Some cities don’t reveal themselves very easily. Venice is one of those cities.
Renowned for its myriad of winding canals, elegant foot bridges and majestic palaces, Venice captivates upon first site. But what happens after you blink? Most people dip into the lagoon city to snap a few canal side photos, get it on in a gondola and order up la menu touristico prepared by some Indian guy before they head off… But to do this is to miss what Venice is really all about.
The city welcomes 10x its population in tourists every year, many of whom don’t even stay long enough to snooze. And I have to confess, I once categorised Venice as a day trip destination too, but this time I was seeking the affection of this floating city.
Wandering through its complex tapestry of foot bridges and winding streets make it challenging to navigate your way around Venice. This gets frustrating, and I definitely cursed the city’s anti-linear layout a few times. However – in-between fits of anger – I quite enjoyed the surprises that came with getting lost. So although getting lost on cold, dark and rainy evenings made me curse my return to Venice a few times (shhhh!), wrong turns uncovered residential back streets where I saw nana walking the dog, fish mongers hauling in the catch and charming old men talking about the football in small campos (outdoor plazas). Below are a few of the things that I did to peek beyond the surface and see the city as it truly thrives…
When weather conditions forced the cancellation of my scheduled gondola ride, I opted for the public transit system which is a fleet of motorised boats – vaporetti. Result? Magnificent set-back views and transport to most of the cities popular destinations. Ace!
A short 30 minutes vaporetti ride took me to Murano where I saw some seriously impressive hand blown glass sculptures. Another short boat ride brought me to Burano where I found a league of lacework masters amid a series of brightly coloured houses. These quaint and cute villages are a huge departure from the oozing opulence you find in Venice.
After a few days of being good (or stupid), I succumbed to my sweet tooth and ate a Venetian frittelle. This drool-inducing pastry infuses the air with its sweet smell every morning, so just eat one!
No matter where you are, the swishing of the water, serenade of a gondolier and inviting Italian phonetics can be heard. And if you linger, it’s possible to truly see all that you hear.