|Venetian Cat sunbathing on the Grand Canal at Rialto - Photo: Cat Bauer|
Yesterday afternoon, May 21, I took a little tour around town to see what type of Venice was emerging from the cocoon. In areas that catered to tourists, many shops and restaurants were still closed and shuttered, and it felt isolated and abandoned. But in campi where Venetians and locals live, the ambience was vibrant and pulsing with life.
Even though the international press has misleadingly used images of Venice to illustrate the pandemic in all of Italy, reality inside the historic center is very different. The latest figures still show ZERO cases in Venice's main public hospital, the San Giovanni e Paolo Civil Hospital. Since the beginning of the outbreak, according to the latest statistics, 15 people have died, and 28 people were treated and released. In the entire province of Venice, which includes the mainland with a population of about 850,000, 281 have died. In the Veneto Region, there have been 1,841 deaths. In all of Italy, 32,486 people have died. However, there is always a disclaimer that the numbers may not be accurate.
On Monday, May 18, Italy declared we could finally travel once again between towns, as long as they were within the same region. Shops and businesses could open. Bars and restaurants could serve customers again, as long as safe distancing was maintained. Things started off a little bit rocky as we tried to find some kind of normalcy after such a long time in quarantine, but slowly started to move.
|Rialto Bridge - Photo: Cat Bauer|
At the top of the Rialto Bridge, I found more people who were not residents of Venice. I asked one couple if they were tourists, and they said yes. "Where are you from?" "Verona," they said. "Well, you're not really tourists."
Two middle-aged women were taking photographs. One was from Vicenza, and the other was from Padua. They said that they just had to see Venice in all her glory. "Venice is the capital of our region," said the woman from Padua. "Now is a great opportunity for Venetians from all over the Veneto to have Venice to ourselves. Be sure to write that down."
Instead of "tourist menus" that once catered to tourists, many eateries are offering a "daily menu" with a first (usually pasta) along with a second (usually fish) for around €15-€20, with discerning Venetian appetites in mind. Even the boat taxis have come up with special (temporary) rates to certain destinations -- for example, you can go from Piazzale Roma to Rialto for €20 -- still pricey, but a lot less than they were charging before.
|Leo - the next generation - Photo: Cat Bauer|
|Giovanni Pelizzato of Libreria Toletta - Photo: Cat Bauer|
|Walter Mutti of Edicola fame - Photo: Cat Bauer|
|Cat Bauer in Campo Santo Stefano - Photo: Silvana Di Puorto|
It was pure bliss to sit once again in a campo, chatting and watching people go by, comparing masks and gloves (I opted for a black mask and white gloves -- in fact, I'm hoping white gloves make a comeback). It's so nice to be able to see each other again without the blur of tourists blocking the view. If a tour guide had barged through the scene followed by a herd of tourists, they might have gotten pelted with peanuts.
Venice and the Veneto are united when it comes to reopening an economy not based on mass tourism, but on respectful, intelligent travelers.. Some of you regular readers of this blog, who have been traveling to Venice for years, have written to me saying that you have already made reservations for later in the year. This is wonderful news. Venice is eager to welcome you back again. For there are chunks of Venice that focus on the quality traveler and not mass tourism that cannot recover without you.
This type of traveler is loyal to certain hotels and pensiones and has become part of the Venetian family and community, another necessary ingredient that gives Venice its special flavor. They support local artisans and eateries, museums and art galleries, and are an integral spoke in the wheel that turns Venice's economy. One artisan told me, "When the regular visitors return, they will find Venetians so happy to seen them, and with a joyful attitude... We will be able to give them the time they deserve because we won't be so stressed from the over-tourism."
As Venice opens one door, and then another, it will be fascinating to see if the people who enter the lagoon can help the Queen of the Adriatic get back up on her feet.
Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog