere as authentic as Venice.
Where does the inimitability of Venice come from? I think it’s in the relationship between the inhabitants and the city, and the relationship between time gone and present time.
For residents, Venice is not the bones of a labyrinth that was once vibrant and economically thriving. Venice is far from a fossil, and Venetians live each day through a lifestyle that is a vivacious model for unique living. Venice is a delicate fusion of antiquity and modernity; tradition and tourism. The medieval windows framed with flowering garden beds and the Veneto flags serve as a relic of the proud Serenissima. I take a Contemporary History of Venice class at University, and I have an unexpected appreciation for the utter uniqueness of the city’s struggle to live autonomously, uniquely, and ironically, normally.
Millions of people have amassed here over time. Sometimes I amuse myself by imagining the streets filled with merchants and conversations bubbling in dialect from centuries past. The main building of Ca Foscari University is an 1868 gothic palace that overlooks the widest bend of the Grand Canal, and I feel honoured to be just one fortunate person studying in the halls of history, and walking the streets of stories. This is why Venice is the most wonderful destination for exchange: the Instagram-esque nature of the city is just one layer, and once that novelty fades, you are left with many more authentic experiences that so many will never touch, but thousands before you have lived.
I did expect the spritz after 9pm with students from every outpost of the globe, and I did expect the diet of mainly refined carbs. I did not expect to fall completely in love with Venetian life and in a tangled lust with its history.
For now, I’ll be going back to my tasty mission of trying 30 gelato flavours over the course of my exchange. Here’s the first 14 I’ve tried. Ciao!
Written by Elyse Popplewell.
Student number: 12561142
Degree: Bachelor of Communications (Journalism)
Partner University: Ca Foscari University
Elyse such an exquisite piece you have written to document such an amazing and historical city – I only spent one week in Venice and surely want to return and as like you, hunger to learn more about the history and machinations of a unique city. Enjoy and I hope I can read more and more from you and your adventures of learning and living the life!
Thank you so much for your kind comment! Your words are so important to me. I’ll be sure to write more to share everything I learn from here on in…