What It’s Like To Be Black In Venice, Italy
PUBLISHED: April 18, 2019
Venice or Venezia, as it is also known, will easily amaze you. It is one of the destinations dreams are made of, filled with beautiful waterways dotted by unique architecture and filled with history. When I arrived in Venice, Italy one spring, the sun was gently shining on my bare arms and I could hardly contain my excitement to explore a city that was unlike anything I had ever experienced. There were multiple private water taxis speeding by, gondolas to the left and right, and outdoor vendors with fine Italian leather handbags as far as the eye could see. It all looked and felt surreal.
The city is broken down into six boroughs or Sestieri. My hotel, Antica Locanda Sturion, was in the San Polo area, near the Rialto Bridge which is the most famous of the bridges that cross the Grand Canal, in the heart of Venice. After walking up five flights of stairs and settling into my hotel room, it was time to explore.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that being black in Venice was not commonplace. My first day was spent popping in and out of shops looking at ornate festival masks, trying a new flavor of gelato at almost every vendor that I saw, stopping through the massive meat and produce market, and finally, an outdoor lunch sitting along the Grand Canal. As I observed my surroundings and took in the beauty of the city while indulging in a specialty pizza, I couldn’t help but notice that I hadn’t seen anyone that looked like me all day. For some reason, I felt a bit out-of-place. Like people were observing me more than normal. And it wasn’t just the locals, but some of the other European tourists as well. It was as if their interaction with “black” people had been limited. Near the end of my trip, I did see two black men and one woman at the airport.
I hadn’t been exactly mistreated, but I wasn’t welcomed with open arms. Something definitely felt different. I felt like I was on a playground for the rich and famous but everyone was wondering how I snuck in. After a brief moment of reflection, I decided that the only way to enjoy my trip would be to ignore the potential ignorance of others.
On my second day in Venice, Italy I enjoyed a gondola ride first thing in the morning, while the waterways were less congested. Next, I walked to St. Marks Square, also the home of St. Mark’s Basilica, where you get a true feeling for the city. It was buzzing with tourists and locals carrying on their daily routine, and you can watch people allow themselves to be swarmed with pigeons for pictures and take a trip to the top of the bell tower Campanile for an epic view. I strolled around and ended up sitting in a lovely little garden that I stumbled upon, then I took a ride on the water taxi, aka, their version of the city bus. For a few euro you can get a great tour of the city, and I also unexpectedly found their version of the love lock bridge. Not as much of a to-do as the Parisian version, but cute nonetheless.
After a glass of limoncello and another delicious meal (this time it was mussels and pasta in a spicy red sauce), I wandered through the narrow streets. I walked and walked until I successfully got lost in Venice. I reached a dead-end where a bunch of locals gathered in a very popular bar. Being way off-the-beaten-path, I had a little hesitation about walking in, but I just perked up my smile and asked for directions. With a very thick accent and extremely broken English, a cutie behind the bar was able to help me get back on the right track.
Venice, Italy is a beautiful, quaint destination and it really is perfect for lovers, so maybe I’ll try my hand at another experience for my future honeymoon. January and February are said to be chilly in Venice, but the off-peak season is perfect if you want to avoid crowds. See more pictures from my trip below.