Venice was our introduction to Italy, the first Italian destination on our European holiday and to say we were excited is a bit of an understatement. We had four nights booked at the Locanda Ca’ Valeri not far from the Doges Palace and the Arsenale and the only thing we had planned for our stay was to visit the port city of Trieste and to ‘get lost’ in the maze of streets that make up the city of Venice.
Upon arrival at the train station the realisation that we were in Italy hit us, it is a beautiful sunny Sunday and the number of tourists and day trippers at the station was overwhelming. We were excited and nervous at the same time, I’m sure that our mouths were wide open in awe but we were also attempting to keep our wits about us and not let our bags out of our sight. 13 euros bought us two tickets on the vaporetto and although it is jam-packed we have managed to claim a great spot for taking in the views along the Grand Canal without blocking anybody’s path on and off the vaporetto.
Once we had found and settled into our hotel room we set off to explore the city and find a Tourist Information office and find out about getting to and from Trieste. Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square) was the natural first stop, it was also were we picked up a couple of panini for lunch but we weren’t allowed to sit and picnic on or near the square so we found a quiet little spot near a canal and some luxury shops where we could eat in peace.
During our stay in Venice we did manage to visit some of the recommended sights such as the Frari Church and Rialto Bridge however we spent most of our time wandering through the streets, stopping to eat at a small snack bar or taste a new flavour of gelato. We got lost gawking at window displays featuring masks, costumes and Venetian glass, turning left or right depending on what appealed to us at the time or what photo opportunity lay ahead. One day we found ourselves on the point of Dorsoduro, looking at a sculpture of a boy holding a frog with the water and St Mark’s as the backdrop, another day we walked to Fondamente Nuovo via the San Giovanni Church and the Hospital, there are less people here and we stand on a bridge watching a funeral procession on the canal below us. We did not see inside St Mark’s Basilica or the Doges Palace because the crowds were offputting and although it was on my to-do list I did not venture into the Peggy Guggenheim museum, the joy of walking through the streets of Venice and watching the colours change as the sun rose and then set was enough for me. We were probably very lucky during our stay, the days were warm and the skies were clear with not a rain cloud in sight, walking around of a night was also beautiful (and safe), glass lamps of all shapes, sizes and colour lit the way and in St Mark’s we could stand and listen to the bands playing outside the cafes.
My expectations for Venice were high, 12 years ago I had visited the city on a tour and fallen in love with it and I was worried that it would not meet my expectations during this trip. There was no need to worry, although many consider Venice a ‘theme park’ for tourists and too expensive to stay for longer than a day or two, I fell in love all over again and still consider it to be one of my favourite Italian cities.