I may get in trouble for saying this but… Venice never appealed to me.
Despite the countless photos of canals, the unique architecture, and its claim to fame as “the city on the water”, I just never felt the desire to explore the narrow streets and get serenaded on a gondola. Call me a cynic, but I was convinced Venice wasn’t my thing.
I first went to Venice in 2010 during my backpacking tour of Europe with my girlfriend. Despite being underwhelmed with the idea, she made the valid point that “We’re in Italy, we HAVE to see Venice”, so I agreed with hesitation. We went in the late fall and the city was quiet – a stark contrast to what I witnessed last week during my second visit. Back then we roamed the streets for a day or two, taking in the “Must-See’s”, such as the Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Square. We had an insanely overpriced cocktail at Harry’s Bar, where the Bellini is thought to have originated from, and… that’s it in a nutshell.
Needless to say, I didn’t leave a piece of my heart in Venice nor did my opinion of the city change much after I saw it firsthand, so there was no strong urge to see it again.
But, as they say, sometimes things are better the second time around.
This time, Venice was different. There were a variety of reasons; first, it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, the sun was shining, the weather was hot, and the city was alive with people. Second, I was being shown the city by locals, our friends from Bologna were our tour guides for the day, and having people who know the city make a world of difference. Their love for their country and knowledge for the city oozes out of every pore in their bodies. Being in Venice with locals allowed us to slip trough the throngs of tourists and enjoy the city without falling into the typical traps.
It was like seeing the city for the first time, and despite it being overcrowded for a “one-day only” visit, it was just perfect.
We wandered the back streets, which were almost free of selfie-sticks and Tilly hats, had a beautiful experience at the Mazzega Glass Factory on Murano Island, dinner under the Rialto Bridge at Al Buso and ended the night testing our luck at the Venice Casino, the oldest casino in the world.
Any day that ends with sipping on champagne at a monument like this, is a great day in my books. It was such an amazing time, I don’t know if I will be able to go back to Venice, because it completely changed my opinion of the city in every way. I want to always remember this place with the utmost fondness, now that I have changed my tune about “the city on the water”.
Here are five random facts I learned about Venice during my day in the city:
– Venice itself is built on over 100 individual islands, many with their own claim to fame, such as the world renown glass blowing on Murano Islands, or Burano Island being famous for its artisan lace.
– It is bad luck to walk between the two columns topped by statues of the city’s patron saints, who guard the waters edge by Piazza San Marco and Piazzetta di San Marco. Locals consider this because public executions took place in this spot.
– Despite the seemingly endless gondolas sailing through the canals, only three to four new Gondolier Licenses are issued annually.
– Approximately 18 million tourists visit Venice each year, with an average of 50,000 flooding the streets each day.
– There are over 400+ pedestrian footbridges spanning over the canals. This is truly a city built on water.
In conclusion, I now suggest that everyone who has the chance should see this one-of-a-kind city, beautiful and unique in every way. Do your homework, be prepared, and if possible, go with a local.
Have you ever seen Venice? Whats were your impressions – or secrets to navigate?