Venice – a unique place that makes it a place that will inspire you for a lifetime.
I had heard lots about Venice before I finally decided to spend a short break in the city. I had this picture of Venice in my head; a picture of over commercialism and dirty smelly canals. How wrong I was, because the reality of Venice is far different to what I imagined. When you arrive at Venice airport you have several ways that you can travel to the city. The most expensive way is to travel by water taxi, although if you can share a water taxi this can reduce the cost. The advantages of a water taxi are that you will be taken from outside the airport to as close as you can get to your hotel. Also, the views from the boat as you arrive in Venice itself are staggering.
Other ways to get to Venice include buses or the public waterbus. The waterbus is relatively cheap but it takes longer than a taxi and will make several stops before arriving in Venice. But you will still get excellent views of Venice as you arrive from the sea.
If you can afford it I would recommend travelling by water taxi because it is a unique experience arriving in Venice this way. You will feel like a celebrity as you weave in and out of all the narrow canals and avoid the slower moving gondolas.
Before you visit Venice it is worth doing a little reading about the history of the city, because it makes fascinating reading. The first settlements on the Venice Lagoon islands date back to the 5th and 6th centuries, when the inhabitants from the mainland came to this swamp area to escape the barbaric invasions that followed the fall of the Roman Empire. Gradually small houses on stilts were built and eventually walkways were built on wooden platforms. Venice, from the beginning, was always an important trading area and many wars were fought over it.
As you enter Venice the first thing you will see are the incredible churches that dominate the skyline and the red coloured roofs of the houses. I was making the visit to Venice in July and the weather was very hot. If you visit during winter it is advisable to take a pair of wellies as the rising tides can cause flooding and you may well find yourself walking through St. Marks Square in a foot of water!
Venice is such a fascinating place. It is a city of winding narrow streets with pavement cafes and designer shops. You will need a good street map and a good sense of direction if you don’t want to get lost. The city is like a maze and the first time you leave your hotel you will get a sense of panic as you wonder how you will ever find your way back to your hotel. But, you always do so don’t worry too much. Getting to know the city on foot is the best way but you can always catch a waterbus, which gives you a chance to admire the unique buildings as you pass slowly by.
The must-see places in my opinion are St Marks Square; the square is unchanged over the centuries and can be seen on many of the Renaissance paintings. Just sitting at one of the (expensive) cafes sipping a cool drink listening to the beautiful music and watching the world go by is one of my favourite memories. The Basilica is well worth seeing, the beautiful gold interior is stunning and a trip up the Campanile (the Bell Tower) gives you the most fantastic views over the rooftops to the Lagoon and the islands. Another of my favourite places was the Bovola tucked away amongst the houses this snail shaped tower is in a quiet courtyard giving fantastic views over the terracotta rooftops.
Wandering along the traffic free pavements and criss-crossing the labyrinth of canals really gives you a sense of the history of Venice and so much is unchanged. The stylish palaces along the length of the Grand Canal, best viewed from the waterbuses, are fascinating. The nobility of Venice in the Middle Ages had seriously good taste when it came to designing their houses! One other place worth visiting is the island of Burano. Just a short trip by waterbus takes you to this brightly coloured little island where time seems to have stood still.
It amazed me to see everyday life on the canals……food delivered to the hotels by boat, police and fire boats, refuse collection by boats ,the waterbuses, we even saw some teenagers stopped for speeding in their boats. It was certainly crowded in some popular spots with large groups of tourists being herded around for example by the Rialto Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs and the Doges palace. The heat in the summer can be overwhelming, my advice is to carry a bottle of water all the time and to try and walk in the shade….easily done with all the little alleyways. We were warned that Venice could be a little smelly but apart from the occasional slight whiff of a drain it was wasn’t at all!
Venice is, by all accounts, sinking so go and visit whilst you have the chance, it is definitely my favourite city break destination and I can’t wait to return.