My most favourite place in Italy – VENICE! (despite the
poor non-existent signage -gotta LOVE Italy – and I do!)
Perhaps it was the time of year I visited: Winter. Yes it was cold, but so magical. (despite the poor
non-existent signage) I now wish I had taken photos of ‘that’ signage, but one always thinks of the “what ifs” afterwards… but more on that later.
We arrived in Venice by train from Rome, and sat down at a cafe outside the station on a gloriously sunny warm day (even though it was winter) overlooking a beautiful water scene – of course – to have a coffee and google map our location on the notebook… hmmm, didn’t seem to work very well. So we bought a map from an adjacent tourist shop… hmmmm… still didn’t work very well!
So, after coffee and (hopefully) mapping out our plan we started walking, lugging suitcases behind us. We knew that our accommodation had been booked within the town centre, minutes from the Rialto bridge and Piazza San Marco, so at least we had these bulbs to navigate us- but that was not enough. Normally the narrow windy streets of Italy can be confusing, but when all on water it seemed to multiply x 10! And that’s from someone who is usually good at navigating! The maps were eqully confusing, and the signage has obviuosly not caught up with tourism (I can’t imagine why) becasue many of the “Rialto” or “San Marco” were paper signs nailed to walls. I can’t imagine what the local government are thinking… such a high tourist area, potentially, yet many people we spoke to bemoaned the same issue.
As stipulated earlier, although we were in northern Italy at the beginning of Winter, the day we were looking for our accommodation was surprisingly warm and sunny, which did add to our frustrated mood – though there were lots of wine bars to stop and have a refreshing relax and regroup!
So after much wandering, and it seemed cascading on an ever decreasing spiral we finally found – by fluke – the sign (surprise, surprise) to our accommodation.
But once in Venice it was magnificent!
It was very strange being surrounded by water, and seeing no cars and hearing no traffic noise. Boats are used for everything from ambulance services through to restaurant kitchen deliveries. One afternoon we were sitting in a wine bar with a water view and saw a boat delivering buildng materials to a home being renovated. Bags of cement and other items were craned into the premise from the boat. However, the strangest delivery we saw was a load of coffins…
The two big attractions in Venice are the Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco. The Rialto Bridge was completed in 1592, and it has been recently announced that money has been pledged for its restoration from several sources. This is a good thing, because although you can’t tell by the photo (above) there is alot of tagging graffiti on parts of the bridge as well as general wear and tear.
St Marks Basilica dates back as early as 800AD, though it did evolve over the centuries. It is amazing to see from outside – its size is immense, and the inside is breathtaking. Photos were not allowed inside, but the walls and ceiling – and we are talking huge- are covered in tiny mosaic tiles! I bet a few hundred slaves died while building those walls! There is gold and opulence everywhere – it really puts into perspective the wealth of the Catholic church (and perhaps highlights how they should pay tax!)
I think I alluded to the queuing problem in Italy in the Pompeii post, and we struck the same ‘logic’ here! After queuing (thank goodness it wasn’t peak tourist season) we had to then walk five minutes around the corner to a baggage storer (no bags allowed), which we had trouble finding because there was no signage, and then walk back to the basilica…talk about crazy!
The piazza the basilica is located in is also huge, however, parts of it were fenced off from the public due to the Venice sinking problem… they are in the process of trying to float it from underneath…more information can be viewed here.
A great thing about Italy – and which was particularly good in Venice – is the no drink without food concept, so if you don’t order some food you just get some complimentary! We found a great bar in Venice with a very generous buffet Most of the bars had something like this in the evening, whereas at lunchtime people were buying proper meals… so lunch is the main meal of the day with a light dinner – very civilised!
As with many places in Europe dogs are also a big part of family life, and are allowed in shops and cafes. (In Australia this is against health regulations unless it is an assist dog) But one afternoon we were sitting in a cafe and in wandered a pigeon Nobody blinked an eye, it just wandered around picking up crumbs and making itself at home.
The downside of Venice was the rose sellers – mainly refugee men trying to make a living. But it is getting to the point where they almost harass you and force flowers into your hand – not good for tourism.
As we were in Venice at the beginning of winter the misty ambience was particularly magical – the mist would not lift about 11am, then descend again around 4pm – in between it was blue skies and sunny.
At the end of our stay in Venice we decided to catch the ferry back to the station rather than walk – although by now we knew our way around. The ferry ride was good, with many locals using it a work stransport, like a bus service.
Overall I found Venice to be very Middle Eastern in its influence – the shapes of windows, the style of the basilica, the mosaics and the colours. We loved Venice, and we can’t wait to go back, and visit some of the little islands nearby – hopefully before they sink!