The Romance of Travel: Losing Faith in Venice

Posted on July 29, 2013 by

The sun was gleaming on the sparkling waters of Venice’s channels as I jostled my way through hundreds of tourists on the Rialto Bridge to snap a photo of the the city’s world-famous canals. The air was hot and humid, but that clearly did not prevent hordes of travelers from flooding its shore. It seemed as though the whole world had descended on Venice.

Alberto and I could hardly believe that this was the place we had fallen head over heels with almost eight years ago. Back then, Venice to me was a place unlike anywhere else, with a mysterious atmosphere hanging over the narrow canals that stream through the centuries-old buildings, and a truly captivating history and setting. There was always a laidback and romantic air in the background and I indulged in every bit of it. Venice gave me my first few glimpses of the world then and it was definitely one of the places that got me hooked to travel.

Venice can be pretty if you can look beyond the crowds

The Venice that we saw this time wasn’t exactly how I had remembered it. Its beauty was still undeniable, but with the shoving crowd and unbearable prices and commercialism, it had lost its appeal to me. Granted, this was merely a short stopover and we should have chosen to come during the shoulder season instead of the peak period; but whatever happened to the romance of travel? When relaxing strolls in the piazzas and delicious local meals made every bit of the experience, more so than long museum lines and overpriced hotels. When serendipitous encounters were more memorable than annoying airport security checks and badly-behaved tourists.

As Cristina Odone said eloquently in her article for The Telegraph on the romance of travel, “Travel once enjoyed a certain mystique. Think starched white suits, panama hats, and those gloriously battered leather trunks….These days, a belch, a four-letter word, an elbow in the ribs: anything goes among this new generation of travellers.”

I couldn’t stop questioning myself if it was Venice that had changed or if myself and today’s travelers were the one who had changed. Perhaps I wasn’t managing my expectations well and this had nothing to do with Venice. Maybe a decade of traveling has left me jaded and unable to ignore the less-important things and focus on the beauty and charisma of Venice?

One thing I knew was that we weren’t returning to Venice so soon, at least not until I’ve regained my faith.

Have you ever fallen a place and only to disappointed upon return? We would love to hear your stories.

Canals of Venice


About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

15 Responses to “The Romance of Travel: Losing Faith in Venice”

  1. Robert S Baldassano July 29, 2013 10:29 am #

    I share your reaction to Venice and other locations as well. I have been a traveler since my early 20’s and now as a Senior I am appalled by the jam of tourists in my favorite
    places. Much is due to the giant cruise ships which I don’t like. I have vowed to only travel in shoulder season and to places large cruise ships can’t go.

  2. suzette July 29, 2013 7:57 pm #

    Great photos btw. But this is why I mostly wander the roads less traveled. But despite all, Venice Italy is still on my list… for as long as it is above water. And it's funny, on a similar note, my buddy who began living the island life in the Philippines years ago answered my question of 'what's your secret to being happy all the time' – saying, 'I never have expectations. Ever.'
    – Suzette,

  3. Nicole July 29, 2013 11:15 pm #

    I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed in a place on our travels. My husband was a little disappointed in Singapore. But only because some places charged foreigners more money.

  4. ashworldtravel July 30, 2013 12:32 am #

    This is exactly why I will NEVER return to Venice. I just mentioned this exact issue on FB a few days ago in response to the question whether I would return to a place I had traveled to before. I went when I was young, shortly after university. I had only been to a few countries at that point and wouldn't know touristy, overpriced, or overcrowded if it had smacked me in the face. I thought it was magical, and we had a wonderful time. Now, I am sure I would despise it. It was suggested once that I consider going in winter, when it is empty and charming. That would probably be the only way.

  5. Jennifer July 30, 2013 1:58 am #

    We’ve definitely realized our travel style has changed. We were once content to just walk around cities, but now it’s not enough. We have to be doing something active like kayaking Venice’s canals or learning to row a gondola.

    We have definitely visited places we should be wowed by many others’ standards but just haven’t been.

    • Nellie Huang January 8, 2014 9:24 am #

      Yes I totally agree! Our travel style has definitely changed since we started traveling more than a decade ago. Strolling around cities just don't do it for us anymore. I actually read about a tour operator that does kayaking excursions around Venice's canals only AFTER our visit – how was it? That sounds like so much fun!

  6. Runaway Brit July 30, 2013 3:24 am #

    I went to Venice almost 10 years ago, and absolutely loved the city. I wonder if I would feel the same were I to return now? It was certainly full of travellers when I was there, but I think that the nature and behaviour of travellers has changed over the last decade.

    These days Venice is a haven for Contiki tours, cruise passengers, and GAP year travellers. Budget airlines, such as Ryanair, have introduced flights to Venice that are so cheap that it is easy for people to pop over for the weekend – this will always bring in the stag and hen party crowds from other parts of Europe (most notably the UK). Many tourists are now visiting primarily to drink in the evenings, and to do their sightseeing when either severely hungover, or still drunk.

    The cruise line passengers are just as bad (albeit not in such a drunk and disorderly way), there are literally thousands of them on any one liner and they are herded around in ginormous groups that are just not suitable for Venice's tiny canals and streets. They seem to feel that because they are on such limited time (a few hours in every city), they have the right to elbow other people out of the way to get that photo of themselves standing on the Rialto Bridge. I really think that Cruise liners should do the world a favour and get smaller rather than larger!

    • Nellie Huang January 8, 2014 9:23 am #

      Yes definitely agree that cruise liners should get smaller rather than larger! When we were in Dubrovnik, Croatia this past summer, I was really appalled to see what a difference cruise liners made. It was actually quite calm and nice in the mornings but when the cruise passengers got off the liner and flocked into the city, it just got so unbearably crowded that we had to leave by noon.

      That said, I just wish places like Venice can stay the way they used to be. But alas, that is the negative impact of tourism and something that we all are responsible for. :(

  7. Francesca July 30, 2013 6:59 am #

    Totally agree with Nellie on Venice. Appreciate your candor about destinations and offering pros and cons. Had a similar experience in Paris. I am a world traveler and have worked in the travel industry for many years — it has been my passion! Last year, I was on a temporary assignment in London. My boyfriend came from the US visit me and we decided to take the Eurostar to Paris for a romantic getaway. I had been to Paris two or three times before many years ago. Then, I found it vibrant, charming, elegant and overall — very romantic. On this particular trip, my boyfriend and I found the city dirty, run down, crowded, overpriced and not as safe. The food is still wonderful, yet I was disappointed on the Champs Elysees that several of the wonderful authentic French bistros I recalled had been replaced by Italian pizzerias. London, on the other hand, is thriving and keeps getting better!

    • Nellie Huang January 8, 2014 9:18 am #

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Francesca! I think we all change through the years – whether it's the way we travel or the tiny details we look for when traveling. It is interesting to compare perspectives of a place from when we were younger as compared to now, isn't it?

  8. francaangloitalian July 31, 2013 4:26 am #

    So far it hasn't happen to me. I went to Venice a couple of times and it didn't disappointed me in both occasions.
    I understand perfectly what you are saying, I guess I was prepared to the high prices and the crowded streets/attractions, in fact I enjoyed the most getting lost in the more quite and local parts of the city like the ghetto and university area, those moments were my peaks! :)
    It is difficult though to find peace in a so popular city like Venice! Low season next time?

    • Nellie August 6, 2013 11:06 am #

      Yes for sure, definitely low season next time! Thank you for the comforting words. I guess our first experience in Venice was so good that our expectations for this trip were too high. I realize that sometimes it\’s better to travel without any expectations and we often getting pleasantly surprised.

  9. Lauren October 22, 2013 3:35 am #

    That's how I felt about Sydney! I was worried it would be the same in Pai, Thailand, but thankfully it was just as wonderful the second time around.

  10. atravelingb October 30, 2013 4:39 pm #

    I love your thoughts on Venice! I just returned from there a month ago and when I could find my way down the back alleys and quiet plazas I loved it; however, any remotely popular place was jammed with tourists taking pictures on their iPads. I could not get over it! I did love the magic of the city though and if I return it will be in the offseason.


  1. The Romance of Travel: Losing Faith in Venice - Italy Figlhts | Italy Figlhts - October 11, 2013

    […] post The Romance of Travel: Losing Faith in Venice appeared first on Wild […]

Leave a Reply


Wildlife Photography ebook|Sign for our monthly newsletter to download for free!