Venice certainly has a certain magic to it. Though it’s certainly the most unique place I’ve been in Italy… no, the world. But what have I been doing to keep myself busy in the town of canals? Well (of course), I’ll tell you.
First, though, some general impressions about Venice. Like I said, I was not expecting just the pure sheer weight of tourism here. Everyone, even the Italians it seems, are tourists. At first, it’s a little comforting, but also it’s a little disconcerting. Where are the “local restaurants” and the “hidden places” in a town of tourism. This is coming from Rome too which is like tourist central. I obviously loved Rome but I’m struggling with that aspect of Venice. It is strange to me that in Venice, you don’t walk down every street or alley to find at least one tabbachi, one alimentari, one bakery, one bar, etc. It makes things actually a little complicated because- even in Florence and Bologna in the last few days—it was just, well if I want coffee, I can get it HERE or HERE or HERE. It’s hard to find a store besides imitation Murano glass and tacky Venice souvenirs. I usually like windowshopping clothes which I thought would be so easy here. Apparently not, as I could almost not find one clothing store. And I thought the Northern Italians were SO much more fashionable than the Southerners. But I guess I can’t complain too much. Here in Venice, what you get is what you take.
Probably a result of this is that Venice is also VERY expensive. I should have known that when my budget hotel (in the home of the Salesian fathers) was overpriced that that would be the theme of the town. Even some of the churches charge admission to walk around. (Cue lying about prayers—I don’t carry that rosary in my bag for nothing). But, I’ve decided that money is just money and that I’m working this summer (and every summer since sophomore year of highschool for a reason—so I’m treating myself to Venice).
But how?? Enough generalizations! So, I roll into Venice on Sunday evening and immediately board a vaporetto (one of the water buses (there are no cars or buses in Venice for canal reasons). Unlike Bologna, I had actually prepped some directions for myself, so I got on the right vaporetto and in no time was at the “patronato”—my hotel. I took my time unpacking, showering, refreshing before wandering. The hotel is right on the lagoon near La Giardiene A really stunning view. So I wandered a little through the streets and lost myself a little. But soon I got hungry and thus began the internal struggle between cheapness and quality. In the end I did chose quality because I saw a “Slow Food-certified” restaurant in an area that seemed surrounded by tourist traps and I took the leap. I’ve been trying to order Venetian food, so it was cuttlefish with asparagus for me. Different but not bad. If you’ve ever seen it, the cuttlefish is usually cooked in its own ink creating this unique and messy black sauce. The plate looks like a murder victim for a pen.
After dinner I was strolling along the lagoon when I saw the sign for a Vivaldi concert (they’re a dime a dozen here in Venice). So, I thought, why not. Bought my student-reduced ticket and enjoyed a really excellent performance of a few selections but, of course, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The first violin was really an incredible performer. It was a relaxing way to end a day of travel before turning in with my strictly rationed wifi. (I’d explain, but it’s not worth the effort).
I woke up for the free breakfast before heading off to Lido, my first stop. I really wanted to go to the beach and I read good things about Lido, an island across the lagoon. However, I suffered from classic Staten Island island logic, expecting the island to be tiny when in fact it was rather large. So, I wandered a little (too long actually—got a little frustrated) looking for the beach. I did find it and spent a few relaxing hours in the sun reading and just listening to the ocean. Turns out, not only did I pass the beach I ended up going to in the first five minutes before my long wander (which was scenic but annoying), but if I didn’t get on the bus to go, and just walked five minutes, there was another free beach—that’s life, right? I was the better for it, probably. Mistakes were made but the sun was great.
I bought a quick to-go salad to eat on the vaporetto to the main island. During the ride, I struck up conversation with an old Italian lady whose husband was talking with a friend. She helped me with my Italian and we had a very (difficult for me) but nice little conversation until I got to my first real stop of the day: the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.
Because of course, I had to go to a museum. But after the Uffizi, I needed some modernism (even though I did really flirt with the Venetian Accademia and Cini Palazzo) and I was fascinated to see the former home of Peggy Guggenheim. The museum was amazing. It’s her old palazzo with all her own personal paintings from artists like Jackson Pollock, Chagall, Ernst, Picasso, Klee, and Miro who also just happened to be her good friends (and sometimes spouses). They had all these pictures of her in her home when the furniture was there and it was just fun to think of Peggy wandering around with her little dogs (both Peggy and the dogs are buried in the yard). Plus, the palazzo as right on the Grand Canal so when I needed a sit break, which I did, I could just sit outside, look at the canal, gather my thoughts, and go back to the Picasso. Such a struggle.
Like I said, when I was done the Guggenheim, I thought about another museum but instead I wanted to wander. I remembered my Goethe. “I tried to find my way in and out of the labyrinth by myself, asking nobody the way…I find my method of personal experience the best.” Even if I don’t think travelling alone is always the best, there is something to be send for just letting you travel without any thought of site or place. The palazzos and apartments and little canals are all so scenic enough on their own.
I was, knowing me, headed in some direction. Towards the church of San Barnaba. Why? Because I’m a true nerd and was thinking of all I knew about Venice and immediately thought of the Last Crusade. Remember when Indie goes to the library to find the grave of the crusader knight—well I found out the filming location of the church and was determined to go there. It exceeded expectations. I was in love. I had a gelato there—it may be my last gelato in Italy (because I leave the country tomorrow!!) just because the experience was so perfect for me.
Then, more wandering. In and out alleys, piazzas, etc. Finally I got the Grand Canal. Walked across the Rialto Bridge. It was amazing though like everything else grand in Italy for me, half of it was under restoration (first the Trevi, now this!) Then I did some more wandering hoping to put myself more in my direction. Instead I found the Ca d’Oro, the famous palazzo. No regrets. Finally I did get myself in the right direction and treated myself to a most delicious meal. The waiter was fantastic and it turned out, I was not the only one eating alone. There was a lovely French lady, we exchanged multilingual pleasantries as she left.
But now I’m back, after a night vaporetto ride back through the lagoon, I’m back in the room, showered and dreading the inevitable pack. I unpacked completely just to get my stuff some air. But it’s all got to go back in. Wish me luck.