Last weekend, A. and I left the kiddo at my parents’ weekend house and left for a day trip to Venice. It’s a two-hour drive only, so we had plenty of time. We’d been to Venice several times before (I believe I’m nearing double digits myself) but it’s one of the prettiest cities I’ve ever been to.
We spent several hours following the stream of tourists around the narrow streets, looking into the shop windows full of Venetian masks and slightly tacky glass ornaments.
The usual fishy stink of the canals (often mixed with the distinct odor of the sewers) was somewhat tempered this time by the scent of jasmine. There are many little secret gardens in venice, either on the rooftops or in cool courtyards, and jasmine is everywhere – the little star-shaped blossoms really smell nice.
What you have to know about Venice is that it’s CROWDED. Even in the colder months, I suppose, though if you’re ever planning a trip there, I’d recommend waiting for spring because Venice is notorious for floods during the winter (the sea rises) and I would bet that it’s not really cool if you have to balance on the narrow, slippery wooden walkways they put up. At any other time of the year, however, this relatively small island is PACKED with tourists of all possible nationalities. We saw at least four gigantic cruise ships docked in the marina and I can only imagine how many more people arrived by car or train. So be prepared for waiting in lines for the churches or museums. We didn’t visit any of those this time but chose to have a more relaxed day instead.
This is where most of the people end up, I think. Piazza San Marco is huge and beautiful and it’s supposedly the most expensive place to have a cappuccino. We didn’t test that theory! I remember when I was little and it was still allowed to feed the pigeons – they would flock in HUNDREDS and peck at the corn people threw at them. Luckily, the city authorities came to their senses (seriously, EW) and forbade people to feed the pigeons (they had to find alternative employment for several people who lived off selling corn to tourists!) because they pooped everywhere and were destroying the monuments.
One of the most famous spots in the city, the Bridge of Sighs, reportedly named thus because it was common for prisoners to sigh as they saw the light of day through its windows for the last time as they were being transported from the Doge’s Palace (the court; on the left) to the prison on the right. Some people also say it’s because lovers come to Venice and sigh at the sight of it. Who knows?
We did have two things on our itinerary: We wanted to find the “best known” bookshop in the city, Libreria Acqua Alta, and Dal Moro’s noodle shop. We found both, to vastly differing results. I didn’t particularly like the bookstore. It’s crowded and looks like a madman’s attic. There’s a gondola smack in the middle of it, it’s filled with ancient (in an uncool way) Italian books in a totally haphazard manner (my OCD tendencies sprang to life) and one of the shopkeepers was smoking inside. In a tiny space filled with (very flammable) paper. There is also some sort of staircase made of books outside, which I disliked because I don’t think any books, even dictionaries, should be treated like that. But the pasta was wonderful, totally fresh, and both sauces – amatriciana and pesto – were jummy. We sat in the shade by a canal, dangling our feet over the water and watching the gondolas pass by slowly. It was a very nice lunch and a much-needed getaway for us.
Have you ever been to Venice? Did you like it?
Do you prefer very touristy, crowded destinations or are you more of an off-the-beaten-track person?
I’d love to hear from you! :)