0444 My Childhood Fantasy City (Italy 001—new)

Venice Travel Blog

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Since starting this 30 day bus pass thing, there’s been once city at the top of my list:  Venice.  Finally I’ve been able to book a ticket there.

 

So why is a great adventurer like myself so obsessed with visiting the world’s ultimate tourist trap? Well… a couple of reasons… for one thing, I’m tired of having to tell people “yes, I’ve been to Italy… but only for a couple of hours--  I just visited a city near the airport… No, I haven’t been to Venice or Rome… blah, blah, blah…”


Secondly, I know that staying in Venice is extremely expensive and I imagine that getting there is also expensive.  This is my golden opportunity to travel there for free, see the city, and then leave the next night without spending a dime (except on, maybe a pizza…)

 

But the real reason is that, well, when I was a kid I had a very fertile imagination.

  One thing I would do was create entire cities designs in my head and on paper… amazing cities… And one of my favourite imaginary cities was a city with no streets--  only canals where you had to either swim, wade or ride in a boat from place to place. 

 

Of course, when I heard about Venice, I felt that somebody had stolen my idea… and I dreamed of seeing the city with my own eyes…

 

Now my childhood dream will finally come true…

 

I wake up Milan where I have to change buses.  From there I continue on through the industrialized north of Italy.

  Not all that beautiful I have to say--  at least, not what I can see from the freeway…


Finally we reach the bus station and everyone gets off…

 

I quickly check to see if I can book a ticket for tonight to somewhere else, but I can’t, so I go ahead a book my ticket for tomorrow night.  That’s OK, I’m sure I won’t be bored of Italy in two days…

 

The only problem is finding a place to stay.  I’m not even going to try to book a hostel room in Venice in the middle of the summer… I head out from the station to try to get my bearings…

 

I’m actually in the town of Mestre, on the mainland across from Venice… I walk through a trash ridden park past some shifty looking individuals… I wonder how far I’ll have to hike before I find a safe place to camp…

 

I see a sign that reads “Albergo”… probably way out of my price range… but might as well check it out… it turns out that it is a hostel… and they’ve got beds for 23 Euros a night…

 

I quickly raise the cap on how much I’m willing to spend on a hostel from 20 to 23 Euros… After all, this is Venice and I want to experience Venice in style…

 

I quickly drop off my bag and head back to the train station.

  There I encounter a rather pleasant surprise…  It’s only 1 Euro to get to Venice!  That’s odd… I thought everything was supposed to be ridiculously expensive here… Within minutes we were speeding across the water to my Childhood Fantasy Town…

 

I step out of the train station,  and into the excitement of Venice.

I’m not disappointed by this unique little city.  Sure, the main walkways are crammed with people and 90% of them are tourists.  Sure, everywhere you look you see t-shirt shops, postcard shops and folks hawking souvenirs.  But if you just step of the main drag you find yourself in a much more authentic feeling milieu, with folks hanging up their clothes to dry high above… with people parallel parking their boats and climbing directly into their houses… There are plenty of back alleys that still feel unexplored…

 

Despite being so touristy, there’s a shabby charm to Venice.

  Waterstains on all the buildings, chunks of plaster missing and bricks exposed… you’d almost think that there’s some sort of law against fixing up the exterior of you house.  It gives the impression of a beautiful city that’s slowly dying… with style…

 

That’s one thing that makes the Venice experience so special… Seeing people’s doorways just inches above the water level gives the impression that you’re in an extremely vulnerable city… a city rich in cultural and architectural treasures that could simply disappear in the near future. This drives you to try to soak in everything you possibly can, in case this be your last chance to experience Venice…

 

Venice has a big canal that makes a loop right around the center, dividing the city into two sections.

  I opt to wander around without following a map and end up following the outer loop all the way around the city.  I take a lots of little side trips to explore the back alleys, most of which dead end at a canal… I find a couple of cool spots to take video clips as well, with gondola’s and bridges in the background.  The bridge over the main canal, lined with jewelry shops on the bridge itself, is pretty cool…

 

Suddenly I find myself outside of touristy Venice among rather run down buildings… and then, without realizing it I wander on to a military zone of sorts… nobody bothers me so I just keep walking until I make it back around down a long boring street to where I first started, at the train station…

 

Back where I started, I take a quick glance at my map.  It seems that I completely missed the number one landmark of Venice: Piazza San Marco. So I head out across the main canal to the island inside the loop… There I find a much homier Venice, with fewer tourists and no main walkway--  just an endless labyrinth past little plazas, cozy homes and shops and little chapels…

 

I’m enjoying it--  but I’m also getting frustrated because any time I try to cross the main canal to go towards Piazza San Marco, I reach a dead end--  and it’s not possible to follow along the main canal until I find a bridge… But I do find a lot of cool museums, a big market, and beautiful churches right along the canal.



Finally, once again, I’m right back where I started… And dusk is quickly setting in… I look at the map again and discover the problem:  there simply aren’t very many bridges crossing the main canal on the eastside…

 

So this time I decide admit defeat and follow the map, turn by turn until I reach Piazza San Marco…

It’s pretty dark when I get there, so I can’t take any really good pictures, but I can still enjoy the architectural and artistic wonders of the place…

 

From the I continue on east along the shore, all the way to the end of the city… enjoying some open space for a change… Near the edge of the city, is “billionaire row”--  a row of luxury yachts--  or I should say ships, as some of them are as big as cruise ships…

 

Finally I reach the park at the edge of town.

  And I declare Venice officially explored…


But I’m in no hurry to head back to my hostel.  Venice should also be experienced after dark… watching the dark silhouettes of the gondolas slither through the narrow canals, past restaurant windows that are just a few feet above the water… Yes, it does awaken the romantic side in me, even though I’m all by myself… The gondaliers themselves aren’t all that romantic--  you’re more likely to see one of them scratching his balls than hearing him sing… but many of the passengers provide their own entertainment… One lady was singing opera… others sing to accordion music, their voices echoing through the watery streets of Venice…

 

Some might find all this a bit corny and Disneyland-esque… I prefer to just enjoy the experience, artificial though it be.  And I won’t complain about all the tourists… tourists are what keep Venice alive.  You have to be pretty hard core to want to live in year round in a very damp city where you can only reach your house on foot or by boat…

 

And the food?  Actually I was pleasantly surprised… Ice cream cones are much cheaper here than in Lyon, and you can get a big slice of pizza for a very reasonable price…

 

So I meander back towards the train station… through a bar and club that’s hopping with the younger Venice crowd…

 

Very fun day… a bit of a guilty pleasure… but no apologies whatsoever…

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Venice
photo by: asturjimmy