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Venice: Bride or Bridezilla of the Sea?

Getting across St. Mark’s Square, the tourist focal point of Venice, is ordinarily like playing the video game Frogger, but with pigeons. Add in a flood, and the “Bride of the Sea” becomes Bridezilla–delicate to negotiate, ready to teeter over the edge at a moment’s notice, and squeezing out the waterworks for dramatic effect.

This is why, when I told friends and family I wanted to go to Venice in December, I was met with a number of skeptical looks. It is, after all, the rainy season in a city that is sinking, and the time of year most prone to floods. It is also the time of year with the least crowds and lines. Which seemed great reasons to me to pack my wading boots and umbrella.

To me, an avowed crowd avoider, I’d always wanted to see Venice but was scared away by stories of swarming summer mobs shuffling their way down stinky alleyways lined with stuffy elbow-to-elbow shops. Not so in early December. I just got back, and I’m already pining away for the artwork, pasta, wine, architecture, and fog. It was a dream to enjoy no lines at the museums, breathing room on the vaporettos, and prompt seating at the restaurants–which is not to say there weren’t a lot of tourists there. There certainly were, but nowhere near the usual critical mass.

Plus, I got to see the spectacle of St. Mark’s underwater, when they put out planks for people to teeter along from the Doge’s Palace to the Correr Museum, and enterprising buskers sell colorful plastic booties to children and adults who want to make a splash. It’s business as usual in the restaurants–as long as you don’t mind having your feet submerged while you slurp down your pasta and sip your Prosecco. Even the gondolieri aren’t thwarted by the high water levels. Instead, they take off their hats and duck gallantly every time they come to a bridge, bringing a bit of limbo-lower-now spirit to the Old World.

Some may call it Bride of the Sea, some may call it Bridezilla. What do you call it?


My name: Rachel Berg.

Favorite way to get around: By Venetian gondola during starlit high tide, gliding past decaying and slightly spooky palaces, with perhaps a bottle of prosecco placed between the gondola seat cushions.

View that took my breath away: Unable to sleep in the mystical city of Sfat in Israel, I wandered outdoors predawn and was treated to a purple-on-purple sunrise below the mountaintop that seemed to emerge feet-first through ground-level clouds.

Greatest travel lesson learned: Sunny weather isn't everything. Some of my best travel memories involve go-karting through a deluge turned mud-fest in Mexico, drinking tea in the cold Denali tundra, and watching electric thunderstorms roll through national parks out West.

Most challenging travel moment: Getting leveled by altitude sickness in Cuzco and realizing that my body was forcing me to slow down and rest despite the fact that there was so much to do and see.

Travel ambition: To see the northern lights.


Dan Partridge

I don’t know where the pigeons eat when Venice is flooded, but that was one of the best parts about that experience, for me. They had to roost on top of the buildings, which meant they weren’t all around my feet or buzzing my scalp every few minutes.

Never been anywhere like Venice. The whole city is full of highlights for those few among us who seek things like, oh, beauty, or joy.

Nice blog, too. Good work. Tell us more about your experience. What would you recommend? What wasn’t worth the hype?


Thanks for asking, Dan! So many things to recommend: The Tintoretto paintings on the ceiling of the upper hall of Scuola di San Rocco are absolutely worth the neck strain. When happy hour rolls around, join the locals for cicchetti, which is Italy’s version of tapas. And if you’re not squeamish, the fish market near Rialto shows off exactly how tied this city is to the bounty of the sea.

Overhyped: Seeing the islands of Murano and Burano involved too much waiting around for the vaporettos, and, while charming in overall island appearance, the glut of glass-blowing, lace-making shops proved too much for me (but I’m not much of a shopper).

Flower Girl

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