Nine hours in Venice

April 28, 2012 § 5 Comments

I recently blogged about my trip to Milan over the Easter break.

What I failed to mention is that I took a day trip (with my lovely friend and trusty tour-guide, Bea) to the city of canals – Venice.

This is a place that I have wanted to visit for some time – ever since I read A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi : the true story of Marlena who comes to Venice and falls in love with the city and a man.

Venice held the same romance and wonder that Paris has always held in my mind, and I was a little worried (as I was before I went to Paris) that my imaginings could not possibly live up to the reality.

I should not have feared. The city was as beautiful and enchanting as I thought it would be – and I only saw a tiny portion of it in the time I was there.

Beauty all around

Tiny, narrow streets filled with balconys and washing hanging out for all to see.

Uncountable quaint bridges (which, yes, I couldn’t help but pose on).

Unexpected piazzas  that you stumble upon. Turkish inspired buildings with curved windows.

This is what I loved about Venice. In no other city that I’ve been to has shabbinesss and worn-looking buildings seemed to enchanting and beautiful. It was a place I felt I could live in – at least for a while.

But don’t forget the tourists…

I am aware I am painting an idylic portrait of Venice (go there, and you’ll see just how easy it is to do), but it is of course a tourist destination and in the main tourist areas that is what you will find.

As you come off the train you are hit with queues of visitors, waiting their turn to buy tickets or board the boat-buses and the canals are full of people paying for those oh-so-romantic ridiculously expensive gondolas.

Gondola jam!

Walking through the city on either side of the roads are stalls selling masks – famous because of the Venice Carnival, held every year and where dressing up, costumes and the wearing of masks is taken to the extreme – as well as glass objects (apparently Venice is famous for it’s glass).

The heart of the city and therefore the main tourist hub is the Piazza San Macro, dominated by the St. Marks Basilica at the eastern end.

This domed cathedral had my literally speechless when I walked inside – never in my life have I seen so much gold. The entire ceiling is made up of beautiful mosaics, in gold tiles. Stunning really doesn’t begin to describe just how jaw-dropping this place is.

Throughout our day Bea and I made our way along the Grand Canal to the Bridge of Sighs. This bridge is famous because it is the passage way between the courts and the prison – so as the criminals passed over they would ‘sigh’ knowing they were unlikely to ever see the outside world again.

While there are many museums, churches and I’m sure a host of other indoor sights to be seen in Venice, Bea and I visited very few of them.

For the both of us, the beauty of the city was simply in walking around and along the canals, taking in the unexpectedly warm sunshine (we had anticipated rain), sitting by the water, talking and eating gelato.

A bit of advice

As beautiful as the city is, it is a bit of a tourist trap – the water boats are relatively expensive for visitors – with a one-way trip costing us around 6 Euros each.

And as in any well-known city, the closer you are to the main tourist attractions, the more expensive the food will be.

As wonderful as it would have been to sit on the edges of the piazza and people (and pigeon) watch, the cost of eating there was just too pricey. Head further into the city and find out where the locals are eating – it’s likely to be better and cheaper.

If you can, go when it is sunny. Yes, there will be more people, but Venice truly is a fine-weather city. It’s not much fun to trudge around this gorgeous place in gumboots, with umbrellas blocking your view – and when the water gets high you’ll be walking on top of table-like fixtures.

While we had sun for most of the day-trip, towards the evening it absolutely poured down – and we were confined to the edges of the piazza – along with every other tourist in the place.

I can now cross Venice off my list of Italian cities to visit – but it remains on ‘to go again’ one.

And it should be on yours.

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