It’s been a while since I did one of my Monday travel posts, but as I thought about where I’d like to re-visit today, I realised that the photo above (which hangs on my living room wall) was taken exactly ten years ago today, when I spent a day in Venice. So I’m thinking it would be good to imagine having another day there today!
Of course, Venice has a reputation as being one of the most romantic and beloved places in the world. It was one of the places I had most looked forward to visiting. And in many ways it did live up to expectations. But at the same time, I also found it in many ways an ordinary place, with ordinary people, living ordinary lives … and I’m drawn to consider what it means to appreciate both of those at the same time.
What did I love about Venice?
Architecture, history, beauty, culture, art, theatre … no matter what time of year, there is always plenty going on in Venice.
Like so many before me, I loved seeing St Mark’s Square and imagining the parades and carnivals that have been held there over hundreds of years.
I loved looking up at the 500 year old bell tower and thinking about all the history it has witnessed …
… and looking down from its lofty heights on the city below.
St Mark’s Basilica itself is an opulent church with symbolic meaning in all its decorations.
Of course, no trip to Venice is complete without a gondola ride,
passing by the Bridge of Sighs,
the Rialto Bridge,
and the Castello Towers.
But I also loved getting away from the crowds and catching the public water taxi to some of the smaller islands of the city,
seeing places where people live their every day lives seemingly unchanged from days gone by …
… and places long since abandoned, where time has brought obsolescence or decay.
What did I learn from Venice?
When I think about Venice, I think of the juxtaposition between the spectacle and the mundane. Not in a way that disappoints me, but in a way that reminds me that both are part of life. There is one set of things we in a sense put on “show” to the world – the exterior, the achievements, the excitement, the engagement. And that is not false. It is an essential part of who we are. But it is not the whole story. There is also the everyday stuff of life we don’t often take photos of or write poems about, but is happening every day within every person, and within every city. The routines of life, the day to day, the mundane, the ordinary. And it is no less important just because it is less flashy. There is beauty to be found in the every day rhythms of rest and work. There is purpose to be found in the necessary tasks of life.
One of the reasons people (including me) often love to travel is to see the spectacles, to marvel at the wonders, to appreciate the extraordinary. But I often find in my travels that I am equally drawn to the ordinariness of life in each place. To the way someone travels to work, or provides food for their family, or makes their house a home.
I’m not sure if I am explaining this well, or if anyone else feels the same way. But sometimes when I contemplate the spectacles and wonder, it makes me pause and consider the mundane and routine, and sometimes it makes me marvel anew at this thing called life. Because one cannot exist without the other. The extraordinary can only exist because of the ordinary.
The beauty of a sunset can only come after a full day of the sun doing its routine job of providing light.
I’m not in Venice today, I’m just at home doing the mundane tasks of an ordinary day. But perhaps remembering Venice today will help me to pause and appreciate some of those ordinary things of life. What about you?