The View from Venice

 From this point forth, the Frankenstein J-term will remain in Italy. However, after three days in Venice, I don’t think anyone is complaining. In the little time we’ve spent so far in this country, we’ve been introduced to the amazing sites and experiences it has to offer.

On Friday, we visited the Doge’s Palace from which the city’s royal elite historically ruled. We journeyed through the palace’s breathtakingly ornate halls until crossing over the infamous “bridge of sighs” into the cold depth of the prison in which many enemies of the state “disappeared.” Outside the palace, carefully carved mouths (see image) encouraged citizens to anonymously report their neighbors’ secrets to the government. This outstanding building gave us insight into the Venetian link between power and beauty. In our discussion that night, we discussed the way in which the city’s great beauty functioned in many ways as a facade for the corruption that its citizens faced at the hands of their government.

As many of you may know, Venice, like the glacier at Mont Blanc, has experienced its own set of consequences as a result of global warming. This November, locations such as Saint Mark’s square experienced unprecedented flooding. I’m pleased to report that the water has receded. However, the citizens are not about to let the steady influx of tourists forget. Throughout Venice, there are large stacked platforms that, when needed, form walkways which allow people to walk above the water. The platforms remain both as a haunting reminder of what has happened and as an ominous warning of what will surely happen again if we fail to acknowledge what all Venetians know. Venice floats on giant pine trees submerged in the lagoon; like the city itself, we all rely on nature as the foundation which supports marvels of human ingenuity such as Venice.

Those of us who visited the Adriatic Sea on Saturday found that the force of the natural world cannot be subdued—especially not in January. It was 45 degrees and raining. Only some of us (me) forgot to bring an umbrella. Regardless, seeing the ocean was a powerful reminder of nature’s might. It proved a thoughtful juxtaposition to socially constructed institutions of power such as the Doge’s Palace. Historically, doges threw a ring into the water upon their coronation as a symbol of their marriage to the sea; a union of two incredible powers.

We will continue to explore these important questions as we begin our time in Florence today. Ciao!

The interior of the Doge’s Palace.
Places where Venetian citizens could deposit intel on their neighbors.
Stacked platforms positioned throughout Venice; used as walkways during times of flood.
The ocean!!