Travel Post: Venice
In June 2018 my partner and I went on a trip to Venice, Italy. The first edition of Murray's Handbook for Travellers in Northern Italy, published in 1842, says that "no one enters Venice a stranger" (p. 326). Venice is visited by countless tourists, but is also constantly encountered through art, literature, historical accounts, photographs, games and music. We have seen so much of it in culture, before really seeing it with our own eyes, that we feel as if we already know it. There was definitely a strong sense of familiarity when wandering through the tourist sights, but it was nice to also visit the the outskirts and residential areas, wanting to see all the different atmospheres and environments.
The sight as you arrive into Venice is incredible. Bright sunlight high in the sky shimmering on the surface of the canals, water vivid with blue-green hues, buildings layered and peeling with paint in every tones from lemon yellow to blush pink to terracotta. Raised by the ocean, I'm a big lover of water and the sea, and I really enjoyed being surrounded by the canals. Everyone in Venice travels by boat, with water taxis, water buses, speedboats and gondolas the only source of transport through the city. It was strange not seeing any cars, except the vehicles in the bus station where we entered. The canals are connected by a series of bridges that can make finding your way around quite difficult, but luckily, Venice is small and you can easily walk from one side to the other, so getting lost is never really an issue.
The shops are mostly focused around tourists, and offer classic souvenirs and slices of Venetian culture. The mask shops are beautiful, with classic paper mâché masquerade styles as well as more modern takes, with fantasy and steampunk alternatives added to the mix. I really love the Venetian glass; Venice and the surrounding islands, Murano and Burano, are renowned for their glass-blowing. They use a technique called Murrine, which involves layering coloured liquid glass and stretching it into canes. The canes are sliced, revealing their layered patterns or "millefiori", which gives the appearance of many flowers (mille meaning thousand and fiori meaning flowers). I picked up a selection of Murano glass necklaces and bracelets in different colours.
The food is great, and even for me as a vegetarian, there was a pretty good selection of options. Pizza is available on almost every street for an average price of about €12.00, along with pasta, risotto, fresh fruit and smoothies, and ice cream. The menu is essentially the same everywhere you go, so choose a restaurant that is good value for money or has nice scenery; there are some beautiful spots along the side of the canals. The best ice cream I found was in the Piazza San Marco - I recommend the coconut and banana.
Art and history is everywhere you go. It all has a sense of antiquity, a feeling that very little has changed since the Renaissance. Murals, statues and religious iconography are everywhere, from homes to street walls to parks. I even found a small supermarket with huge heavenly murals sprawled across the ceiling. I recommend a trip to see the stunning views from the San Marco Campanile, and a look inside Saint Mark's Basilica.
Outside the tourist hubs, Venice is surprisingly quiet. In several areas we went for extended periods without seeing anyone. Everything is very aesthetic, peeling paint layered in perfect tones, buildings accented with colourful shutters and flower filled window boxes, like a little portion of my imagination realised in real life. At the same time, there was definitely a sense of deterioration, with a lot of buildings left empty and the exteriors left to crumble.
We stayed in the Hotel Ai Mori D'Oriente, a beautiful 4 star hotel that I would absolutely recommend. It sits beside the Rio della Sensa in the Cannaregia quarter, and is perfectly located with short walks to wherever you want to go. Our longest walk was to the San Marco Piazza, which might have taken about an hour, but that was only because it took us so long to walk anywhere; there was so much to see and we were constantly compelled to pause and capture everything on camera. The hotel sits right by the Madonna dell'Orto, one of the stops for the airport boat and 'vaportti', the word for waterbus. The design is inspired by Venice's history of trading with the Moorish people from the silk road period, and 'Moors of the Orient' is the overall theme. Moroccan tones are combined with Venetian brocades, moresque furniture and marbled bathrooms. The staff were so lovely and friendly and the continental breakfast was spot on, complete with fresh fruit, pastry, cake, salad, cheese, and strong, delicious cups of Italian coffee.
I recommend spending at least two full days in Venice. It isn't big, but there are so many beautiful sights, and alongside the tourist attractions it's nice to take it easy, sit in the restaurants, and enjoy the live music.
This post contains my personal opinions and is in no way affiliated or endorsed.