If someone wants to see the real Venice, stripped of her tourist swarms, you need to get up early, before the cruise ships, planes and boats arrive, or later after dusk when the day trippers have left. It is then that Venice opens up, and seems freer. It is very easy to spot the actual residents of Venice: they are enjoying their coffees, buying their fresh fish and fruit from the gondolas and stalls set up in the campos. As the imports like myself are in short-sleeved shirts and enjoying the balmy weather of a November day that is sunny and 14 degrees, the Venetians are bundled up in scarves and down filled jackets.

They are doing typical, everyday things like taking their kids to school, while the child races ahead, riding a scooter over the cobbled stoned walkways, with the younger sibling plays in a stroller. They are walking their dogs (and there are hundreds of dogs here, in all shapes and sizes!) or they are just walking themselves around town. Unlike the tourists and imports like myself, who require running shoes or sturdy walking shoes to manuever the various walkways, hills, and stairs, the Venetians have high heels and boots and never miss a step. In the evenings, after dusk, Venetians gather together for food and friendship. The canals are calm and quiet, the water is stilled, as the delivery boats have stopped for the day and the gondola drivers have gone home to their families. It is a quiet contrast to days constant drone of motors and horns that always has loud laughter to accompany it.

Evening is an indolent and serene time of day that happens all at once. Unlike North Americans, who count the days until the weekend, the day of the week matters little to the true Venetians. Whether it is Monday or Saturday, the scene is the same: people laughing, enjoying food and enjoying each others company, while they slowly savour their meals and beverages.

After living in Canada, which for the most part is secular, and allows Sunday shopping, the proudly Catholic culture of Venice can be very shocking. One has to plan things like shopping around the store closures for Sunday, saints holidays and a two hour lunch break where stores are closed for a siesta. There is no such thing as sleeping in on a Sunday morning in Venice, since the hundreds of churches proudly announce their morning mass, by loudly ringing their large bells at various intervals.

Having been a resident of this vibrant city for eight weeks now, I am pleased that I have learned these rhythms for myself. But, as is frequently pointed out by various Europeans, I am from a very young country, while Italy and specifically Venice is ancient and ripe with history. Yet, in my opinion, Canada’s youth is not a liability. We do not have the cemented ideas of what we should be (for the most part, and I am sure that some will argue that point), instead, the young Canada remains pliable and ever evolving. Conversely, Venice and her residents are fixed in ideas and traditions that have evolved over centuries. These traditions are ever present in the coming and goings of the real Venetians and while I have enjoyed visiting and getting to know these wonderful people and amazing city, it has also cemented in me, that I am a real Canadian that savours her youth and wide wilderness expanses, and I could not live anywhere else. But I also know that I will miss the slow and historical traditions of the real Venice.

Written by Linda Steele.