So today I decided to spend a few hours in the Rialto area to see what kind of shopping is available in Venice. Strangely enough, I haven’t actually spent time shopping here, but know where everything is from walking everywhere constantly. Not only did I need a break from studio, but the day was beautiful and would have been a shame to waste indoors. I had the luxury of D&G, Prada, Burberry, Chanel, MiuMiu, La Pearla, etc. at my fingertips and it was ultimately a very relaxing two hours. I ended up buying…a bottle of water. Even when not in designer shops, prices are so inflated here that an item going for $100 in the US could easily go to 150-200 Euro here (double/triple the cost). Big “le sigh”, but I did find great entertainment in almost every shop from who else but the employees. Majority of the time employees assumed I was either French or Russian (there are NO blondes here). To try to get me to buy things they themselves would model with an item. I loved the gals that would model with the purses…holding them in mannequin poses to show me all the ways I could carry it. Entertaining their efforts was half the fun. Oh, and the lies were triumphant. I can guarantee over 70% of what I saw that claimed to be Italian or Venetian was certainly sourced from China.
So that was fun. There is also a lot of pathway reconstruction happening right now. I almost fell into a gaping hole in my neighborhood, and a British tourist actually climbed into one to see how the underground infrastructure worked (I fell in love with that guy for being so inquisitive). I’m sure most of the construction is to raise the level of the pavement to cope with their everlong battle of soil subsidence and rising tide levels. Two nights ago half the fondamente between San Marco and the Arsenale was flooded. Good thing I’m getting out of here before aqua alta season; the photos I’ve seen during that time do not look fun and I certainly do not have the ability to drop euros on galoshes. It isn’t uncommon for a residential building to be vacant on the ground level, or to see flood barriers soldered in front of low-lying ground level doors.
Maybe it’s not too early to give my final impressions of Venice:
1. The absolute best food I have had here have been our home-cooked meals. Mary and Tiffani are excellent cooks, and not only did we save an enormous amount of money by cooking for ourselves every night, but we were able to try out recipes with the produce and grocery items the real locals eat. Mini purple artichokes are phenomenal, as is real shrimp scampi. Home made risotto is finger kissing good, and nothing beats “pasta n things”. I’ve learned many ways to cook polenta, and will probably avoid pizza for a solid year. My search for the best calamari I have ever eaten ended this past Friday when our Venetian instructor, Francesco, had us over to his flat for dinner. Hands down, the best calamari I have EVER had, and will ever have. Very bittersweet. I may or may not be addicted to Prosecco, as it is the northern Italian way to go about drinking during dinner, and I can only hope to enjoy a true Italian spritz in MN as I do here.
2. This city needs wealthier younger people. It’s expensive to live here, and kind of a pain in the ass to put up with clueless tourists, but it is so unique and beautiful. Reason why they need to be wealthy: almost every building I have studied needs severe repair. Sure, the antique patina is super charming, but there is little to no effort being made anywhere to preserve these buildings. As the soil continues to subside and the foundations continue to soak up water, these structures are decaying fast. But it’s expensive to do massive repairs here…boating cranes in and adhering to World Heritage preservation guidelines isn’t cheap. Reason why they need to be young: this city needs more younger families. Once teens reach fledgling age, they move to Mestre and abandon Venice. Almost half of the apartments here are vacant or just seasonally occupied, and the only nightlife is in Campo San Margherita and near the Rialto. The aging population is a problem all over Italy, but Venice especially. It’s terrifying to think that if these statistics don’t improve, they can only get worse, and this place will turn into a theme park for tourists that spend an average of six hours here.
3. I better not hear anyone complain about the street layout of downtown St Paul ever again. I still get confused on routine walks here…today for example, coming out of the grocer I took a grand detour to get to the Rialto area.
4. Being forced to visit multiple stores all over the city for errands is an incredible money saver. Not having something like a Target as a convenient one-stop-shop removes any and all impulse purchasing. I have literally spent all of my money thus far on groceries, small snacks, wine and beer, batteries for my camera, toiletries, vaporetto passes, and other necessities. No candles, furnishings, clothing, etc. For those that read this that preach “live simply”, my life the past 9 weeks has been the epitome of simple. I honestly believe most people I know should be exposed to a culture and way of life like this to put their consumption habits in perspective.
5. Most people here are really amazing. A few of the cool people I’ve met: Francesco, the shop keeper of the print shop we use for studio. Most chic thing in Venice, clean white interior shop, 28” iMacs lining the walls, cacti as corner garnishes, and the man himself wears off-white fit jeans and clean track jackets. I just love styled out people and he is the best styled out man on the Guidecca. Guilia, our Venetian TA. She has four jobs and is hilarious. Her and her man made us dinner one night and was one of the best nights I had the entire trip. Her company is amazing and comforting, and she has helped me with way too many basic things here. Architect on the vaporetto, can’t remember his name (it was a brief encounter). Wearing all white and navy blue with a fancy hat to match, this guy was great company on my 2am boat ride home. Like most people here, he started talking to me in Italian while I smiled and nodded my head pretending to understand. When I realized he was going to keep talking to me, I had to politely ask him to use English if he knew it. He was spending some time here to take a break from a project he’s working on in central Italy before taking a trip to a conference where all the modern starchitects are gathering to pat each other on the back. I had a feeling he was kind of a big deal but didn’t reveal a whole lot about himself. I may have very well met an Italian architect celebrity. Christian, the waiter at Moka Efti. We frequent this establishment as a group due to its proximity to studio and charming allure. This guy loves us but pretends to hate us. He gives some people the funniest looks and critique, then discounts our bill heavily.
Alright, this is getting long and I have a few more things to accomplish before getting to studio for the day. My next update will probably be from Paris!