In the spring of 2014 we took a
two week trip around northern Italy. It was my first time in the country and
our first stop was Venice. Expectations were high, to say the least - could the
city live up to all of the cliches? Spoiler alert - yes it could!
What could I possibly say about Venice that hasn’t already been
said? Probably nothing as I am not a Venicistorian and neither are you, but I’m
gonna give it a go.
The island of Venice is
situated off the Eastern coast of Italy and is accessible via boat or train. We
stayed on the neighbouring island of Lido, which is quieter even though, unlike
Venice, it has motorised land vehicles (commonly referred to as cars). We ended
up staying on this picturesque island because it was a bank holiday weekend in Italy
and we were priced out of the fancier hotels on Venice island. No way is this
guy paying over a £100 a night for a 2* hotel!
We forked out for a Best
Western hotel instead, which was delightful. We arrived on the hottest day of
the year so far and the temperature continued to rapidly rise... The room we
paid for had air con, however we weren't allowed to use it. Apparently 26
degrees is not A.C. weather in Italy. In Britain that is hot enough to walk
around with only a thin piece of fabric separating your genitals from the
world. But not hot enough for chilled air in Italy. (I did find out this was
for environmental reasons, as air con isn't used until June, as a rule, and
this was only April. I’m all for saving the environment but the CO2 that
bellowed from my lungs as I moaned and complained about the heat probably
cancelled everything out, so they might as well have turned the A.C. on).
As I sit writing this, on a
beach surrounded by men and women wearing jeans, I start to question my
temperature control. Am I going through some kind of early on-set male
menopause? Is this how Scots feel when they wear shorts in five degrees and
call me a southern pansy? Or is my South England attitude / culture / acclimatised
body the perfect model?
Lido beach - definitely worth a visit if you're in Venice during the summer.|
The downside to having this
British temperaturement is that it makes us stand out like tourists more than I
would like, as we never seem able to blend in with the locals' attire. And
besides, my five Italian phrases are rarely used, as I only ever get responses
in my native language. It is both the curse and blessing of a native English
speaker. It's incredibly helpful to navigate the globe as almost everyone
speaks a little bit of your language, but impossible to learn a language as
everyone wants to practise their English.
Anyway, we have spent the last
two days walking for miles around Venice, taking in the beautiful buildings and
delicious foods. The sheer visual beauty of the place both during the day and
at night really added a feeling of warmth and romance like no city we have
visited. Unfortunately when this is coupled with excessive consumption of
delicious food with many generous scoops of gelato, one struggles to reach that
romantic climax as often as one would like.
I'd like to say we limited ourselves to one gelato a day, but I'd be lying.
Venice has no cars, no mopeds, and it does not
stink – that myth has officially been debunked by one of England’s greatest
sniffers. I realise that calling myself England’s greatest sniffer makes me
sound like either some kind of deranged glue addict or a human version of an
overly forward bottom-smelling dog. But I am neither. I am merely an expert in
bad smells thanks to having an older brother who enjoyed the nasal torture of his
siblings and a diet that didn’t help the situation either.
We decided that going inside
museums wasn’t going to be our thing in Venice. I would like to say that I love
learning and love culture. But so often going around museums is too structured
and organised to allow the sort of creative learning I like. I need to dip in
and out of cultural learnings and not be overwhelmed by information in one
burst. I feel museums are often too much like that teacher in school who loved
to lecture at you for an hour rather than let you express your own
understanding and thoughts on a subject. That coupled with the exorbitant
museum entry fees really left us little option but to sit in piazzas and drink
coffee and Spritz (the Italian Pimms!), staring at the beautiful museum
buildings. What a shame!
We walked and we walked around Venice enjoying the sights, tastes, sounds, and lack of smells. We wanted to be more observers of beauty than tourists of destinations. I didn’t even make a note of anywhere we went besides seeing the Grand Canal and St Marco’s Square – two things even a blind man could see walking around the city.
As it was a national holiday, the city really was quite busy, so places like this were a little overcrowded for our liking. Still, it's a pretty fantastic sight to behold and well worth a detour
from the maze of side streets.
The square isn't really visible here, but it's a lovely photo and in the right area! The famous St Marco's Square did flood at night, which is when we realised what all of the wooden boards had been lying around for - they were a makeshift walkway across the water.
Some people choose to sit on beaches
for 10 days, drinking margaritas and watching the waves splash into the sand.
We chose to sit in restaurants and cafes guessing people’s ages and
nationalities. I think you can learn a lot from just watching people go about
their lives. It puts certain things in perspective, especially in such a
romantic, idealised city.
Back to Lido and back to the beach. As I write there is this giant
flying beetle wasp thing that seems particular fond of the free crisps we got
given with our iced drinks. I was told to ignore it by our waiter but I feel
like it’s one of those natural things that I seem ancestrally scared of. Like
birds pooing on my head when flying over me. Actually maybe that came from when
a bird pooed on me after a particular hair cut in Manchester... by an Italian
man. Too many coincidences. If a coincidence is really a coincidence, why does
it feel so contrived?
Also there is a metal stair case that protrudes
onto the beach spoiling the view somewhat. However it will take more than these
things to throw me off my stress-free existence at the moment. Having a city so
full of romance, culture, beauty, and food with a beach a mere twenty minutes
away is something of a dream scenario. And the alcohol helps too.