I loved Venice. It’s a small city, which is actually made up of something like 120 islands connected by over 400 bridges. The only way to make your way through the city is by foot or by boat (the bridges make even bikes impractical). I’ve never seen anything else like it in any of my travels.
There were an unusual number of tourists while I was there (according to the locals), and this was mainly due to some new cruise ships that had come it. (The cruise ship, huge monstrosities, are so jarring to see sailing through the main canal, their bulk erasing the cityscape behind them.) But the tourists all stick to the main tourist areas, and it’s not hard to get away from them, as only a street or two will lead away from the swarms to quiet cobblestone avenues.
In fact, one of my favorite things about the city was getting blissfully lost. The city is like a giant maze with no streets crossing the city in a straight line. To cross from one side of the city to the other I would just pick streets at random and see where it lead me, letting them twist me this way and that, until I began to circle back or they dead ended at a teal-green canal. I might sit at the steps leading down to the water and watch a nearby boat, tied up to a 12 inch wide “dock” bob gently. And then I’d move on to another corner, tunnel, nook to discover.
It was in this way that I discovered the Ca’ Pesaro modern art museum, which had a lot of fantastic pieces (some by Gustav Klimt, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol) and a great Asian art collection.
I also waded through the crowds to check out the main sights, including St. Mark’s Square (including the Basilica and a tour of the government building, the Bridge of Sighs (not romantic, as it was really named for the sighs of prisoners being secretly transported to the prison), Rialto Bridge and other well known areas.
I’ve heard that men in Italy will sometimes follow women down the street and get too close in their attempt to flirt, talking and not taking no for an answer. My friend has experienced this, but I but on my last day in Venice, I met a man who started following me down the street. He asked me polite enough questions about where I was from and why I was in Venice, which all led up to his asking if I wanted to have company as I walked or if I wanted to sit and have drinks with him. When I said, no, that I would prefer to be alone, he smiled and waived goodbye and went on his way. It was all very tame and not the intense thing I had been lead to believe happened.
(I have a ton more photos, but haven’t uploaded them to flickr yet. I’ll provide a link when I do.)
I would LOVE to return to Venice. It evokes a kind of romance and mystery, the kind that leaves me spinning stories. It would be awesome to just stay a month or more there and sketch and write poetry and wander here and there.
Advice for Traveling in Venice:
• Since getting back and forth to the airport requires traveling by boat, keep this in mind while booking plane tickets, because it can be a pain to try to make early morning flights out of the city (as I discovered).
• Mestre is the town on the mainland directly across from Venice. The hotels are less expensive there and its a cheap, easy bus ride into Venice to see the sights.
• Wandering aware from the central tourist points is awesome and a great way to find less expensive places to eat.
• Speaking of good food, little pizzerias and cafes are everywhere in Italy. You can buy an drink (coke or water) and entire pizza or a panini for around 3-8 Euros (about $5-10), which is one of the cheapest ways to get fed, if you’re on a budget.
I also traveled to Firenze (Florence) while in Italy, and I’ll do write up on that tomorrow.