When Something is Missing

When Something is Missing

Between Sunday and Wednesday evenings this week I did not see a single road vehicle at all and it was great! There were thousands of people of almost every size, shape, orientation and origin moving within a thriving business and social environment, yet it was so "other worldly" that it felt like a two week break.

Where was I? Venice, of course. A city built on islands in a lagoon.

I realise that this is not a place for travelogues (something I will leave for Trip Adviser), but I did want to share some thoughts and impressions that are pertinent to modern life, especially when living in a city such as London.

I don't know what I expected of Venice, but it was both different and superior to anything I imagined. Yes, it's winding alleys are packed with tourists, many offloaded for a few hours from the floating cities called cruise liners, but those passage ways and occasional open areas are peaceful too. While much of its brickwork is crumbling and its paint flaking, something of quality oozes out of every structure, an intangible breath of history and culture assailing you at every step.

Even amongst the crowds, while standing in line, avoiding the blight of any tourist destination (see below), there is a form of peace and romance I have not experienced anywhere else - even on Caribbean islands. There are log-jams of gondolas ferrying couples and families down crowded canals somehow avoiding collisions around blind turns, alongside a noisey tangle of water taxis, vaporettos (the water buses) and tradesmen' boats yet somehow it is relaxing to watch and be part of.

The nearest I can think of is Paris at its best, but even that falls well short. I truly think that the difference is the absence of any roads and thus the total lack of any land-based motor vehicle. You walk  almost everywhere and when one cannot or does not want to walk you pick up a boat, public or private.

Or there is Amsterdam with its canals, but it has it roads too, busy with cars and trams and bicycles. While there are many adjectives I would use for Amsterdam don't think I could ever describe that city  as peaceful.

Of course it helped that the sun shone for the whole duration of our trip as did the fact that with this being our 30th wedding anniversary we paid to stay at The Danieli, right on the waterfront next to the Doge's Palace and St Mark's Square. The hotel was great, but it's location was superb.

I mentioned blights and Venice is afflicted with three modern blights. They are:

A plethora of North African purveyors of fake hand bags who block the walkways until they evaporate at the hint of a policeman;

Teams of over-dressed, hunched-over hags of east European appearance who will one moment be keening pathetically while holding a dirty paper cup and the next fighting like cats with a competitor over a pitch or being berated by their "handler" for not taking enough money; and

Vendors of Indian and Asian appearance firing brightly lit projectiles into the night sky before watching them flutter down to earth or showing off laser pointers and pattern makers at night.

This latter one did rather detract from the beauty of St Mark's Square at night, but even then could not kill the magic of dancing to a jazz quintet delivering Louis Armstrong's "Beautiful World" at close to midnight.

I usually find it takes me a week to unwind and relax, before the second week of a fortnight holiday finally recharges the battery, but with Venice it was different. From the moment you approach the City by water taxi, it is different. I cannot explain it, but I feel that I benefitted more from three days in Venice than a week more anywhere else.

The lessons I was reminded of are

#1 - Life can still surprise you, if you let it.

#2 - A change can truly be as good as a rest, if not better.

#3 - Somethings are truly priceless and worth every penny you spend on them.

And this was the revelation that I can't really explain

#4 - For all our reliance upon it, the total absence of any road traffic creates something rare and special.

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  • Andrew Sullivan

    Living without a car is easier in some places than others.

  • Steve Chambers

    Venice is set to introduce a tax on tourists from next summer to improve the quality of life of its residents.

  • Harry Ramsbottom

    Good article

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Ian J Sutherland 

Business Change Expert

Ian J Sutherland is a highly skilled director with expertise in governance, partnerships and regulation and almost four decades of experience serving as a powerful catalyst for change for organisations of all sizes and sectors. He thrives on identifying areas for innovation and improvement, forming effective strategies to drive efficiency and create bottom-line results. He has a proven capacity to serve as a bridge between organisations and functions, creating unity and operational coherence. A personable and creative leader, with a unique insight and the ability to see the big picture and provide constructive challenge, he writes on many matters including the delivery of change in today's world and is an opportunistic photographer who seeks to capture images that interest him. He enjoys good beer, good company and good music - not necessarily in that order.


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