Venice is a place one must see in his lifetime. We have heard and read so much about this amazing city of canals but seeing it is another story!
This trip to Venice was just a transit point to a 24-hour ferry trip to our main destination, Corfu, Greece. The ferry port to the Greek islands is in Venice, so we squeezed a 3-day tour of the city before sailing. We will be camping in Corfu so our car was filled up to the roof with our big tent, sleeping bags, inflatable mattress, a 2-burner cooker, snorkelling gears, picnic box, fridge, collapsible table and chairs, blankets and sheets, cooking pots and pans, coffee-making accessories, food, boxes of wine….
We left the house the night before, slept in an autoroute stop, up at 7am to continue on with the remaining one hour journey to Venezia (total driving hours – six). Alas! the autoroute was choked with cargo trucks, practically “bullying” lower cars such as ours. Why are there so many of them? well, they must be heading to the port of Venice. that is where produce and products from mainland Europe are ferried into Greece and vice versa. there’s also the supply going to Venice itself, because Venice is a cluster of small islands dependent on the mainland for provisions.
We planned to drive towards Camping Fusina, our base for the next 3 days, but alas! we missed a turn and suddenly found ourselves driving over the causeway. Venice is connected to the mainland via a 3 km causeway. Tourists arriving by air via the Marco Polo airport – so named because this wonderful city is the birthplace of Marco Polo , by train and by car pass through this causeway – with cars stopping right at the Piazzale Roma which is a dead end and trains at the train station right at the Grand Canal.
And so, stuck in the middle of the causeway, we had to turn back and re-trace the road to the campsite. Suddenly, we saw a huge carpark just at the edge of the causeway, and next to it, a multilevel carpark which we later found to be charging only 20euros per day. Ten euros cheaper than the campsite. So the error of missing a turn was a blessing in disguise. We are now even closer to Venice itself! We shall sleep in the car, as usual, in that carpark which is also equipped with restrooms and a vending machine dispensing a delicious cup of mokkacino or espresso for only 80 centimes!
It was 10 am and we were raring to get to Venice proper quickly. Finding the vaporetto pier., we saw tourist buses arriving all at the same time, unloading hoardes of tourists – Americans and Japanese in big numbers! But the American accent was very dominant, if one will just close his eyes, he could have guessed that he was in Texas! these tourists were stopping at an area surrounded by souvenir shops selling the usual Venetian masks, Venetian bags, Venetian this and that. Not surprisingly, they are mostly manned by Indians! Why do Indians always end up manning souvenir shops, convenience stores and internet cafes? Well at least, they always try to work for themselves, not like us Pinoys who are already identified as domestic helpers in some English Dictionary.
We bought vaporetto tickets which we found a big rip-off at 6 euros each, valid for only one hour! Amazingly, there was no inspector to check who has ticket and who has not. We found out later that we have to feed it into the ticket machine for stamping…sorry!
We got down to San Zaccaria pier which is the best spot to start the walk towards Piazza San Marco. Such mind-blowing beauty! The architecture was simply amazing! The very charming bridges as short as four meters! A large crowd was looking down at the water, we joined in and there we saw a gondola – the first we’ve ever seen since we set foot in Venice an hour ago. Everybody was clicking their cameras! Boy! I’ve never seen so much people with so much cameras in my life!
More impressive and richly-decorated buildings, apartments with colours of fading pastel. Then we were standing next to the Doge’s Palace with its perfectly replicated series of arches and next to it, the Basilica de San Marco looking like a jeweled structure with its glorious domes.
Like other tourists, I couldn’t stop clicking my camera away This is just too much! I am simply blown away by the magnificent architecture around me. H already looked like an abandoned spouse, walking alone, kept stopping to search for me. This famed city of Romance. Is it really? Or city where contemplation of divorce proceedings take place! But despite my guilt, the call of my photographic passion is definitely stronger …..at least, while I am in Venice.
The Piazza San Marco is swarmed by waves of tourists from morning till night! It’s definitely a part of every tour companies’ itinerary judging by the huge numbers of tour groups, each flocked together following their tour guide who is easily recognizable as one holding an umbrella or a flag up over her head. It’s a standard image of a tour guide I’ve seen everywhere. Ridiculous, I thought, but that’s the way it is! The guide does it so her flock can follow her in the middle of this maddening crowd! Japanese groups, American groups, Chinese groups, all ears to the commentaries of their guides which to my honest belief, is just a wasteful use of stopover hours. Heck! I could research on the entire history of the islands as soon as I get home! Venice is just too interesting that you are forgiven if you sneak away and go discover it on your own!
Venice is a maze of narrow streets. You can easily get lost despite clutching a map for a map doesn’t always have the name of the street you are looking for. Signs with arrows pointing to the direction of the Rialto or to that of San Marco are posted on few alley
corners, supposedly to guide you, but you could end up walking endlessly without any familiar landmark on sight except some magical corners or mysterious alleys attracting your curiousity to delve some more, and walk furthermore…. the only limit to this
endless discovery is when your legs couldn’t take it any longer..when lifting a leg is becoming a painful effort!
My camera never had a chance to rest because every square meter of the place is delightfully photogenic! I find myself taking shots even at doorbells, at men-at-work or even at laundry hangings! It’s the canals that take your breath away!
shop selling Murano glassworks
The endless rows of beautifully-laden shops are fascinating! They definitely add to Venice’s oozing charm! shops selling the famous Venetian masks and Murano glass are just about everywhere! but a lof of them are also manned by the Chinese. While the Indian souvenir shops in makeshift kiosks are outside the city, the Chinese are right in the center, in real, historically preserved buildings! And it doesn’t end there. They even run pizzerias and restaurants! You can’t blame them. All they want in this world is to make money, and money can easily be made in Venice. Just watching the flow of tourists every second! Venice survives out of tourism. you take it away and it will stop existing!
Two Filipinos we bumped into and got into chatting (Pinoys there work in restaurants and hotels) say that the Chinese in Venice are going crazy scurryingly buying businesses here and there!
Time for lunch. we searched for a reasonably-priced eatery and saw a pizzeria in a back alley. Again, a Chinese proprietorship. A Chinese waitress came to get our order. The Nastro Azzurro, an Italian beer, despite its price of 3.50euros (in Brussels this will cost
you only 2euros) was deliciously cold and refreshing! then came our order of pizza. we asked for “piquante” (a bottle of olive oil spiced with chilli and herbs) but were shocked to be given a Tabasco sauce! French and Italians would never serve you pizza with Tabasco sauce or even ketchup …it has to be olive oil or none at all! sadly, this is the price of Chinisizing Europe!
The Piazza San Marco at night is a different universe. This is where you get high on just everything elegant! Two orchestras playing classical musi .and a third one, the waltz! All these rapturous music that never fail to bring the goose pimples out of me is simply
divine and they’re free! Those tourists with money to spare could sit on the cafe at close range with these dinner-jacket-wearing musicians, but us, the penny-pinchers would rather stand at the far end equally enjoying the same music. It’s actually the most fantastic open-air “concert” I’ve ever been! The elegant buildings in the backdrop and the romantic air create such fantasy plus you get to bump into wealthy and celebrity-looking tourists walking hand in hand with their equally good-looking partners!
boy! I actually thought one of them was George Clooney!
In the meantime, H was running out of words. He actually wants to live here and be surrounded by all these stunning architecture, these charming canals, these art and culture. Gee, we could be watching these free concerts every night, too! and there are no cars, no fumes, no traffic. If we were rich, we would live in Venice in a heartbeat!
orchestra playing infront of Cafe Florian