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Venice, the Romantic City of Water


More Adventure travel tales in Italy:
Sightseeing in Rome
Naples
Ruins of Pompeii
Florence
Medieval Siena
Other Southern European Tales:
Athens, Greece
Nafplion, Greece
Olympia, Greece
Cappadocia, Turkey
Selçuk, Turkey


One of the many bridges over the canal grande

The romantic city of water, that’s how Venice is known to the masses. Who visits Italy, has to see Venice as well, and so the train brings us to Mestre, a grey town from which a bridge makes the connection from the mainland to the sinking city of bridges.

The last piece of our journey from Mestre to Venice is by slow train. It only consists of two carriages, and we have to hurry to get in. We squeeze ourselves in, and see how many others are less lucky, and have to wait for the next train. In the meanwhile, we are transported over the bridge to Venice like sardines in a can, and we are happy when we are released on Venice train station.

As soon as we leave the train station we get an impression of Venice. The Canal Grande, the big canal dividing the city of water in two, is directly in front of the station, as is the first bridge that crosses it and a few nice churches and other buildings. Entrance to VeniceThere are no cars, but many water taxis and water busses instead. Since most of the budget hotels are located around the train station, we decide to search on foot.

A bit used to the prices in Italy, we expect to pay a lot for a hotel room. But that’s not the case, although it will probably be that way a month later during carnival, or in summer. In Januari, the choice is limited, but the prices are fair. We check in at a hotel that resembles a hostel, but not quite.

Follow the stream

In the afternoon we decide to follow the tourist masses into the city of water. This is the low season, but there are still many tourists, also because it’s a Sunday. In a long row the people are walking towards the other side of town. There, where the Canal Grande floods into the sea, is the famous San Marco square, the only Piazza in the city. But there are many piazzalo’s and campo’s, smaller squares. We pass quite a few of those, all with a nicely decorated church or palace.

Gondola in VeniceComing closer to San Marco, it gets more chic. In the neighborhood of our hotel were a lot of budget restaurants with tourist menus, but the prices are rising along the way. The shops show more expensive stuff as well, and all comes to a climax on San Marco square. We decide not to order drinks on the terrace here, but enjoy the soda we brought with us. Meanwhile admiring the impressive Basilica and bell tower.

Sinking

The favorite activity of many tourists on the square is feeding the pigeons. As a consequence, these are pretty fat, and contribute as much to stamping down the city as the tourists do. The result is that Venice is obviously sinking. On the square and along the route to it are walking platforms ready to be used when the streets are flooded, something that happens about once a month. And the fear is that the city of water will be swallowed by the sea in several decades time. Obviously, many plans are studied to prevent that from happening.

Small canal and bridge in VeniceFrom San Marco we walk further along the crowded waterfront. We watch the palaces and the Bridge of Sighs, not very special but famous since it was the last route prisoners had to walk when they were sentenced to death. There is also a small fair here, and a lot of souvenir booths. Apart from the carnival masks, also many soccer shirts with the names of famous players are on sale here. For our way back to our hotel we search for a detour, to avoid the crowd and these booths. We end up passing many lesser known and crowded, but as beautiful squares and buildings. But in the end, we join the rest of the tourists on the last part of the route back.

Our second day in Venice we decide to visit the lesser known parts of the city. It is difficult not to get lost in the many small streets, but it is as pretty everywhere. Apart from the churches and palaces, we enjoy the pleasant mood of the city, with its many canals, alleys, and squares. It is great that there are no cars or motorbikes, even a bicycle is useless here. And so we can sit quietly on a square, while the birds come to eat the breadcrumbs from our laps, great!! And in the evening we find a quiet restaurant where we enjoy diner, some wine, and each other’s company, how romantic…

Seen from the water

One of the Venice palaces, seen from the waterVenice needs to be seen from the water, at least that’s what the travel guides say. But half an hour in a gondola costs us 60 Euros, so we decide to take the vaporetta (water bus) instead. With some speed it races over the Canal Grande, and it is indeed nice to see the palaces from the water. But the wind makes the trip a bit cold, so we are glad when we reach the endpoint. Walking is as nice, and less cold this time of year.

We visit San Marco for the last time. It is quiet enough now to visit the Basilica, which is great. Mosaics everywhere, and the ceilings are made of gold. Beautiful statues and other treasures as well, and we didn’t even visit the treasury room. On the downside is the floor, which is sunk terribly. It is like walking up and down a hill all the time, so uneven is it. Time for renovation, although the question is whether it is worth it when the complete city keeps sinking.

Venice has completely fulfilled its reputation for us. We agree that everybody should have visited this city of water once in his or her life. The abundance of canals, squares, palaces, churches, but especially the lack of motorized transport is great. You have to be fast, though, since the city is sinking and in decay.

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