Venice: Twice is Not Enough
Narrow Venice canals
22 years ago I set foot and to be honest, I wasn’t sure if I would have the chance to visit this mesmerizing city again.
My trip to Italy was decided three weeks before I left. The first eight days were spent on a tour of Sicily. In five days, I visited Sorrento, Capri, Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. Then Venice. It was to be four nights but turned three due to misinformation about returning to Rome. I had to change my flight for the next day.
Forget the negative adjectives of Venice. Smelly. Dirty. You have to look beyond that, or don’t go at all. Venice is my favourite city.
The flight from Rome is less than an hour. Claimed my luggage then I bought my tickets for the Alilaguna boat ride to Piazza San Marco for 10 Euro, one-way. A free shuttle bus outside the airport takes people to the dock.
As the boat made its way toward the island I remembered back in 1981 the tour guide mentioned that Venice would be wiped away the next century (buildings deteriorating from the water). Wait a minute! This is that century.
If you don’t have time for the over one hour Alilaguna ride (including other stops it makes) then you can take the water taxi which is about 20 minutes to Piazza San Marco but costs about six times more. Alilaguna has two lines. For more info, visit www.alilaguna.it.
Should you need to leave early in the morning back to the airport, you can purchase a ticket the night before or, as I did, buy the return ticket at the airport. The ticket counters don’t open early in the morning. The first Alilaguna leaves about 4:30am from San Marco.
I saw the porters waiting for business and approached the one with a ponytail.
“Where is Hotel Da Bruna?”
“Oh, a long ways,” said the porter. He made it sound like it was miles away.
“Not that long. I was told a five-minute walk.”
“No. More than five minutes. A long way.” He said holding the trolley ready to take my luggage.
“How much to take me there?”
“Twenty Euros!” My hair must have stood on end. “Forget it. I’ll get lost myself to find the way.”
It took me twenty minutes to get to Hotel Da Bruna by the time I walked and asked a few people if I was going the right way. Technically, it is a five-minute (depending on pace) to Piazza San Marco.
Being this was near the end of the first week of June, the locals told me this was July’s weather. Hot and humid.
Before I left for my trip, I watched a DVD on Venice. The narrator said Venice is a place to “get lost”. And that’s just what I did among the maze of the streets. There are signs posted to help you out around Venice to five distinct areas: Rialto, San Marco, Piazzale Roma, Accademia, Ferrovia (train station). Where you are staying keep in mind, which sign you need to follow back. For example, my Hotel Da Bruna was near San Marco.
I just walked through the narrow streets, over bridges to view and photo the narrow canals. I honestly didn’t know where I was. I loved it.
The first day I had a hard time twice finding my hotel. One word of advice: DON’T FORGET TO TAKE THE NAME AND ADDRESS OF YOUR HOTEL. I carried the hotel’s brochure with its name, address and a small map of its location.
Riva Degli Schiavoni, just off San Marco, is the city’s most famous promenade. If throngs of tourists get on your nerves, just keep walking along and over bridges – eventually it quiets down. As I neared the end I headed onto a wide street with cafes. I found a shaded park. All benches were in use so I walked back to the promenade.
Check out a few gorgeous hotels. A must to see is Hotel Danieli, built in the 14th century, it is a landmark on Riva Degli Schianoni. I wished I could afford this 5-star, but I guess if I stayed here, I might find it hard to leave and explore this fascinating city.
Take the time to explore an island or two and escape from the hustle and bustle of Venice. If it’s sun and sand, Lido, only a 15-minute boat ride from San Marco, has the beaches.
I chose Burano (6 Euros return). The boat ride takes over one hour 15 minutes one way to this colourful island that represents what Venice once was. Quiet.
Burano is known for lace. Plenty of shops to purchase original crocheting. Some shops have a woman crocheting their handmade goods. But not at bargain prices. If you’re into originals then Burano is the place.
One of the highlights in Venice is the Rialto Bridge and it is busy to say the least. I tried to squeeze my way into getting a view of the Grand Canal. Breathtaking. There are enough cafes to choose around here. I plunked myself anywhere to get a good view and sipped on a cappuccino (3 Euros) watching the boat traffic go by, from tourists being serenaded to police patrols.
Speaking of coffees or cappuccinos, I was told a cup of coffee at a cafe in Piazza San Marco cost 7.00 Euros. (Cough) That’s $10.85 CDN. I decided to pass. No matter what time of the day I passed by San Marco, cafes are not full. Gee, I wonder why?
The sun had gone. Nightlife began. I sat on the steps with my 1.00 Euro bottle of water at the steps of the piazza. Watched the people pass by. Listened to the band of three at one café or a single pianist play at another. All I heard was American music. Maybe, though just maybe, they played Italian later but I was too exhausted from the day’s walk in heat and humidity to find out.
A sad day. My trip to Italy was over. I walked along Piazza San Marco at 5:15 in the morning. No one in sight. The Alilaguna left at 5:35. The slow rising sun shone on the water. I took one last photo. My heart sank but my head was full of beautiful memories. No, I’m not ready. I still have places to see. Turn the clock back. Obviously an impossible dream.
Ah Venice! I will be back.