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Venice, Italy’s Warped Sense of Scale

Huge sailboat dwarfs Venice, Italy. (photo by Tui Snider)
Huge sailboat dwarfs Venice, Italy. (photo by Tui Snider)

A recent visit to Venice, Italy got me thinking about the model train set I had as a kid, and how it taught me the meaning of scale.

For those who have never played with model trains, they come in two different scale sizes: N and HO. HO is the larger of the two, with a ratio of 1:87.1, while N gauge ranges from 1:148 to 1:160.

Because of this difference in scale, an HO caboose seriously dwarfs an N caboose when sitting side by side. Serious model train aficionados (i.e. adults) would never dream of mixing HO with N.

All’s fair in love, war and play, however, so friends and I often mixed scales while playing with our model trains and other toys. It made things more interesting.

This ship in Venice, Italy features two helipads. (photo by Tui Snider)
This ship in Venice, Italy features two helipads. (photo by Tui Snider)

Under these circumstances, Barbies could take on Amazonian proportions, terrorizing entire cities, with rampages that could only be ended by an even larger entity, such as a maniacal Teddy bear, or some other creature. Fun stuff!

I was reminded of all this as our cruise ship pulled out of the harbor in Venice, Italy. So many luxury boats there were clearly out of scale with that ancient Italian village. One yacht featured not just one, but two helicopter pads. I guess it is for those moments when one helicopter is not quite enough.

You know the feeling, right?

Everything's to proper scale in this photo of Venice, Italy. (photo by Tui Snider)
Everything's to proper scale in this photo of Venice, Italy. (photo by Tui Snider)

Despite my childhood fun, the violation of scale I witnessed in the Venetian harbor annoyed me. I didn’t like seeing all those HO -sized yachts snuggling up against my sweet little N-scale Italian village, the floating city I had dreamt of visiting since I first saw photos of it in National Geographic decades before.

Now that I had finally made it to Venice in person, I didn’t want to see it attacked by 50 foot tall Barbies from Hell. It already suffers enough from acqua alta and the steady onslaught of tourists. I simply wanted la citta serenissima, the city of serenity, to get some peace for once. Don’t you?

Tui Snider
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Published inTravel Photo Essays


  1. Ahh, I want your job! I miss Italy so much. I gained about 15 pounds there. I don’t miss them though. ;)

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Alana,

      I miss the food in Italy – especially the cheese. Fried provola is the best!

      Thanks for stopping by.


  2. Hi Tui!

    I just wanted to say thanks again for submitting this to the BT Blog Carnival! (Loved the 50 foot Barbies from Hell mental image, btw.) Also, this article has been included in the 10th BT Blog Carnival which was published today.

    If you could retweet, stumble, or “Like” this edition of the blog carnival, I would really appreciate it. :) It would also help people discover your article, too!

    Thanks again :)

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Thanks for including me in your blog carnival! :)

      I’ll do my best to promote it, as always.

      Keep up the good work!

  3. Byteful Travel Blog Carnival #10 – 2012 Jan…

    Even though winter may be in full swing where I am, the articles in today’s blog carnival are refreshingly tropical! In fact, I’m really happy to say that, despite being the dead of winter, we had plenty of lovely submissions this time. You…

  4. Hi Tui! Making our rounds on the Carnival of Cities. I can’t wait for our trip to Italy next spring. So jealous right now.

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Shonda,

      Tell me more about your upcoming trip. I don’t know when I’ll be returning to Italy yet, so it’s my turn to be jealous!


  5. What great photos. I love how bizarre those boats look compared to everything else.

    Visiting from #commenthour

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      The size difference really messed with my mind, Michael. It just looked wrong – even in person! Thanks for stopping by. I’ll surely see you on #commenthour next week. :) ~Tui

  6. I really like the image of Amazon Barbie terrorizing the little city.


    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Thanks, Chasing Joy – Anytime you wanna come over and play dinosaurs and Barbies, I’m up for it! ;p ~Tui

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      That makes two of us, Mimzy Wimzy. The trip was too short. I want to go back! :) ~Tui

  7. Beautiful photos. The sense of perspective there is interesting. It took me a minute to figure out whether the scale was that distorted or it was a photography trick.

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi, Sarah! Even when I was there, in person, it seemed distorted! So strange… Thanks for stopping by. I hope to see you here again. ~Tui

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