Recently, my friends and I went on a mystical journey to the place we all call our motherland, Italy. Unlike the majority of the group I was travelling with, I had the misfortune of my mother being overly enthusiastic about traveling alongside me. My only thought about the trip for a while was that she was headed over to keep me in line. My classmates didn’t know what to expect, as how we present ourselves at school is radically different from what we do at home. Being on many family vacation, I can attest that when something goes minutely wrong, for example a scratch or continuous coughing, things go downhill. Normally, the sequence of events is as follows: Mom panics irrationally, then Dad goes into a fit as a direct response, being the hypocritical contrarian he occasionally is. The difference about this specific moment in Venice, which when you think about it is already a frightening city to be in, was that it entangled everyone in the tour group as well as (almost) getting the federal police force in our business.
There were ominous people and actions that people do throughout the city, not just on the alleged streets, but on the byzantine, yet not actually from Byzantium canal system. The first part of Venetian life that is not what it seems to be is the gondola. We tend to glorify the gondola, but it has faults. This is because it is difficult to get six passengers onto a boat design that is both figuratively and literally foreign to most of the western world while the motions of the paddler are shakier than those occurring when I go out kayaking back home in the States. Back on land, the frightening aura permeates itself citywide through what is the rough equivalent to what a street is to the rest of the world. These walkways are almost entirely narrow in design, a problem that gets increasingly larger during the summer when tourist numbers are peaking. This amplifies the one underlying bind that almost all grand European cities have in common: the pickpocket. Thankfully, my mom and I had the foresight to wear fanny packs everywhere, alleviating this conundrum.
The area of Venice with the most concentrated terror per square inch is the old Doge’s Palace. The house of Doge has many factors meant to unnerve the people who come there. In the palace proper, there are extremely realistic Renaissance-era paintings, making them bear a frightening and uncanny resemblance to people just like you and me over all periods of history in horrific situations. These grand frescoes cover every wall of the long rooms in the palace proper; making it so that you can get isolated from your peers even within the same room. Therefore, this happened to me, and was the first of two circumstances in which I had zero clue where to go. While the museum curators were nice enough to give us signs to point us in the direction to go, these were actually detrimental to me traversing the palace. There are two cheeky reasons why this is so: not only are the signs in the local dialect instead of the nation’s vernacular, every sign in the estate say the exact same thing. This segues into me thinking that the entrance to the most intricately designed dungeon on Earth was actually the exit of the palace and into the plaza in the middle. After a mile of romping through the labyrinth and hopelessly texting my mom and friends, I made the decision to turn back, the less soul-crushing path.
Upon getting back to the plaza in the middle, I saw my mom heartbroken. The lesson I learned here is that not all fears are irrational. This is not referring to the nasty port town of Venice or its contents, but the often overlooked fear that the phobias of someone else will likely affect your own being in a negative manner. This specific fear was flowing through me throughout the trip, not only in Venice, but also at several hotels when classmate’s belongings were stolen. Also, upon rising early one day to hear the news of an attack on Nice, a French city closer to the Italian Peninsula than other major French cities like Paris. This resentment grew for another motive upon triumphantly returning home safely, with the news blaring across all of our houses as tensions back home keep rising.