We all have an idea of Venice: images of honeymoons, gondola rides, and countless museums. And when I visited Venice, most people were looking for that, and specifically looking up at monuments, churches, and towers.
Yet something caught my attention. Looking past the crowds of tourists, I noticed local Venetians walking around with the most well behaved dogs you’ve ever seen and they were all unleashed. Some dogs were dutifully waiting for their owners outside stores and others would play in the many public squares, while a few dogs would simply follow along through the city’s narrow walkways.
What a difference from my own experiences back home. It took me awhile to understand what this meant, or how it came to be until it dawned on me.
There are no cars, motorcycles, or even bicycles allowed in Venice. That’s when I understood the magic of Venice as a living city without noise–the largest city without cars in the world. The lack of cars really affects the ambient sound of the city. You can hear the water. I’ve come to believe that it fosters a unique sense of community as well.
And seeing Venice as a place many people call home rather than as a living museum was a great insight for me. Not that life there is easy. Living quarters are small, there are frequent floods, but inevitably this brings people together. I felt that while Venetians may seem rude to outsiders, they’re impeccably polite and warm towards one another.
Instead of highways that divide and malls that make us think of things instead of people, Venetians have narrow walkways where they have to face each other, and beautiful canals which are not easy to navigate–no satellite radio or cruise control to take your mind off your city.
And so looking at beautifully behaved dogs led me to see a vibrant community of people sharing a beautiful life in a small, ancient city by the water.
Sonia Gil hosts a weekly original web travel series called Sonia’s Travels with episodes shot in Mexico, Italy, Berlin and Paris. Each trip turns into a series of shows in which Sonia offers a small idea or tip about a place and the people who live there. New Episodes Premiere Every Thursday at 12 noon (9:00 am Pacific).