Have you been to Venice? If you’ve spent more than a day in this extraordinary city you will probably have come home feeling uplifted. You might put this down to the Downton Abbey effect, of spending time basking in the romance and reflected glow of past glories. If so, you’ve overlooked an interesting glimpse of the future.
There’s a lot to love in Venice. The views are uniquely inspiring (when there isn’t a monster cruise ship parked in front of them). Its natural history is unique. You can go for a short walk and encounter more important works of art than you’ll see almost anywhere else. And there’s a local ice-cream chain called Grom which can’t be bettered. But whether they know it or not, the true Venice addict keeps going back because they never get enough of being in a city built on such a perfectly human scale.
Venice is a fish
Venice is a fish-shaped land mass (go on, look it up on Google Earth: you know you want to) cris-crossed by canals. The Grand Canal runs down the middle of the fish from mouth to anus, and many smaller canals extend from it. The whole is a series of small islands connected by bridges. In parts of the city you have an intense sense of this special geography: you’re unmistakably atop the scales of a fish floating on its side in a saltwater lagoon.
A car-free life
All transportation is by foot or by water. Apart from providing the amusing spectacle of new arrivals wrestling wheelie cases over humpbacked bridges and cobbles (take a backpack, you won’t regret it*), this means that Venice is a city without revving car engines and exhaust fumes. You can sit in the street or one of the many squares and enjoy your twilight drinks without being gassed or deafened.
In Venice, crossing the road does not entail the usual risk to life and limb. Every destination can be reached on foot or by public transport. As a result the local population, though elderly, is relatively mobile and free from cardiovascular disease. The latter is certainly not from a lack of deep-fried food. Venetian fried fish is a dish which redefines the deliciousness scale.
A fringe benefit of the antiquity and geology of Venice is that it has entirely escaped high-rise building. Most constructions are two or three storeys high, and hardly any of them have lifts. Everything Venetians possess must be brought in from the mainland by boat and manhandled up steep flights of stairs.
Throughout the history of Venice, resources and commodities have been hard-gotten and highly valued. This is the perfect template for cities of the post-petroleum world to come. Yes, if you’ve been to Venice, you’ve seen the future, whether you realize it or not. And the future is fish-shaped.
*Soon you may have to take a backpack. Trolleys with solid wheels are about to attract a fine!
I’m Lynn Reynolds. My company, Lexis Writing, creates high quality content and copy for businesses in the UK and beyond.
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