After arriving in Italy and settling down in the town that our hotel resides in, Mestre, for the first day we ventured into Venice to complete two different derives of the city.
Before we had even departed for Venice, whilst waiting on the platform for our train there were several individual’s that caught our attention. They were dressed for what appeared to be the carnival; some individuals seemed to dress quite elaborately for the carnival where as others appeared to be dressed in fancy dress clothing. Also, when analysing the outfits it appeared that some individuals take the carnival quite seriously, whereas others appear to dress merely for fun and entertainment.
Once we arrived in Venice we were immediately greeted with a range of souvenir shops, with the majority stocking Venetian masks. Even outside the train station there were many stands that offered face paintings, perhaps acting as an alternative to having to wear a mask for the carnival. Immediately we felt alienated. Due to our unconventional appearance, with each of us with cameras in our hands and a map constantly on show, this allowed for the inhabitants of Venice to assess our situation, with many of them vastly approaching us to offer us what they were selling.
Following this, we proceeded with our first derive which was a random direction derive. We needed to get to Dorsoduro and in order to do this we decided, as a group, to randomly decide how to get there. We took note of the direction and headed south of Venice until we reached our destination.
Throughout this derive, we encountered many different elements of Venice. One dominant feature of Venice was, obviously, its bridges and canals. The majority of bridges and canals all looked the same and there wasn’t really anything significant or memorable about what we encountered along the way. Due to this, it became quite hard to navigate as at times we couldn’t remember if we had already crossed a certain bridge because of its similarity to the last bridge we crossed; it was trivial problems like this that we faced throughout this derive.
The architecture of Venice was contrasting. Near the train station there was a new building complex that was under way and it featured an entire new building that resided entirely across one half of the riverside and was then followed by a newly constructed bridge that connected inhabitants from one side of Venice to the side that featured the new complex. The reason that it was contrasting was because there was a newly built building complex on one side, yet on the other was the old, decrepit buildings of Venice; the new buildings stood out against the old and the contrast was supported by the fact that the canal separated both sets of buildings. Throughout Venice there was also many form of reconstruction taking place throughout the city, and at one point from one bridge in Venice, the landscape of Venice from this view was a complete strip of old, Venetian buildings yet in the background, immediately behind the old buildings, there were several construction cranes towering over the building, again implying that construction was taking place.
We came across a café called ‘Mood Café’ that inside was fairly modernized, with the décor of the café consisting of photos of Charlie Chaplin and the Ramones. The decorating inside was really bright, with red painted walls inside and fancy furniture. The reason that this stood out was because this building was the only one in Venice that we saw today that made any attempt to modernize itself. All the other buildings that we saw were very old, original and archaic and were very much constructed with the Italian culture in mind. Mood Café had apparently made a conscious effort to modernize its appearance.
Relating back to what was mentioned earlier regarding the souvenir shops and how many there were, we also noticed how many hotels there were scattered throughout the city. Taking this into consideration, it made us think about how commercialized Venice has become for tourists. The only reason that there are so many hotels in Venice is because of how heavily it relies on tourism to finance the city. Therefore, by having so many hotels this is convenient for tourists and also welcoming to tourists; it shows that Venice is not opposed to allowing outsiders into its city. Chris Rojek’s leisure theory is also applicable to what has just been discussed, as Venice has now moved away from what it was historically regarded as and is now a commercialized city for people to inhabit for the purpose of leisurely activities, such as tourism and for a vacation.
At the beginning of the day the first shop that we saw was a souvenir shop that sold Venetian masks and throughout the day many more appeared, yet some shops were selling authentic Venetian masks that were hand-crafted. Also in one of the shops that stocked masks there was a book at the cash desk entitled ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ that was actually a book that contained photos depicting the use of Venetian masks in the movie ‘Eyes Wide Shut’. Although coincidental this film had already been watched before travelling to Venice and it was interesting to see that this Western representation had been chosen to exemplify the use of Venetian masks. The masks that were in the shop ranged from very basic masks to extremely elaborate masks, all which were seen around Venice today.
Tomorrow we will be spending more time in the center of Venice in order to fully interact with the carnival and to conclude what the carnival really represents in Venetian culture. From today, many interesting elements have been highlighted and bought to our attention. What we now want to do is develop the thoughts we have and theorize what we see and experience.