Today we got up bright and early, hopped on the vaporetto to the train station, and boarded a train to Padova. Maybe it was the lack of sleep or being away from cars and bustling streets with stoplights, but it was slightly jarring exiting the train station and being thrust into modern day Italy. I had gotten so used to gondolas and water taxis. Seeing cars buzzing past and having to remember to look both ways before crossing the street seemed foreign, even after being away from that for only a handful of days. It’s very easy to lose yourself in Venice and forget that any other place exists in the world.
That’s something I have found myself doing in Venice, getting completely wrapped up in the little heterotopia. We discussed heterotopias in class quite a bit, using the examples of Las Vegas and Epcot in Disneyworld. Heterotopias are physical representations of a utopia that have more to them than meets the eye.
When Venice was built, it was built around the geographical features that were already there. They didn’t try to destroy the natural geography of the region, even though a lagoon wasn’t ideal for the construction of an empire. As time passes, Venetians uphold their history in this heterotopia by preserving the buildings and integrity of those buildings by leaving them as they are, “dov’era, come’era”. They don’t try to fill the streets with new fangled technology or tear down the oldest buildings to build new and fancy modern buildings. I have formed a deep appreciation for this historical value.
I’m from Northern Michigan, which has only been a state since 1837. Venice had been well-established as a powerhouse since around 400 A.D. That’s an incredibly drastic difference in time. Venetians could have easily torn down and replaced the old with the new as time progressed and fads changed, but they didn’t. The Michigan that I live in today looks completely different than the Michigan that was established back in 1837. If you were to show my photographs, I don’t think I’d be able to identify any key features of my home state.
Venetians value their history, as I have previously mentioned. Venice serves as a heterotopia because it is both a place of geographical importance, the border between the East and West, but it’s also home to academic feats unmatched by most other places of the same time. The Renaissance thrived in this swampy city because of the endless people cycling through. Merchants brought in traders from different ends of the Earth. Venice was the gathering place for the greats.
While in Padova, we got to see: the anatomical theatre, daVinci’s lectern, Scrovegni Chapel, and Basilica San Antonio. The Scrovegni Chapel was breathtakingly beautiful, seeing Giotto’s famous paintings in person was an indescribable experience. His depiction of the lamentation is chilling. The famous Giotto blue definitely lived up to my high expectations. The artwork beautifully encompasses the chapel without overwhelming it.
Spending a day back in the 21st century was fun, but by the end I was more than ready to return back to my Venice. I love being slightly out of touch with the world and Venice provides you with that chance. I’m not on my phone all day checking my notifications and worrying about what my friends are doing. When I’m in Venice, I am fully living in the moment and letting the little heterotopia take me away from my own reality.