The great irony about living in a city – any city – is that one never really finds the time to do all the things that are most special to do there – you know, the things that sit tantalisingly on your doorstep and other people travel across continents for, longing to see. The tourist-y things.
In Venice, this great irony weighs heavier than most places. Venetians, you see, when all is said and done, resolutely think of themselves as a breed apart from tourists; they float in a parallel universe, walk the streets with the certainty of someone who recognises each winding calle as their own, with the quiet confidence of those who feel quite so at home nowhere else. ‘Not being a tourist’ is, in fact, an art form cultivated by Venetians – devotedly and over generations. They speak their own language – Venetian, unintelligible to an Italian from any other corner of the country; they eat their own food – a clear demarcation between tourist-y restaurants (the ones with garish photos of food on the menu) and non tourist-y restaurants (the ones where there is no menu – you eat what the kitchen brings you and, inevitably, it is exquisite); they do their own thing – drive their boats through the quieter canals, and take the dark back alleys, that seemingly lead nowhere, to go about their daily business; somehow or another, they end up all but avoiding the main sites – with all the priceless treasures and the hoards of other people admiring the priceless treasures.