This post was originally featured on Dandelion Moms.
Wouldn’t it be nice to step back in time to when life was simple? Where people would enjoy walking every evening to the main square and chatting with their neighbors and friends? Where moms and dads could relax at a cafe while their kids run and play away from their parents’ gaze? Where teens could meet up all over town without worrying about a car, a bus, or the subway? Where local markets and shops sold freshly grown foods and handmade goods and strip malls didn’t exist?
Well, we don’t have to go back in time to find this simple life. If there is one place where time stands still and simplicity reigns over complexity, it’s Venice, Italy. Not only has the city changed very little in 500 years, but the lifestyle, the customs, and the traditions have also remained. I was able to get a real insider’s view of Venice while living there for 7 years. Here are a few of the simple joys my family and I experienced.
Since most of the homes in Venice are much smaller than those in the U.S., the locals are always outside. The locals squares are filled with kids playing and parents chatting, Every evening before dinner, the locals take a passegiata (stroll) through the streets to shop, chat, and enjoy a gelato (ice cream) or spritz (traditional Venetian cocktail). It is so fun to see adults dressed in beautiful clothes happily strolling while enjoying a gelato.
There are only a few parks in Venice, so most of the kids grow up playing in their local campo (square). There are dozens of campi throughout Venice, each with at least one ancient well and a cafe – which is very convenient for us parents! Since the campi are just open space in the middle of buildings and canals, the kids must use their imaginations to play like they have for hundreds of years. There are no basketball hoops, no soccer goal posts, no play sets, no organized play section of any kind – yet the kids are as happy as can be. They bring balls, chalk, jump ropes, scooters, and toys and let their imaginations soar.
Life for teens in Venice is amazing. Most of them begin strolling around their neighborhood with friends at around 10 years old. By the time they are teens, they are free to go all over the city and even take the vaporetto to the local island of Lido to go to the beach. Since Venice is really like one big outdoor mall, it is a teenage girl’s dream – shopping, chatting, and freedom – what could be better?!
In addition to the ever-amazing Venice Carnevale in winter, every summer Venice comes alive with festivals in almost every neighborhood. These week-long festivals are great places to eat traditional Venetian dishes and enjoy the “family” atmosphere of being part of a community whose traditions stretch back for centuries. Many generations can be seen together enjoying the simple joys of food, music, family, and friendship.
Since Venice has always been at one with the sea, many Venetians still take part in traditional rowing competitions and activities, sometimes even dressed in medieval attire. These regatte (races) are fun to watch and take you back in time knowing that they have been enjoying these same races for centuries. Also, Venice’s famous gondolas and gondoliers are using the same rowing technique as they have for a thousand years. If you ever get the chance, a tour of one of the gondola workshops where they show how they create each gondola by hand, is fascinating.
So, if you are needing a little break from modern reality and want to return to a simpler time, there is nowhere in the world that can compare to Venice – the magical city on the sea.