On my trip to Italy last weekend, I stayed in a cheap little inn half way between Venice and Treviso. It was only $3 dollars for a round-trip bus ticket to Venice: one of the most famous cities in the world. The bus trip took about 18 minutes going, and only 15 coming back. I've never been to Venice, and it's always been pretty low on my list. Tuscany, Rome, the Italian Rivera, the Italian Alps and the Lake District always interested me more. A lot of people have negative things to say about Venice. In fact, all my life, I've always heard people say bad things about Venice. "It's smelly," "It's crowded," "It's sinking into the ocean." So I've never been that interested in it like I have been other places. But with a trip to Venice only costing $3, I had to check it out.
Venice is a series of 117 islands immediately off the coast of Northeastern Italy. It is a flat, marshy area (much of Italy is mountainous or hilly), with canals. The Venice that people think of, are actually two or three islands where about 60,000 people live in these crowded homes separated by the famous canals. This "old town" Venice is what you see in photos and postcards.
The bus took me across the causeway (a flat bridge that takes about 2 minutes to cross) and then dropped me off at the bus station. It is here that all cars and trains arrive and stop. There are no streets for cars in Venice. You walk by foot or take a gondola or water taxi.
So how was it? FABULOUS! I loved it. It's an absolute must-see if you are in that part of Italy. For starters, it was winter time. When I set off at 10AM, it was about 38 degrees. Unlike July or August, Venice was not crowded with tons of people. Neither was it hot or muggy. Neither did anything smell bad.
As you leave the bus area, you quickly enter into the maze of old streets. It is an absolute maze and it's easy to get lost. I walked across the two main islands back and forth over the course of 4 hours. About 3 1/2 hours into it, I finally did get lost. Just as with a maze, you go down one path and find it's a dead end. Go down another way, and end up where you started. It was fun.
The canal water looked clean. The buildings were absolutely gorgeous--pictures don't do them justice. Throughout the city are lots of Catholic churches--all of them very ornate and beautiful. The main Piazza of San Marco was just like it is in the movies. Since it was winter, often I was walking through these maze-like streets alone. Then every once in a while, there would be a crowd of fellow tourists. This is probably the perfect time of year to visit the city. My guess is that most of the people I know that have gone went in the middle of peak season.
The colors of the houses were so vibrant. I'll bet the city was refurbished at some point in the past 20 years, because like so much in Italy--it all looked very good and well kept up. No trash anywhere. All that Euro money does wonders for the infrastructure. Although overall, the Italian government (especially under Berlosconi) has been terrible about taking care of their many beautiful places.
Some say that Venice is really just a day trip. Yes, that's probably right. Although there are lots of cute little hotels and inns scattered throughout which would probably be fun to stay at if you wanted to take your time and look very closely at the architecture and the churches. If you need to get from one side of the maze (city) to the other, water taxis are the way to go. I didn't use one, but it was fascinating to see how it really is the only way to get from point A to point B in a hurry.
Anyway, I didn't realize I'd get to see Venice this year--at least not this month. But I had a whole 6 hours to kill before meeting up with the gang in Treviso and spending it Venice was absolutely wonderful. Here are so me of my famous, lousy pictures for you to lament. Is it possible that this place can still look beautiful despite my bad photography?
Check it out!