Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
“Attenzione! Attenzione!… Permesso!”
With two grocery bags in hand, a backpack of books, and a laptop, I dashed through crowds of tourists in San Marco square over three bridges to catch the 8:30 PM vaporetto back to San Servolo. It was the first time in three weeks I miraculously managed to catch this Tuesday vaporetto. I usually finish classes at 7:30 PM, buy something for dinner at Conad in San Basilio, and for all time run a marathon back to San Marco within less than twenty minutes. That is why I am almost always forced to have my last meal of the day at 09:00 PM, the time at which back in Vietnam I would probably be on my bed reading my favorite Kierkegaard’s book to sleep; indeed, it tells that Venice serves no one.
I have always been interested in productivity and time management tips, whether reading articles on Medium, watching Ali Abdaal youtube videos, or following the weekly newsletter by Benjamin Hardy. I lived in Ho Chi Minh City, Milan, and Prague, where these fantastic tips and tricks came into place and where I seldom had to care too much about the bus schedule. But second-year into the life of a Venetian resident, I find none of these applicable at all to this city.
Living in Venice enjoins a whole new level of management.
“You need to develop a whole strategy to live in Venice” – as I told a first-year student at the school’s opening ceremony.
Optimizing your time in Venice is not merely knowing how to check your Chebateo? app and change Vaporetto lines but most importantly knowing exactly where, when, what you are going to do unless you are a tourist. You have 24 hours every day in Venice, just as anywhere else in the world; but one second of distraction or mismanagement could lead you to spend the whole day at the fermata or go on foot for an hour-long with no guarantee of not getting lost. Since moving to Venice, I have never been so attentive to my walking speed. Every step counts. Walking more slowly for two or three seconds, or stopping to give directions to a random American tourist could force you to give up on your last Vaporetto back home. Have a plan. Focus. Walk.
Here, spending your money as a local is nothing close to your behavioral economics homework. Where to shop in Venice is a calculated balance between sound quality and reasonable price. You get una cioccolata calda for 3.50 euro in any corner of Venice but una ciocciolata calda in Campo Santa Margherita is different from una ciocciolata calda at Tonolo. Again, have a plan. Focus. Spend money wisely.
You even have to be strategically mindful of what to wear in Venice. It could be foggy and chilly in the morning, but the city might treat you with a bit of heat in the afternoon. She decides it. It also depends on whether you go on foot or take the Vaporetto, whether you eat a warm panino, drink a cappuccino or a cioccolata calda, or whether you know if you are going to come back home soon. The heat goes up as you decide to interact more with Venice. She treats you with a higher heat of love if you are more attentive to her. If you walk, she loves you more. Sometimes you might spot Venetian locals going around with outfits of many different seasons in the same day; they are not crazy, they simply have different plans for the day, different strategies, different routes to take, and therefore different things to wear.
Venice has stringent rules, like Google Maps not working in this city: she is independent from any instructions or enforcement. Venice functions in her own way, almost to the point that the places you can go to are not your choice anymore. She decides where and when you have to get lost, where you will get tired and must stop at a pasticceria. She decides you must get distracted by window shopping of Burano glass, mask shops, art, or simply that you have to come up in a random campo. Just like when you have to run for the Vaporetto. Venice has her fixed biological clock. You have to function for her.