Venice: the perfect place to wrap up any Italy trip…

I’ve recently returned from Italy, courtesy of the Consorzio Tutela Vini Valpolicella. No surprise, I’m sorting through a wealth of information on Amarone and a whole lot more. It was a trip of many discoveries and new friends in Valpolicella and beyond. Much more to come …

What I wasn’t ready for was Venice, where I managed to squeeze in a few hours before flying home.

I hadn’t been there before. And even though I’m an incurable romantic, it surprised and seduced me —though not in ways that you might expect.

First of all, when I walked out of the station I was bowled over by the view. I definitely knew where I was!

Venice

Right across from the station …San Simeone

I had my suitcase with me on the first day. I quickly learned to look for the bridges with staggered steps to one side.  Now I’m inducted into the Venice luggage wheelers club. Indeed, I had plenty of company. It would appear that just about everyone’s a member.

 

Venice boats

Boats, boats and more boats

It hadn’t occurred to me before, but all goods that make their way into the city proper must do so by boat and then by handcart. From the train across the causeway to Santa Lucia,  I noticed an endless chain of cargo boats. They were headed across the water in a designated channel. But it wasn’t until I was walking through the maze of streets that it struck me. At almost every turn there were people wheeling and lifting packages of every kind.

Venice water square

Access only by water …

What was also interesting was how quickly I became used to the notion of no cars. I suddenly realised that the soundscape in Venice, in essence likely hasn’t changed at all in a few hundred years

This image below I find particularly interesting because it reminded me so much of Canaletto. I was intrigued to see if my memories were correct. Just for fun, I’ve added the famous artist’s painting from almost the same perspective, c. 1725. It’s actually remarkable how little has changed in almost 300 years. The only real variation is the quay on the left, now a Vaporetto terminus.

Venice Grand Canal

Grand Canal from Rialto Bridge, with Vaporetti on left and Gondolas to the right

How Canaletto saw it … some 300 years earlier.

Of course there was no shortage of other kinds of boats, from the vaporetti to gondolas. The latter seemed to be de rigueur for the many Chinese visitors there for Lunar New Year.

 

Life & Death

I heard the siren before I saw the water ambulance.

Venice water ambulance

 

And then, by chance, turned around to spot a hearse and flower adorned coffin. Those who know me as a bit of a transit geek will be shocked to hear that I didn’t ride the Vaporetto. Even though I was tempted, I walked instead.

Venice water hearse

 

 

Venice: Decay by Design?

I managed to see a large part of Venice, warts and all. I’m still not sure just how much of the crumbling stucco was by design or natural decline.

Venice stucco and canal

 

Venice narrow canal and bricks

 

 

 

I eventually found San Marco, having wandered all around the the Grand Canal and down not a few narrow calles—Sometimes not so gently perfumed with that unmistakable hint of sewage.

Venice narrow calle

It’s true, there’s plenty of ‘deliberate’ decay. But I also saw lots of construction and restoration. Most buildings are are still supported by wooden piles. They have a surprisingly long life span, actually improved by being under water.

Occasionally those narrow alleys end in surprises, like this archway over steps right into the canal. Beware of taking the wrong turn when leaving the local trattoria …

Venice arch to canal

My highlight of San Marco: the cloisters at the Doge’s palace…

Venice: Doge's palaace cloister

On the way I stumbled across the Church of San Giacomo di Rialto, which dates from 1152 and is now home to a delightful musical instrument museum. With period music played over the sound system, it makes for a delightful break from the  outside bustle.

venice arts and music

It was damp and bone chilling. But I did miss the snow by a couple of days (fine by me); and found a good local bar close to Piazzale Roma (the bus depot).

What also struck me was the absolute rule of street life without cars or trucks. It all felt so natural, after just a few minutes. This street market seemed so ideally situated…

Venice street market

 

And, yes, there was radicchio

Venice radicchio

 

You can wander the streets for days and always find something novel—like this al fresco store display…

Venice al fresco display

For accommodation, I had only one night in the area. That was the last before flying home, which required an early start.

I opted to stay at an Agriturismo hotel outside of Venice, just minutes from the airport. I’d become familiar with them on my previous trip to the Veneto.

Ca’ Tessera, a short hop from Venice airport

The Ca Tessera (which I reached by bus for 1.50€ and a short walk) turned out to be perfect. It’s a welcoming spot with excellent facilities and staff who can’t do enough to help. The rooms sport a rustic character, with exposed beams and hardwood floors. The beds are comfortable, linens spotless and bathrooms modern and well equipped.

And (once upstairs) you don’t have to wheel your luggage too far.

I had a glass of wine by the fire before a leisurely meal. The local menu includes bacalla on toasts and decent steak.

venice - agriturismo bacalla

At 6 in the morning, I paid my bill (63€ for the room) and the night clerk made me an espresso. Then drove me and another guest to the airport (8€.)

Anyway, much more to come on Italy wine-wise. But Venice didn’t just steal my heart. It absolutely ambushed me.

 

Venice San Marco Fresco