Venice is a wonderful city and quite a special place, if you ask me. A city with a millenary history, crammed with magnificent palaces and churches. A place where one could write a book about every stone. Walking through the maze of narrow streets or making one's way through a tight network of canals is an unforgettable experience, but living there for decades is something else - it makes you a part of it. I feel I own the place, in some way. So why did I leave it?
Unfortunately, Venice is no longer a city meant for citizens. In the course of the past 50 years the city has known a progressive conversion into a tourist attraction: bakeries have been converted into bars and restaurants, grocery stores were turned into Murano glass shops, apartments became hotels and bed-and-breakfasts. The process is still going on, to the extent that even my wife, who has lived in Venice only in the past six years, can testify it has been changing a lot - to the worse, from our perspective.
For its inhabitants, life in Venice has became harder and harder, with a progressive decrease of essential services for residents; and it has also gotten more and more expensive. The hemorrhage of inhabitants has made the place, once hosting well over 100,000 residents, into a 50,000 town. Those who are left have progressively grown older, as younger generations cannot afford the price of living there.
I of course regret, at least a bit, not being able to wake up in the morning and take a walk in a vehicle-free place, with its magical views of placid canals and old houses. On the other hand I have lost patience with the flood of tourists that fills the small streets of my ex home town. They have every right to come and visit, of course, but they also create an environment that is no longer suited for residential life.
From a personal point of view, the move has of course concrete motivations: economical and practical ones. My finances allowed me to buy a spacious and comfortable apartment in Padova; with those funds I would not have been able to do the same in Venice. The new place is at an 8 minute walk from my office at the Department of Physics, while from the old apartment in Venice it took me a little more than one hour to reach my work place. I was reliant on the train schedule; now I can throw away my alarm clock. So I look forward to a more relaxed way of life in 2018 and beyond - but I also need to find a way to burn the calories I no longer spend walking (about 1h per day commuting from Venice, now down to less than 20'). Probably that means swimming a couple of days a week.
Anyway, Padova is a beautiful city too, and I plan to spend some time exploring things I never had a chance to visit in the past. Sounds strange as I've studied and worked here for 30 years now, but I shamefully admit I have e.g. never visited the Cappella degli Scrovegni, which is at a slingshot from my office!
Tommaso Dorigo is an experimental particle physicist, who works for the INFN at the University of Padova, and collaborates with the CMS experiment at the CERN LHC. He coordinates the European network AMVA4NewPhysics as well as research in accelerator-based physics for INFN-Padova, and is an editor of the journal Reviews in Physics. In 2016 Dorigo published the book “Anomaly! Collider physics and the quest for new phenomena at Fermilab”. You can get a copy of the book on Amazon.