We arrived in Venice two days before our ferry departure to Corfu, a sensible enough time for my son to explore this beautiful city of canals.
But towing a caravan with a right-hand drive (British) car where everyone else takes the left-hand drive is not particularly easy in this eternally-chaotic road to Venice. And even with a TomTom (GPS car navigation system), one is bound to lose his way because road signs in Italy suddenly vanish just when you have been hopelessly depending on them like they are your lifeline to your destination. “Vanishing roadsigns”..this tops the many road nightmares that any foreign driver has to go through in this country. (Another is overtaking through a center double-line inside a tunnel)
We saw the sign “Campsite” and I instantly daydreamed of hot showers and clean restrooms, what with my last real shower taking place 1.5 days* ago, the day we left home.
* 1.5 days because we had to go to the caravan site 3 hours drive from home to do some repairs and maintenance works making it fit(ter) for the journey, then driving it towards Venezia the next day.
I was still in daydreaming mode when H blurted out, “that bloody sign, it disappeared!”
(….shower jet images vanishing like stardusts…)
So instead of endlessly driving around curving and narrow alleys in search of that elusive campsite, we gave up prematurely and drove straight for the causeway (connecting Venice to the mainland) before something more unpleasant happens like one wheel falling on a ditch or the whole caravan getting stuck in quicksand.
We followed the sign to Tronchetto Carpark, the same covered carpark that, two years ago, served as our “cheap hotel” for 3 consecutive nights. But this time, our target is the open-air carpark for caravans, buses and vans. We quickly found it, hurray!
To celebrate our safe arrival to Venice with our caravan still in one piece, we quickly set up our picnic tables and chairs and brought out some eatables constituting what they call an “Apero” (short for aperitif): wine, olives, cheese, bread, dried sausage…. all originated from France…. hmmm isn’t life soooo good!
At the Tronchetto car park – probably the biggest money-making carpark in Europe – there are zones for buses, for vans, for vehicles towing boats as well as for caravans. We parked at the bus zone because we thought we were too long to be in the caravan zone; quite a wrong move, i thought, because the caravan zone, we found, is fitted with water taps and is surrounded by laurier rose bushes creating a feeling of privacy and tranquility. The bus zone on the other hand is noisy and exposed. We found that out as soon as we woke up the next day.
Around 9 every morning, tourist buses in big numbers start arriving after dropping their passengers near the vaporetto terminal. Each bus driver would spend like 10 minutes manuevering their vehicles, finding the best angle and the best corner to park – all this creating so much engine noise and diesel fumes that would unpleasantly find their way inside our caravan-home because we are situated on that corner where they do most of their manuevering. And this process would be repeated 80+ times, which is the number of buses coming into Tronchetto carpark each day. Boy! we could just imagine that every non-European tourist who comes on a tour package would most likely include Venice in their itinerary hence the carpark operator is laughing and rolling his way to the bank!
Parking fee is 21euros per 12 hours, so multiply that by 80 buses, that amounts to 1,680euros! How about the other vehicles who don’t park at the bus zone? And we have not included the multilevel covered carpark. I’m telling you, this is the biggest money-making carpark in the whole of Europe and possibly the world!
And let me give you a naughty peek of what normally happens in the bus zone – obviously this happens only from May till September when the sun bakes like an oven.
Every morning, as soon as each bus is satisfactorily parked, the drivers (Germans, Dutch, Eastern Europeans among others) take off their clothes, change into their swimming trunks (others in their knickers), exposing their distended guts and sometimes embarassing body contours for all they care, then with long handled brushes, start cleaning their buses – windows, sides and all – and then spend the rest of their working day resting, some would sleep in lounge chairs, some would be joining other drivers and chat, still in their knickers or trunks, then, by 4pm, don back their driver’s uniform and one by one leave the carpark to pick up their passengers who would by then waiting at the same spot where they were dropped that morning.
Hey, don’t get me wrong. We did not hang out in the carpark the whole day just to observe them. Of course, we did go out and enjoyed Venice as well.
For the 2.5 days that we parked there, our parking bill amounted to 69euros. We used the facilities of the carpark such as the restrooms and the water taps in the caravan zone which served as al fresco showers. It was great: showering in the open! We did it in the dark though when no one was looking! And with our caravan providing the accommodation and kitchen facilities, 69euros for 3 people for 2.5 days is not bad.
Pennypinching trick no. 1: Avoid the vaporetto, go walking.
The red arrow line is the route of the vaporetto to any stop in Venice, here shown is the San Zaccaria stop that will take you to Piazza San Marco.
The green arrow line is your walking route from Piazzale Roma to any point in Venice Island.
From the Tronchetto carpark where you arrive by car or tourist bus, you can walk to P. Roma.
From the Santa Lucia railway station where you will arrive by train, you can walk through and around Venice island. With a map, follow the walk towards the Rialto Bridge and onwards to San Marco. The sights are simply mindblowing….
“The Bridge of Sighs”
The second most important bridge in Venice after the Rialto, this 16th century bridge connecting the Ducal Palace (Palazzo Ducale) to the dungeon-like New Prisons (Prigioni Nuove) was given its name due to the “sighs of pain” from the condemned prisoners as they crossed the “ponte”, took in their last views of Venice from the windows, before they were led to their execution.
What the ……..*% @!!!
You’ve just seen…..the commercialization of the bridge, May 2009
Window Shopping in Venice
A perfect place to picnic is right on this quay, next to the fish market near the Rialto bridge. A lot of picnicking tourists are scattered around here. It’s very accessible to the fruit market too if you later decide to have fruits for dessert.