|We arrived via train early in the afternoon. When we exited the train station we found our self at vaporetto central. What does that mean? Well vaporettos are the busses of Venice or more precisely the water taxis. There are no cars, busses and trucks nor did we see a single bicycle, only boats. Boats are taxis, transportation, recreation, deliveries and yes they even become a Hearst to transport coffins. So now we had to get our bearings and figure out how to pay, board and where the heck is the Silvestro stop? We bought a 24 hour ticket and were on our way. After making about 10 stops I looked up and saw our hotel, Locanda Ovidius, on the Grand Canal making the navigation to our hotel from the next stop a no brainer. Sometimes we get lucky!
Checked in, dropped off our luggage and off we went to see what we could find. When reading the travel guide many things don’t become clear until you see and experience them so ultimately they really are just guide books. We decided the first thing we should do is understand the water taxi system and rode it to the end, roughly just past St. Mark’s square, another 30 minutes along the canal. Wow, interesting and unlike anything we had experienced before. The boat travel was not so exciting for us as it is for many but in reality it’s an efficient way to travel here and every vaporetto was at least half full to sardine packed. At any stop we never waited longer than 10 minutes to hop a ride.
On our first full day, we found a spot at the hotel dining room along the canal where we could watch the waterway and the construction boats, delivery boats and everything else that happens early in every city. It was raining. For the next 5 days it rained with bouts of sunshine. I learned after we arrived that in the late fall, Venice floods. Oh joy! So every morning, just 2 hours before high tide, an alarm sounds all over the city. Southerly winds push the swells up the Adriatic which run into the islands of Venice, also known as Venezia. We asked questions and found that we needed wellies, otherwise known as Wellington /rubber boots. Of course we did not have boots so off we went. We found that each day, street crews appeared and placed sections of platforms out on the main walkways to avoid getting your feet wet. Locals wear their boots and tread through the water. Because the whole city of Venice is built on wooden piers under water, it is easy to find a multitude of leaning buildings. There are doors that are submerged, shops that get flooded in spite of their 2 ft. high flood doors, walkways that disappear and tourists like us watching in awe. Did I mention that the whole city floods? Water rises through vents in the sidewalks all throughout the city, not just along the canal. As the guide book also suggested, Venice is filled with decadent decay! I know from experience salt water will do that. At one time Venice was an important trading port which became filled with very wealthy people. Homes and hotels along the canal were once spectacular in their day and many have retained much of their splendor.
Another day we went on a walkabout only to get lost. Because of bridges and waterways, much of the city is disconnected. We got lost more than once. So what did we do? We walked the flooded St. Mark’s square and walked on platforms throughout the church to see the beautiful mosaic floors on top of so much settling that the floors have waves in them but incredible nonetheless. The Academia was filled with more important works of art. The Guggenheim collection with modern art was on our list but flooding prevented us from getting there twice. The famous Rialto Bridge was just steps away from our hotel and always filled with tourists taking pictures. The Rialto market was quite good with fresh foods but the fish market there was better than we have seen anywhere. It made the fish at Pike’s market in Seattle look old. These fish were still moving; shrimp, little fish, big fish, squid, octopus, scallops and lots of things we have never seen on a plate. On separate trips we took vaporettos to outlying islands like Lido where we walked along the beach with hundreds of little beach huts and to Murano island. Murano is where the famous glass of Venice is shaped and formed into incredibly beautiful things. We wandered around Murano and admired much of the glass art but did not go into a glass factory. We heard they were “free” but high pressured tours so we opted out as we were able to see glass blowing at the glass museum in Tacoma, Washington. We got lost walking for hours in the Jewish Ghetto until we found the vaporetto. We came to terms with our cappuccino addiction and continued to seek it out multiple times daily. We did not ride a gondola since most afternoons the weather presented wind, rain and the cool temperature but after all, we do live on a boat so the thrill just wasn’t there though I understand the attraction.
Our stay in Venice was bittersweet. It was new and different, we found an incredible happy hour at a bra filled bar called Bacarro Jazz where I enjoyed too many Bellinis (and didn’t lose my bra), we stumbled upon a great restaurant we visited repeatedly, it rained and flooded, the steamy vaporettos were filled with people coughing and sneezing which eventually overtook me, our hotel room was directly above a restaurant kitchen which ran till midnight and began again at 7 a.m. Wwe were becoming road weary after 7 weeks in Europe and started to look towards Milan and heading back to the U.S. but I must admit, it was great fun while it lasted.