After an intense sight-seeing in Italia for 8 days, I was looking forward to spend a mellowed out time in Venezia for 2 days before heading back to San Francisco. At times, when we look back at our Italia trip, it didn’t really quite feel like a vacation. I just remember that we walked a lot, so much that my husband and I lost 3-4 pounds during our 10 day vacation in Italy. Checking the weighing scale after we returned home was the only thing that brought a smile to my grumpy face. Yeah, I was grumpy for a few days after we returned because I didn’t want my vacation to end and it had actually ended.
The Venezian experience begins when the train crosses the Laguna Veneta and enters the Venezia train station. The moment we got out of the train station, we stood there speechless! I have no words to express how I felt. There we were, standing just next to the gorgeous Grand Canal, with beautiful buildings on either sides of the Grand Canal, a plethora of bridges spanning across the Grand Canal, people merrily walking on the streets, water taxis and gondolas tied up to the wooden poles. Everything and everyone looked so joyous.
Our first spot in Venezia was Piazza San Marco and though it is a 30 minutes walk, we decided to walk instead of taking a water taxi. That gave us a chance to look at the different activities going around. The narrow Venezian streets are crowded with restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores, street vendors selling all kinds of souvenirs, the most popular ones being the Venice masks. We even came across a local market with vendors selling fruitte (fruits), verdure (vegetables), frutti di mare (seafood), etc. Street performers added to the already exuberant vibe.
Venice was actually very different from what I had imagined. I’ve always thought Venice is a very romantic city. In fact I know a few people who think Venice is the most romantic city that exists on Mother Earth. “Hmmm, that’s odd”, I thought to myself. I beg to differ; Venice is absolutely beautiful but I never found anything romantic about it.
Anyway, we continued walking and we couldn’t get our eyes off the beautiful and extraordinary Venetian masks. There were masks of all sizes and colors and prices; even ones that cost up to 400 EUROS!
We also stopped at one of the bakeries to buy some of their attractively displayed dolce. Hell with diet and health!
After maneuvering through the narrow streets and the crowd, we finally reached our destination, the prime square of Venice – Piazza San Marco. I think at that point of time, we became immune to the speechless moments; every place just seems to be better than the previous one. We checked in our camera and bags nearby (free for 90 minutes) and stood in the line to go inside the St. Mark’s church. Cameras are not allowed inside the church.
The lines moved fast and we were soon inside the St. Mark’s church. Like we normally do, we admired every little thing inside before stepping out of the church. Just after we collected our camera and bags, it started raining cats and dogs. We ran and found a shelter somewhere near the Doge’s Palace and waited for the rain to stop. It did, after about 30 minutes. The dark clouds drifted away, giving way to the sun. It was bright and sunny, with no evidence of rains whatsoever.
Next to the Doge’s Palace is the Bridge of Sighs. Apparently, it is named Bridge of Sighs because it was the last sight of Venice that the prisoners saw before they were sent to the prison cells. And the crowd standing here to see this bridge and take pictures with the bridge as the backdrop, gosh it was beginning to get a bit annoying.
We absolutely had no agenda for Venice, all we wanted to do is simply amble at our own sweet pace and do things arbitrarily without having to stick to a tight schedule. And that’s exactly what we did.
We walked along the waters, looked at the couples on gondolas, watched how the water taxis moved through the heavy-traffic Grand Canal. Then I said “Hey, how about some cioccolata calda (hot chocolate)?” and my husband replied “Sure” in a zippy. The thick hot chocolate was nothing but heaven in a small cup.
Then we meandered through the streets and decided to chill out the rest of the day in Piazza San Marco, which was full of pigeons. Although feeding pigeons is banned, I did notice people selling pigeon feeds to the visitors. A flock of pigeons would come flying to peck up the food, creating opportunities for beautiful photographic shots.
I personally dislike feeding animals because it ruins their natural habitat. So I just stretched out my hands and stood there like a rock. In a few minutes, a pigeon gracefully parked itself on my hands, and then another. They would stay on my hands for a minute or so and beautifully fly away. It entertained me so much that we hung out there for an hour, waiting for these pigeons to land on my hands. A few sat on my head and a few others on my shoulders.
We were then ready to grab a bite to eat and stopped at one of the eateries to get some to-go pasta. After seating ourselves comfortably on the streets by the canal, we had dinner. It was beginning to get dark and we decided to go back to the hotel. And we got lost! Couldn’t find our way back to the train station and the direction signs were so confounding. We just walked and walked and walked, and it only seemed like we were walking through a labyrinth. The streets were empty, the shops were closed and the streets were not well-lit. It was honestly scary.
Luckily, we hit one of the main streets that reached the train station. Phew! With a sense of relief, we took the train back to the hotel, eager to return the next day to go to Murano, Burano, go on the Gondola ride and take the water taxi via the Grand Canal.