I just took a class trip to Venice, Florence, and Assisi.
Overall, I liked Florence the best – but, I think, that was at least somewhat because I went into it disposed to like Florence the best, knowing that Dante Alighieri (the greatest poet-philosopher to ever live) and Michelangelo (one of the greatest sculptors and painters to ever live) both came from there. I was also disposed not to really like Venice, because the very idea of Venice irritates me (don’t frickin’ build a city on a frackin’ sandbar unless you’re damn sure you can make sure it won’t sink on you! The city deserves what’s coming to it, I’d say) – and it didn’t help that I’d been to Stockholm, the “Venice of the North”, the previous week, and enjoyed that much more than Venice itself (I was constantly comparing the two). Assisi I knew little about going in, other than it was the home of Saint Francis.
But I’ll try to just look at the cities themselves, minus my preconceptions. First of all, Venice. Well, when we were there it was raining the entire time. I love the rain, but, in Venice when it rains all the streets flood (as in, 3-6 inches of water in some places and they have to put up elevated walkways – it’s called acqua alta)
and it’s really unpleasant to walk around, which is all there is to do in Venice except go into expensive museums that I’m not interested in (I hate most museums – perhaps a post on this later). Venice is basically a huge tourist trap, after all – a bunch of souvenir shops and expensive restaurants. It’s definitely not a city I would want to hang out in for a long period of time. It is beautiful though – the whole built-on-water aspect may be idiotic, but it does make for some picturesque views. So, Venice is pretty to look at, but not that much fun to actually be in, I’d say. At least when raining.
Florence is strange for a number of reasons. FIrst of all, it has museums I actually like. The Accademia, for example, which houses Michelangelo’s David, is actually not bad as museums go, although small. It also has some cool churches, though I didn’t get to go into as many as I wanted. The Baptistery, for example, has some cool mosaics on the ceiling. But Florence is also kind of a slum, the entire city through; except for the area right near the river, it’s really run-down, kind of poor-looking actually, and there’s graffiti everywhere (though that’s true of most of Italy, really). I enjoyed walking around in it nonetheless (it’s actually more flavorful than walking around in generic middle-class neighborhoods), but it could have been better. It’s also rather irritating that you have to pay to get into most of the churches (apparently Florence doesn’t get enough voluntary donations to its churches so it needs to charge for them).
Assisi was probably objectively the best place we went. It reminded me of Delphi in Greece, actually – both are mountain/hill small towns that are pilgrimage sites, Assisi for St. Francis and Delphi for the Oracle. So Assisi had the natural beauty going for it, and the architecture of the entire city was quite medieval (old bricks and stone-paved roads). And it was very peaceful – the city itself was quiet, and when we hiked up to a nearby hermitage it was completely silent. Very relaxing. Assisi is a tourist town, sort of, but not in the same way as Venice – people don’t usually come to Assisi unless they’re interested in the spiritual aspect, so it’s a more sincere kind of tourism, I think. And Assisi has some cool medieval churches. Overall, then, I think Assisi was the best.
So, objectively speaking, Assisi > Venice > Florence. But personally, I have to say, Florence > Assisi > Venice. At least in terms of how much I enjoyed the cities, that’s definitely the order they’re in.