Romancing Our Love, Venezia
Venezia (or ‘Venice‘ in English) was suitably the first stop of our 18-day grand tour of Italia given how much we loved this enchanting little city (and had vowed to return with the intention of seeing more of it) when we visited during our honeymoon. Of course, there was this other geographical reason – I had planned to start the tour at the north-eastern tip of Italia and working our way down towards Roma in Central Italia. To accommodate this plan, we made a painful decision not to travel with our national carrier, a personal favourite. Instead we travelled with Emirates (another personal favourite) since it happens to be one of the few airlines that lands at Aeroporto di Venezia Marco Polo. It’s just not my topmost favourite because of the need for transit in Dubai. The mister is not a huge fan of boring, lengthy transits in cities he isn’t interested in getting to know more intimately.
The missus and the lil sis, on the other hand, found the transit to be rather of a novel experience. The transit was bearably a short few hours and we had no lack of electronic devices to entertain ourselves. Given that this little inconvenience saved us the hassle of backtracking any time during our trip, I’d say it was a decision well-made.
How We Got There
Vehicular traffic is not permitted on any of the islands of Venezia (with the exception of the islands of Lido and Pellestrina where bus services ply the roads); boats traversing along the waterways are the main mode of transport. Otherwise do it like we did, travelling on foot. In fact, I’d dare say walking is probably the best way to get to know Venezia intimately, leaving the boat rides for 1) a grand tour of the Grand Canal and 2) moving between islands.
We finally landed at the airport some 19 hours after departing from home. The oppressive humidity immediately descended upon us and it almost reminded me of home. Once we claimed the baggage, we made our way out of the airport. There are several ways to get to Venezia: by bus, by train or by boat. Our eventual choice was to do it by boat, which is almost the most preferred way because of the breathtaking view that greets the passengers as the boat enters the Grand Canal. Helps that it would drop us closer to our B&B establishment than the train or bus. Walking around with our luggage didn’t sound like fun.
And so, we turned left after leaving the airport to find our way to the Alilaguna pier for our transport to Venezia. It’s sort of a no-brainer locating the port, which is a short 10-minute walk away, luggage in tow. Refer to this article for the step-by-step directions to the pier. If you still find yourself losing the way despite the awesome guide, just follow the crowd and you are unlikely to go the wrong way.
Where We Stayed
We put up at this awesome B&B establishment close by the Ponte di Rialto (or ‘Rialto Bridge’ in English), one of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal. As such, we took Linea Arancio (or ‘Line Orange’ in English) to the Rialto stop. Every 15 minutes one Alilaguna comes along so we didn’t have to wait long after buying our tickets at 13,00€ each. The whole journey took just slightly under an hour and before long, the full grandeur of my favourite city greeted us like an old friend. It felt good to be back again.
Accommodation is notoriously expensive in Venezia. Well, good thing then that we were a company of three so it brought expenses down some at Ca’ Loredan Bed and Breakfast, a little B&B establishment that I decided upon after an insane amount of research and number of changes of mind.
At 150,00€ per night for a triple room, Ca’ Loredan was a splendid choice. Because of the extra bed that had to be assembled walking space in the room became limited, and after we laid down our luggage, almost impossible to walk about. That didn’t pose as a problem since we were hardly in our room; we were mostly out and only returned to the room at the end of the day. The decently sized ensuite bathroom also passed my stringent scrutiny. Additionally the breakfast room was very tastefully decorated. I never saw it coming, but I was actually looking forward to breakfast every single morning during the days we were in Venezia. And did I mention the fabulous location of Ca’ Loredan? It is conveniently situated close by Ponte di Rialto and Piazza San Marco (or ‘St. Mark’s Square’ in English) making it a great starting point to explore the island every single morning for the duration of our stay.
We spent a total of 3 nights in Venezia. Rather excessive to some people out there who feel that there is nothing much to see or do at the tourist trap that is Venezia. Especially more so since this was our second visit. We humbly beg to differ. Venezia is as beautiful and romantic a place it is purported to be, and more. I just wished it attracts less of visitors who cannot appreciate its intricate beauty but are just there to tick an item off their personal bucket lists. The best way to explore Venezia is simply sitting around and enjoying the view, or walking through the maze-like back lanes and getting lost. That’s the raw, real charm of Venezia that the day trippers from cruise liners will never have the patience for.
What We Did
The first day in Venezia was activities-free – only task at hand was to explore the San Marco, one of the six sestiere that the historical city was divided into. San Marco is the only sestiere that most tourists visit since it is where Ponte di Rialto, Piazza San Marco, Basilica San Marco (or ‘St. Mark’s Basilica’ in English), Campanile di San Marco (St. Mark’s Campanile, the bell tower) and Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) are located. We strolled and stopped ever so often whenever we came by any of the countless souvenir shops. I had to explain to the lil sis about the Carnevale di Venezia held in February annually, two weeks before Ash Wednesday and how it is one of the biggest event the city sees. Given how landmark this event is, the masks donned during the Carnival have been made into little, sizeable souvenirs of all kinds like magnets and ornaments that now dominate most memento brought home from Venezia.
It took every ounce of self-control to carry on walking. The carnival masks were so pretty. And affordable. The mister allowed me to indulge a little along the way, on the pretext that they do make awesome souvenirs for our loves ones back at home. But he put his foot down when I wanted to buy one of those cute jester dolls. Gave me the same reasoning as to why he too, disallowed me to buy any of the Turkish Evil Eye accessories two years back in Turkey: he would have none of these things in the house. The mister is cautious (I call it superstitious) and adorable like that.
The weather was great and we enjoyed our short walk to Piazza San Marco. It was nice that the piazza wasn’t in the least crowded, and the reason was apparent when I looked to the waters: there were no cruise liners in sight. We continued sauntering about, stopping ever so oft for picture stops.
By and by, the blue hour descended upon us. It is my personal favourite time for photography; for some reason my pictures always turn out more interesting if they were taken during twilight. I was elated when I managed to score some great shots on Piazza di San Marco overlooking the waters. The mister and lil sis were just glad I was ready to move on because they were famished and ready for dinner by then.
We tend to eat simply during our travels (unless it is Tokyo or Paris). Since all three of us love pasta, we figured walking into any of the ristorante or trattoria wouldn’t make any difference. If our previous trip to Italy during the honeymoon had taught us anything, it’s that all Italians know how to make their pasta. We were not wrong. Unfortunately it was the first day of our travel and we were all still adjusting to taking pictures at every single meal stop. The dinner was so unassuming that no pictures were taken. Quite a statistical impossibility considering that I was with the 450D, the mister with the old 350D and the lil sis with her P&S. 😆
Night had fallen by the time we were done with our simple dinner. We slowly made our way back to the vicinity of Ponte di Rialto while window-shopping along the way. Venezia is a completely different city by night. There were so few people about it was a definite pleasure exploring it. If you hate the touristy aspect of this water city, then it is imperative that you stay on the island overnight. A few nights even, if you could afford the time and money.
We were probably the only three people on Ponte di Rialto when I took this beautifully surreal picture of The Grand Canal on the quiet side of the bridge. This picture is by far one of my top personal favourites taken on the trip. I can’t say for certain it occupies the top spot but it is easily in my Top 10 list.
The busy side from Ponte di Rialto, in contrast, is far more cluttered and less pleasing to the eye. While the rest of the island catches a respite with the bulk of visitors leaving for mainland as night falls, the remaining visitors mostly congregate in this area for their meals and aftermeal activities. I personally found the juxtaposition between the quiet and busy sides from the bridge to be somewhat sadly poetic – behind the facade of every seemingly ‘touristy’ place are residents who struggle to go about their daily lives amidst the shenanigans. Tourism has pushed property prices in the city so high that many natives are now forced to move to the mainland or to the quieter areas on the island. Sure, Venezia is a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site that everyone ought to visit at least once in their lifetime. Also, most of the natives’ livelihood now depends solely on the booming tourism. But at what cost? I’ve once read an article that every time one of those ernomous cruise liner enters the lagoon, it causes further damage to the lagoon. This is just so sad…
From the bridge, it was a short 5-minute walk back to our B&B. Our next two days were going to be jam-packed activities so I can’t say we weren’t glad to be back in our room after a long day.