The legendary city where streets are made of water and cute men row boats.

Venice was not exactly what I expected. I’ve heard about it for years and it has always been portrayed as a kind of paradise. The rich and famous venture there and the ordinary folk take romantic getaways on the gondolas. It really is a beautiful city. All you have to do is look down the canals to know why Venice draws crowds, but it really doesn’t feel like a functional city.

Venice was the first “tourist city” on our trip. The economy of most of the locals that walked down the streets was largely dependent on those of us who would call Venice home for a day or three. Every block was stuffed with souvenir stands, over-priced restaurants where no Italian would be caught eating, and lingerie shops. If you can get over being asked to buy something every few seconds and learn to ignore loud, complaining tourists who don’t understand that the world doesn’t revolve around them, Venice is actually a very pleasant place to stay. The streets are quaint, the canals, breathtaking, and the slower pace of Italy, relaxing.

I absolutely love deteriorating buildings, and I use them in my artwork frequently. Structures that stand firm despite obvious hardships really speak to me, and Venice has street after street full of rugged, beautiful edifices. There’s an obvious history to the city, and with a little digging, there is much to uncover.

After a day of sightseeing, and even escaping the main island on Venice for a while, I was able to walk the Venetian streets at night and see a side of the city that thankfully most tourists weren’t there to see. Ambling down the now still streets I could hear a family laughing at a local television show and a guitar playing in an upstairs room. I got lost in the alleys and was surrounded by the real Venice. Those seemingly insignificant sounds coming from every door I passed served as reminders that Venice still has a heartbeat. Knowing tourists hadn’t completely taken over was reassuring and I walked back home with a little more pep and smile on my face.