We were having so much fun in Rome we completely messed up our train schedule and lost both our train tickets to Venice and a night in our pre-scheduled accommodations! Our Airb&b host in Venice was gracious but not happy. He waited for us, and didn’t know where we were. We received an email that tipped us off to our mistake.
“I am not some hotel open 24-hours a day where you can come and go as you please.”
Oh dear! We’ll thank you for your hospitality. We were in Rome. Need we say more? Let’s just say we started out on a bad foot in Venice before we even got there. This error cut our 4 day stay down to 3.
In Venice there are no cars or roadways. Canals snake through the city which is a hodgepodge of narrow confusing streets, composed of 118 little islands with over 400 bridges. The entire city is one giant maze on steroids! The city began as a refuge for Roman citizens on the mainland who sought protection from barbarian invasions.
Arriving in Venice
All of the trains stop at the Venezia Mestre train station on the mainland and most continue across the causeway to Venezia S.L. located on the island of Venice. We exited the train station and immediately entered a line to buy some passes for the vaporetto (ferry) system (7 Euros each.) The map of the ferry system around Venice is a bit overwhelming, but can be deciphered similarly to a subway system.
The vaporetto boats are nothing to write home about. Excuse us if we are a bit critical here, but they are nothing more than a hunk of floating metal on the water. Neither the docks nor the vaporetto’s have fenders.
The vaporetto captains leave much to be desired with their docking skills. Without fenders there is nothing to cushion the blow between the boat and the dock except for the sound of metal on concrete. The vaporetto’s are rammed into the docks at each and every stop.
Short History of Venice
After the collapse of the Roman empire during 400 A.D., a rush of Barbarians came sweeping down into Italy from Northern Europe. The first settlers in the Venice lagoon were frightened populations of cities who fled mainland Italy seeking refuge where their enemies could not follow them.
As each wave of invaders swept across the mainland more and more people found safety in the channels and shoals of the lagoon. Some people returned to the mainland after it was safe while others decided to reside in Venice permanently. Those that did remain established the city in 421 A.D.
The water separating Venice from the mainland had protected Venice from invaders and isolated Venetians from the Italian political life. The greatest wealth found in the lagoon was fish and salt.
Trading these items allowed the early settlers to purchase additional items they needed. They fixed their attention towards the East to the rich markets of Levantine and Constantinople. This began the great mercantile empire of the Venetian Republic.
Where We Stayed
After a lot of waiting around, and hauling our suitcases back and forth over numerous canal bridges, we made it to the Campanile Bell Tower in St. Marks Square where we waited for our host.
Our place was located two right turns and one left turn from the back of the square. After apologizing to our host and explaining what happened he seemed more forgiving. Then he gave us the low down about his city.
“Don’t be one of those people wandering around with your nose buried in your electronic device looking at Google Maps. That doesn’t work here. Just walk through the streets and read the signs on the corners. They will tell you where you are, and don’t be afraid to get lost here, IT’S AN ISLAND!”
And let’s not forget our favorite bit of advice . . .
“When you take a shower, the water will come out from under the bathroom door. Don’t worry about it. Venice floods. The floor inside is slanted towards the entry door. So, the water from the shower will run under the bathroom door and exit out the front door.”
We did not test this theory.
We did however take his advice to sneak our own snacks and a bottle of wine to St. Mark’s Square after 10 PM. Here we discretely had our own picnic and listened to the impressive 5 piece orchestra bands playing excellent music well into the night.
Piazza San Marco
St. Mark’s Square is a very large square about two football fields long surrounded by historical buildings such as St. Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace, the Campanile Bell Tower, and offices of the republic. Cafe’s surrounding the square feature dueling orchestras. Pigeons flock for regular feedings, and cruise ship passengers wait in endless lines to see the sites.
In fact the passengers from SEVEN cruise ships had descended on the Island during our visit. This made seeing any of the sites without waiting in massive long lines impossible. So we skipped it all, and wandered the tiny streets, climbing endless bridges, and made a valiant effort to get lost.
Unlike the vaporetto drivers, the gondolier’s appear to know what they are doing. We watched the gondolas navigate passengers with ease through the narrow canals and a 2 foot wind chop. The gondola is a cross between a canoe and coffin. A single oar is used to propel the boat forward, backwards and everything in between.
Venice At Night
The most rewarding part of Venice was found after dark. The narrow streets were more accessible. Cruise ships passengers abandon the city to make their way back to their buffet line. The lamp lit lights twinkle on the water. Live orchestra music plays while dancing starts in the square under a starry night. Magic fills the air. Perfect time for a stroll.