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Venice is just magic

Venice is something of a beautiful joke. That is, it’s beautiful and also an absurdity of modern times. It receives colossal but colossal tourism year round, the travel and hospitality industry evolving to the degree that there are very few actual Italians left living in Venice, none of them can afford to.

Every American, British or Chinese tourist that makes the trip to Venice is almost certain to want to jump on a gondola and, in the case of the English, sing “Just One Cornetto” at the top of their voices (a hugely influential song advertising ice cream, based on the melody of “Solo Mio”). Come to think of it, I can’t imagine the mainland Chinese paying the exorbitant fees to get paddled along by a posing gondolier – they probably use Photoshop to paste their own faces onto the photos of the British singing off key.

Venice is a city with no cars, lots of canals, rising damp that make living on the ground floor miserable, lost tourists trying to find their way out of the winding alleys, cafes charging 7 euros for a cup of coffee and flood warnings sounded by sirens that mean, unless you have a good pair of rubber boots, you’re going to lose toes to frostbite before you make it back to the hotel.

And yet… Venice is still magic. Horrendously expensive to live or travel in, difficult to navigate as you depend on the water taxis, freezing in winter and not very Italian – and yet, there are few places that feel quite as special on the planet. It’s an island lost in time, besieged by the modern age and tourism and beautiful in a way that doesn’t do justice to the word.

If you want to find your way to the heart of the city then you could always get a tour of Venice from the Inside Out Guides.