06—10 March, 2010
Day One | 06 March
On March 6, after a very short night, our trip begins. Dad drives us to the airport, and the flight takes longer than I remember it. But then, it’s only my second time over the Alps sans car. Then there’s the matter of getting public transport tickets, and making our way to Mestre, were our hotel is. Of course the rooms aren’t all done yet, but the staff is quick enough that it doesn’t matter. After a brief rest, we head out to grab some food at a busy, but nice little place, and then hop on the bus to Venice. Or more like, squeeze into the bus. It’s as crowded as they come, but that’s nothing new in Italy, so I don’t mind terribly. It feels like I’d never left, like I’d lived there at some point in the first place.
View over Canal Grande towards Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute.
In Venice, we randomly walk about for a bit, and get lost quickly. Maps are useable even in a city that has canals for streets, but it takes some getting used to. First impressions are the following, in order: There are too many people in this city, the water really is as turquiose as films make you believe, and I’m really not a fan of boats. That last one is just me, though. We eventually reach Canal Grande and get a first glimpse at Santa Maria della Salute, which will become our guide during most of the trip. We make our way to Piazza San Marco, and again, there are far too many people. Nowhere can we find all those pidgeons that the media likes to make us believe inhabit Piazza San Marco, no. Today, there’s only people, and then also some people in costumes. Basilica San Marco turns out to be a very pretty, if perpetually unfinished, piece of art, at least from what we can tell without going inside.
The last first impression we have of Venice is that it’s ridiculously expensive. 6.50€ for a single boat fare? Too bad you can’t swim through Canal Grande instead. Fortunately, we’d already bought our bus/boat tickets for the remainder of the trip. We make our way back to Mestre and the hotel, only to head out again quickly for food. We have pizza at a lovely little place that loses only a tiny bit of its charm to the rather rude owners and waitresess. Ah, Italia.
Day Two | 07 March
Despite being utterly beat and in bed at a reasonable hour, we don’t get much sleep. It’s only March, and that seems to be too early for Italians to switch on the air-conditioning. The problem, though? The rooms are at a constant 23°C, which can only be helped by leaving the window open for lengthy periods of time. Here’s where the noisy neighbours (both inside the hotel and out) come in. So it’s either being kept awake by the heat, or being kept awake by the noise. We take the middle path, and get up several times during the night to open the window for a few minutes. Better than nothing, in any case. Breakfast mostly makes up for the first and all following nights, though. It’s not the best buffet I’ve ever seen, but it’s good enough, and, maybe even more importantly, plenty enough. Some time later, we’re back on a (just as crowded) bus into the city!
The weather is as good as we could have ever hoped for, what with it being March and all. This will hold true for the entire trip, blue skies and sunshine all day long. At first, we walk to Venice’s station, which turns out to be a rather ugly-looking building that we exit as quickly as we’d come in. We continue along Canal Grande, and after a while end up in a boat towards the other islands. I think we pass Murano, but we don’t get off because, and I have that on good authority, it is rather boring. Burano, the next island over, sounds almost the same, but is so very different. There are a lot of tourists, but compared to the masses all over Venice, we almost feel lonely here. That’s not to say we really are alone, as we realise the minute we start looking for a place to eat in what must be the only restaurant on the whole island. We eventually get a table, but the waitresses and cooks seem to be forgetting half of what we ordered. (And the food that we do get isn’t very good, either.) Afterwards, we wander around Burano some more, and discover how adorable an island it is, with its multicoloured houses and peaceful spots.
From Burano, it’s not far to Torcello, a gorgeous, if tiny island. There are actual fields here, dry and brown, and this is the Italy I know. It feels so familiar I almost want to cry, but I distract myself by buying a Venetian mask—much cheaper here than in the actual city. There’s not much to say about Torcello otherwise, except maybe that it has a pretty church, and some sort of tower that you can climb usually, but now that we’re here, it’s being renovated, of course. So that’s that.
The trip back takes about as long as getting there a few hours earlier had, but it feels a lot longer. Mostly due to the fact that there’s nowhere to sit on the goddamn boat. At least not if you’re my age, and don’t get offered a seat like a certain grandmother of mine. (In all honesty, I’m pretty sure she would’ve done better standing up for an hour than me; she does this whole travelling thing all the time. But I digress.) There’s always the floor, of course… And the sweet, sweet pleasure of resting one’s feet is too tempting to resist, so I give in, and after that, the trip no longer seems so bad, dirty jeans be damned.
The plan had been to make a quick detour via Cemetary Island before returning to Venice proper, but as it turns out, the Cemetary is already closed. We’re pretty tired already, but since we spent most of the day on various boats, we decide to walk from Fondamente Novo through some of the more authentic parts of Venice. At one point, we even see actual Venetians. We try to remember where on the map the gorgeous church is that we come across, as there is a fairly cheap, but nice-looking restaurant right in front of it that we could eat at some other day, but we’ve already forgotten as soon as we round another corner. After a while of zigzagging all across two sestieri, we arrive at Rialto, during sunset. Almost as if we’d timed it! (Well, maybe we had. A little.) It’s not as spectacular as it sounds, especially since there’s, again, way too many tourists, but since I’m one of them, I suppose I can’t complain. Photos are taken (by me, not of me), and it is a nice moment.
Moment over, back to Mestre. We stop at the local supermarket of our choice to stock up on sandwiches (aka, dinner), crostatine all’albicocca, and lemonade. It’s still early, but our feet refuse to cooperate, so we eat, look through our e-mails, and watch some television.
Day Three | 08 March
Today has been chosen as the day that we explore Cimitero di San Michele, aka Cemetary Island. Come to think of it, it sounds a bit morbid, but we are far from the only ones who have that plan. There are no photos allowed, and despite the fact that most tourists just ignore said rule, I don’t, just this once. Plus, while the graves are rather pretty (again with the morbidity!), the flowers are almost all artificial. All things considered, it is probably a nice place to be a laid to rest. Before you get your hopes up, however, know the following: You can only be buried there if you’ve lived your whole life in Venice, and I am guessing you also need(ed) to be fairly influential. Or so they say.
Back at Fondamente Novo, we split up, and just enjoy Canal Grande and Piazza San Marco on our own a bit. There are more masks and more costumes, not all of them pretty. San Marco is a nice sestiere to stroll through, especially once you leave the main tourist spots behind. Time goes by quickly, and before we know it, we’re back at the hotel, resting, and then off again to the same pizza place as two nights previously.
Walking about different sestieri, getting into the calmer, more authentic parts of Venezia.
Day Four | 09 March
Day four is our last day, and we realise we’ve not actually seen much of Venice. So after an early breakfast, and a suddenly much more managable bus trip, we enter the city for the first time. I say ‘for the first time,’ because it’s shockingly different now that the carnival is over. There are still more than enough tourists, but there’s also space to walk, stand, and breathe. Such a nice change. We randomly walk through several sestieri, hop on and off the vaporetti (that I still don’t like), and end up in front of Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. Finally. It’s been our point of reference for most of the trip, and now we finally see it from the inside, too. It’s as gorgeous there as it is from the outside. After that (and a bunch of tramezzini from a little spot we come across all of a sudden), we spend some time at a spot right in front of Santa Maria, but facing away from the Basilica. There’s water everywhere, as far as the eye can see, surrounded by the skyline of Venezia. It’s definitely not my favourite city, but even I know a gorgeous sight when I see it.
View over city from a spot right in front of Santa Maria della Salute.
One of the gondole with a gondoliere. | Arriving at Piazza San Marco.
Up next are a few random spots to pass the time, and then we decide to give Basilica San Marco a try, after all. Surprisingly, there is no entry fee, and while you’re technically not allowed to take photos, everybody does it anyway, myself included. San Marco is also beautiful, and there is gold everywhere. The gigantic mosaics that span the entire ceiling and most of the columns are made from gold, and those things that aren’t fit in nicely, too. The church is crowded, though, and all of the rooms that aren’t immediate parts of the nave do require an entry fee, so we leave fairly quickly. (Another thing the churches all are? Very, very cold. Even the fresh March air seems warm afterwards.)
Inside Basilica San Marco, with its golden mosaics.
We make our way to Rialto, where we have dinner with a view on the famous bridge. That, again, sounds more spectacular than it really is, especially considering the price, but all in all, it’s worth it. That done, we hop on another boat to Lido and back. Without getting off, mind you, because we’re just trying to pass the time and find the perfect spot to watch the sun set over Santa Maria. It’s cold as… whatever the opposite of hell is in this metaphor, but the sunset makes up for that. And so will the photos later when we get home. Back in Mestre, we make a last quick stop at the supermarket to get more lemonade (the first step is admitting you have a problem…), and then it’s TV-and-bed time.
Sunset over Santa Maria della Salute, and ciao Venezia.
Day Five | 10 March
Departure Day doesn’t exactly sneak up on us, but it’s still a little sudden. We have breakfast and finish packing, take the bus to the airport, and get there faaaar too early. But what’s that saying about the early bird and the worm? Suffice to say, we don’t find a worm, but we do see the Alps again. And, after everything, it is nice to be home again. Thank you, Venice, for four lovely days.
On this trip, I…
→ took 800+ pictures.
→ got fourteen blisters of various sizes, shapes, and colours.
→ had three pizzas (all Margherita), and lasagne once.
→ fell into Canal Grande zero times.
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