Above: The view from the breakfast terrace at the Bauer Hotel Grand Canal in Venice.
Houston-based food writer and world traveler, J.C. Reid, a frequent visitor to Italy, brought the following news item to my attention over the weekend: The Venice city council is planning to ban roller suitcases starting in May 2015, citing noise pollution and damage to historic walkways and squares as the reason for the prohibition.
Tourists will face steep fines if they are caught rolling their Samonsites through the city’s narrow calli (streets).
Bags with air-inflated rubber wheels and citizens of the lagoonal city will be exempt.
As someone who has spent considerable time in Venice — studying, playing music, and as a tourist — I think the ban makes sense for a lot of reasons.
The number one reason, in my view, is that noise pollution is, in fact, a major problem for both residents and tourists. One of the most remarkable things about visiting the car-less Venice is it’s wonderful quiet.
It’s true that the Venetians have a tormented relationship with visitors. On the one hand, the tourist industry there continues to be a cash cow for locals, as it has been for more than 700 years. On the other hand, the veneziani are constantly overrun and overwhelmed by German- and English-speaking tourists who often show little regard, respect, and consideration for the fact that Venice is a living, breathing city where parents take their children to school every day before they head to work.
The ban will make Venice more enjoyable for everyone, in my view.
The other reason that the ban makes sense is that the Venice tourism infrastructure offers myriad ways to deal with it.
First of all, there is the deposito bagagli or left luggage facility where you can store your baggage securely for a modest fee.
In my experience, when you’re spending the night in Venice, it’s always best to stow your luggage somewhere and simply carry an overnight bag. After all, it is a major hassle to walk through Venice to your hotel with luggage (unless, of course, you’re splurging for an expensive water taxi ride, in which case the ban is moot anyway).
The last time I spent the night there, I parked my rental car at Piazzale Roma and left my suitcase in the trunk of the car, taking only a small duffle bag that I slung around my shoulder.
The other thing to keep in mind is that the best way, in my opinion, to visit Venice is to stay in Venice terra firma, in other words, mainland Venice.
A lot of people don’t realize that the city of Venice actually extends to the mainland and that there are number of small cities on the mainland where you can take a ten-minute train-ride to Venice proper.
Mestre is the most obvious one. But my favorite is Quarto d’Altino, where my wife and I have stayed in one of the many wonderful restored eighteenth-century villas that dot the landscape there. Our hotel even offered a free shuttle to the train station (and this is the case more often than not).
Especially when you’re visiting for the first time, Venice can be challenging in terms of getting around. Why weigh yourself down with luggage?
Whenever I go to Venice, I travel light so that I can move swiftly about the city. It’s such a beautiful, magical place to visit. It’s much better, in my opinion, to spend your time soaking in the sights than to tire yourself out as you lug your bag through town.