Saturday, May 28, 2016

Sepia Saturday: You Can Leave These

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo of the Bridge of Sighs takes me back to 2004 when my older daughter Jordan and I rendezvoused in Venice, Italy with my younger daughter Zoe who was enrolled in a study abroad program. Venice is truly the most beautiful city, fun to get lost in, enchanting in every way. But rude! I have never been treated as badly as I was in Venice.
A page from my traditional scrapbook of our trip to Italy

Palazzo Ducale means "Doge's Palace"
One of our first tours was the Doge's Palace. As we prepared to enter, the guard instructed us to take backpacks to the guardaroba. Many museums in the United States require any large or bulky item to be left – backpack, shopping bag, large purse, doesn’t matter. So even though Zoe and I had cross-body side packs while Jordan’s was a traditional backpack, we assumed the guard meant all of us. We placed our bags on the counter of the guardaroba and waited for our claim check. The clerk placed her hands on Zoe’s and my bags and said, “You can leave these.” That’s what we tried to do. Our broken Italian and her broken English just did not mix. I said, “The lady at the door said we need to check our bags.” With one hand on her hip, the clerk glared at me, and in a mocking tone said, “Well, the LA-A-A-A-dy is wrong.” Finally we understood that she meant to say, “You can TAKE these.” Apparently side-packs were considered different from backpacks. The second clerk just rolled her eyes at our ignorance. ROLLED her eyes!

Upper center: The Bridge of Sighs (from which prisoners
got their last look at their beloved Venice)
connects the Doge's Palace and the prison, which was the
Renaissance version of "Scared Straight."
Upper right: that pesky 18th century globe
I grant that the next incident once we got inside the Palace was my own fault. Even though I heard – and READ – the warning not to take pictures inside, I just didn’t think when I saw that beautiful 18th century globe. On impulse, SNAP. The rule is one I have never violated anywhere else, so I cannot explain what happened in that moment. The flash caught the attention of the guard who YELLED at me. No gentle reminder. No, I was certainly made an example to others.

We managed to avoid any international incidents after that until we stopped for dinner that same evening. Apparently we angered our waiter who punished us with the worst service I have ever received anywhere before or since. We do not know what set him off, but Jordan’s theory is that she asked one too many questions about her selection on the menu. Apparently the waiter’s patience for answering questions wore off, so in retribution he slammed a bottle of water on the table. Then he did not present the bottle of wine for approval; he merely opened and served it. He delayed bringing us our bill despite repeated requests “Il conto, per favore.” It is a good thing that tips are not expected in Italy.

I suppose people who work in tourism and those who work in popular tourist areas grow weary of tourists, especially those who are ill-mannered or whose behavior conflicts with other people’s sensibilities. Or maybe there is such a thing as a national personality, even a regional personality, which we tourists bring with us. Later in the week, a merchant in the Cinque Terre asked how we liked Venice. We laughed as we recounted the guardaroba incident. The merchant just shook her head sighing, “Oh those Venetians. They think they are better than everyone else.” So maybe it wasn’t just us.

Despite these memories of insulting the Venetians at every turn and being insulted right back, Venice is high on the list of places I would visit again.

 ~ Sigh ~

Take your backpack, side pack, and fanny pack when you cross the bridge to Sepia Saturday. No one will roll their eyes.


© 2016, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. I guess those Venetians were saying (sighing) to themselves, aaahh, these American tourists are too much!

    1. Of course, they could just as easily say the same about Australan or English tourists in similar circumstances.

  2. Reminds me if when we lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The natives treated outsiders like that especially if you were from California, but they did treat tourists more kindly. I will have to remember this if I am ever in Venice.


  3. Sad. I would think the tourist essentially provide their bread and butter and consequently would receive better treatment. I'm glad the beauty of the city offset their rudeness enough you would want to go back.

  4. Aww too bad, that's not the first I've heard of rudeness in Venice. Some people need a hospitality course maybe hahaha.
    In summer people flock to our little town of Parksville for camping by the ocean as they are pretty much guaranteed no rain, and the traffic is terrible, not to mention no place to park at the stores - the town tries to help by having a free bus that goes by all the resorts to the downtown and back - but I must remember to be kind and patient as they boost the town's economy, and to do my grocery shopping after 6 when they are back at their site bbq'ing and having a campfire.

  5. I visit Yosemite Nat'l Park fairly often - living only an hour away, and frequently at those times I will find myself in the visitors' area of Yosemite Valley. Folks of many nationalities visit the park & especially the Valley, and I have personally come across some of the most obnoxious behavior by foreign tourists I have ever seen. I've had Germans walk right over me, Asians elbow me out of the way, Scandinavians insist they be served first even though other folks have been waiting calmly in line ahead of them ... I try to accept that those particular people may not (hopefully) reflect the actions of an entire country, but are simply personal undesirables. In apparent contrast to Vienna, we spent two weeks in Scotland last Sept. & the people there were among the nicest, friendliest folks I've ever come across!

  6. Wendy, I'm glad the locals' behavior did not completely spoil your memories of Venice. I loved the city and it's little winding streets and boat taxis. I don't remember anyone being rude to us, but I do remember the tiramisu was to die for.

  7. I'm anxious to go to Venice one day and as I enter the city, I'll forget all about this post :-)

  8. Great stories to hear about, and it's nice to see your scrapbook pages. At least someone gets around to scrap booking after their trips!

  9. I've been admonished several times when I've unknowingly broken some rule in a foreign country. But it does make better stories!

  10. I liked your tale of the backpacks. However, when I read of the Doge's palace,I automatically slip back in time with maps,explorers and the people of the past. Thanks for the reminder.

  11. I agree with Mike... these incidents make the story more interesting, though I'm sure you would have preferred being treated kindly at each place you went. I enjoyed seeing your scrapbook pages, too!