Venice, a winding labyrinth of emerald canals and pastel buildings sitting on 118 islands connected by 400 foot bridges. A city where getting lost is mandatory and finding a view is inevitable. A city that withdraws streets, canals and buildings from view and invites you to play hide and seek.
I stayed in this magical metropolis for just 2 nights and found myself leaving wanting more. It was the last stop on my 2 week Italian trip and one I should have given far more time to. With just 4 days until I fly to Italy for another 10 days in the country, I am looking back on my previous trip. You can read about Rome and Florence here: Remembering Rome & Tuscan treasure. I hope you enjoy my account of Venice, a year and a half late. I will be splitting this into 2 letters because I just have too much to say.
To get to Venice I took a train from Florence to Bologna and then on to Venice. It was cheaper splitting the fare – something worth checking up on if you’re travelling around Italy. The train costed 25€ altogether I believe. From the train station I boarded a boat taxi over to the main ‘island’ and what many people refer to as ‘the fish’. My hostel was on the south side of the right part of the fish (it makes sense when you look at a map). I found my beautiful hostel, which was a 5 minute walk from Piazza San Marco, with ease and settled in. You can read my review of the Bed and Venice hostel here. Pretty much the second I got into my room I made 3 really good friends (who I still keep in contact with today). It was 2 New Zealanders and one Italian who was from near Milan. We all decided to go and get gelato at the ‘best gelateria in Venice’. It’s called La Mela Verde and you can read about it on tripadvisor here. I can tell you first hand it is quite wonderful.
The New Zealanders were booked onto a free walking tour which we decided to join them on. It was pouring down with rain so there wasn’t many people on it and we were allowed to tag along. The walking tour was fantastic and I was so glad it was the first thing I did. Our guide was a university student living in Venice and she was brilliant. She told us all about the history and foundations of Venice and kept everyone engaged for the whole afternoon. The tour takes you to some weird and wonderful places and misses out the key tourist spots like Piazza San Marco and the Rialto because you’ll go there anyway. The website is here – I would highly recommend going on one!
My favourite part of the tour is when she took us to the most incredible bookshop I have ever been to! I love to spend time in bookshops and have been in too many to count, but this one may be the best. It’s called Libreria Acqua Alta and you can expect to see a gondola full of books, stairs constructed of ruined books and donated written on postcards. The shop is flooded every year and the owner allows it to naturally take the water, leaving the remnants on show for its visitors. It’s also home to 2 very friendly cats. You really must visit this gem if you’re in Venice! You can read more about it here.
We learnt about the construction of the 118 islands using tree trunks and how the sewerage of the city works. We learnt that Venice floods most years and that the locals go about their lives normally. We also heard about why some of the towers lean and about the fake facades of the buildings. It was all fascinating to me! The tour was invaluable. Understanding the history of Venice enhanced my trip no end.
Back at the hostel I enjoyed the views from the stunning roof top. Venice from above is something to behold. The skyline to each and every direction is spectacular and I believe it’s an underappreciated view of this maze of islands and canals.
I am splitting my trip account of Venice into 2 letters because it needs more time, in every sense of the phrase. This is just first impressions, but I feel like my whole stay there just gave me ‘first impressions’. I hope I can only give you a taste of Venice’s magic.
Stay tuned for part 2.