The only thing I knew about Venice before this trip, was that it was the scene of a literature book I read in high school called “The Merchant of Venice.” That, and it is filled with canals where I can take rides on the famous gondola boats, and of course, it’s romantic.
That’s exactly what I came to discover when I took a two day trip to Venice! But there were also so many other gems just waiting to be discovered! I left from Pisa early in the morning and took a “blablacar” to Padova, Italy. From the central station there, it was a 30 minute train ride to the main Venetian island. My host picked me up at the Mestre train station, but he didn’t have a car. Surprisingly enough I didn’t even consider that before I arrived. There are very few road vehicles on the island! You only see them at the main port of entry. Apart from that, you walk or take the water bus everywhere, which is an experience in itself!
So how does one spend two days in Venice?
Fortunately for me, there were two major events taking place upon my arrival: The “Regata Storica di Venezia”/ Venice Historical Regatta, and La Biennale di Venezia – The 73rd Venice International Film Festival. Unfortunately, I only found time to witness the Regatta.
After I got settled in briefly, my host and I stopped for a quick coffee. Side note: Italians drink A LOT of coffee. And I don’t blame them, since my love for coffee developed amongst the delicious, fresh espressos in Italy We took a walk around the city, did some sightseeing and window shopping, as I set my eyes on everything I planned to come back to purchase on my own. I thought then and there, that Venice would be the one city I absolutely splurge on! Between masks, glass jewellery, food, gelato and more, I was ready to hand over my euros! haha.
After a short orientation to the city, I found a nice spot to see the opening parade, where a great deal of generally 16th century-style boats with gondoliers in costumes of the period representing officials through various ranks, rowed along The Grand Canal. It was quite a bright, colourful and extraordinary sight to see, and you can undoubtedly tell the locals take pride in the event. After the procession, I left to get lost in the city.
Getting Lost in Venice
My favourite thing when I get to a new city, is to get lost. Everything is new and thus exciting as everything is to be discovered. Everything is to be explored. Everything is to be enjoyed. The thing is, getting lost in Venice is easier than any other city I’ve been to. Unlike the majority, you cannot continue walking straight then make a left to get to the parallel street. Some streets were as narrow as a small doorway, wide as a car or large truck, and connected at random points. At one point, after google maps failed me and streets led me to dead ends or canals, I sat in a square and just listened to a man play the violin for the while. Two days was barely enough to give me a general idea of the layout.
Venice, in my opinion, has a unique beauty. Apart from the canals and bridges that already distinguishes it from most places, the sheer composition of the city enchants you. Slanted buildings and towers everywhere, grand “Piazzas” or squares, chipped concrete plasters revealing aged bricks, clothing lines stretching from building to building, the boats, the narrow streets, the flowers,the balconies! Lord knows I love a cute, little balcony. It also ranks as one of the safest places I’ve ever visited, which adds to the allure.
Eventually when I found my host and the Argentinian girl I’d be sharing with, we had dinner in the form of tapas, whilst sitting on a boat in a canal outside the restaurant, “Al Timon”. Judging by the sheer crowd both inside and outside, tourists and locals alike, it was a good spot to chill for the night.
Visiting the Islands
If you come to Venice, you must go to the smaller islands, particularly Murano and Burano! There’s something different to be offered on each one. Under the recommendation of locals, I went to Venice on day two with my fellow traveller. The 24 hour water bus pass cost 20 euros, and gave us unlimited access to travel around. The plan was to leave the house before 9am but we weren’t awake until 9am. All in all, it was enough time to get a lot done.
The first island we stopped off at was Murano. Though composed of several interconnected islands, one thing you’re sure to find on each of them is an abundance of glass, Murano Glass to be exact. Clear enamelled glass, multicoloured glass, chandeliers and ornaments, glass in all varieties of shapes and styles are made and can be purchased here, (but also on other islands). The work done is intricate, stunning, and it is truly an interesting craft. We had the opportunity to see how it’s made in one factory. The workers moved rapidly and in unison in the sweltering heat (definitely not a job for everyone). Even more so as they explained you can’t learn the art form in school, but instead, it is passed down through generations in individual families.
Burano was the second stop. You know how as a kid, you’d just randomly colour everything in a colouring book? The sun was pink, the trees blue, the floor yellow and basically wherever your imagination took you? Well this is exactly what Burano is like. When I heard the buildings are colourful and a main attraction, I thought, “then the Caribbean should be an attraction for its colours too. It turns out that was an absolutely terrible comparison to draw haha. The buildings are lined up closely to each other with vibrant walls, windows and balconies. Though crowded by tourists, it still maintained a quiet nature. Apparently, the story is, that buildings were deliberately painted these bright colours to aid fishermen in seeing the island through the fog when they returned from sea. Apart from the buildings, Burano is famous for it’s lace embroidery, which, much like Murano, you could find everywhere!
We took a brief stop in Torcello, which isn’t very populated or full of attractions. One popular sight however, is the “Ponticello del Diabolo” or the “devil’s little bridge”. There are several of these bridges scattered across Europe, and each has their own legend. I just thought it was a cool picture at the time haha, but according to legend, it was the scene of an undesirable love story. By the time we finished Torcello and then took a ride along the Grand Canal on the waterbus, the Cinema Festival on the island of Lido was out of the question. Instead, we spent the evening chatting, exploring, having gelato and pasta and wine, and listening to the sounds of bands play music in the main public square, Piazza de San Marco.
Venice is definitely worth a visit if you come to Italy. As far as a city I’d live in, I haven’t quite decided if I’m willing to fight with tourists to get on the water bus everyday for work. Maybe it’s acceptable to tell your boss you’re late because of tourists? And then you sit with them to complain and laugh hysterically about how they crowd everywhere? Maybe, haha. Nonetheless, Venice is not just a city of romance. For the adventurer it’s an amazing trail with enough twists and turns to keep you looking for more. For those seeking relaxation, it’s everything you need to unwind. For the shoppers, am empty suitcase is required. With bits and pieces of everything for everyone, in a historical setting unlike others, you’re sure to leave Venice with a great appreciation for all the beauty it encompasses.