The contrasts in Venice are part of the appeal; between terra firma and acqua alta for example, or old and new (modern art in renaissance buildings), cultural pursuits (Biennale) and tourist trappings (carnival masks).

There is also the uncomfortable distinction between rich and poor, where on the same quayside that the super rich berth their super yachts, women beg for loose change.  In the UK I witness people of either sex sitting on pavements, making eye contact and asking for handouts; but even this process seems to vary across national boundaries.  In Prague it was men that I saw, kneeling with their foreheads pressed to the ground and their arms outstretched before them with their begging bowl.  In Kathmandu you are mobbed by hordes of demanding children.

Here in Venice, women wrap their heads in scarves, pull sleeves over hands and curl into balls, whether to preserve anonymity or avoid collisions from passing feet I don’t know, but they remind me of figures from biblical times.  Sad that for all the progress we have made in so many areas, we have not been able to address poverty.

A few years ago the city thought to solve the problem by making the practice illegal.  It clearly didn’t help.






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