Florence, Venice: Traveling, Touristing, Saturation

I have a cold, I didn’t sleep well, and my mind is somewhat foggy. It’s sunny outside, but we are all sniffly. We are all battling some lightweight lethargy.

We recently returned from a few days wandering the narrow alleyways and canals of Venice. It was postcard beautiful, heavily touristed, and all of the caricatures one would expect of Venice. We did all of the usual Venice things - visiting museums and the former Jewish ghetto, listening to Vivaldi's Four Seasons in a church, riding vaporettos, and making our own glass bracelets/keychains. My favorite part was the perpetual confusion of Google Maps; we were always lost. As a family, we would play the game of rotational navigator – winding our way through the labyrinthian paths, dizzied even a block away from our target destination, our laughter, emboldened echoes in the hollow passageways.

Chris and I have recently felt like the move to Italy transitioned us from travellers into tourists. What does that actually mean? I’m not sure there really is a difference, but perhaps it just means a shallower experience of a place. Though I’m not sure that fully encapsulates it either. I think perhaps in Asia we allowed ourselves to follow an inner magnetic force to experience and transform deeply. And now that we have transformed, we are a bit saturated, like the body and all that it entails can no longer hold being moved quite as deeply. And given that saturation, there is a limit to how stirred we are by what we see around us. 

I spoke yesterday to Obie about this, as we wandered through the Accademia in Florence, beholding David in all of his magnificence. Obie had a rather lacklustre look on his face; “I prefer Buddhas,” he remarked casually. And I understood what he meant. He intellectually thought it was really cool - glorious and rich and marble and gold and impressive. And that's the truth - we are all enjoying ourselves. The kids are talking about coming back to Italy to study or to work. We are having fun. We really are! 

But there is something more superficial about this part of the experience. Is it the place, a country that efficiently serves up polished tourist experiences? Is it simply that we are in the last leg of our trip and everyone is filled to the brim with experience and mind-/heart-bending transformation? 

I’m not sure. But as always, we explore the terrain together, one foot in front of the other, taking down days when we all need a break.

For me, despite the cold, I am appreciating that I have finally allowed in a certain slowness and expansiveness that I was so sorely lacking in Vancouver. I am reading voraciously again – fiction, spiritual memoirs, autobiographies, an intermittent nonfiction piece. Somehow those early parent years drained me of being able to truly read without goal. It was like without a predetermined purpose, my mind could not create the space to be moved by a book, by the release that it required of me, to wander through its passageways, to get lost. The metaphors of one’s outside and inside worlds, different worlds taking leads at different times, an openness to traveling on all of the levels of one’s being.

In any case, here are some shots of us throughout our time in Florence, including our wonderful language classes in the first two weeks of our time here, climbing the Duomo, visiting the nearby town of Fiesole, sweet restaurants, the Accademia, wandering, and more. 

From here on out, we have one more week in Florence, then off to Elba for Chris' marathon, and then to an agriturismo in Tuscany!


It looks amazing. Wonderful photos. I hope you all feel better soon!
Beautiful photos and writing, as usual. Translation of Lorenzo Mullon poem? The dog? Cute!
Looks like a fabulous place, but yeah... I get that feeling. It's not the same when there seems to be a ready-made experience, not one you discover and decide on your own. Looking forward to finding out what an agriturismo is!
I have so much trouble reading whole books too. I thought coming to Taiwan would fix that, but it hasn't. Glad you've found a path back to reading! So interesting, the difference between traveling and touristing -- I totally get that. Great to read how it's been so far in Italy and see your smiling faces! XOXO

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