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Published: July 27th 2013
Steve went to Venice a long (long) time ago, on a school trip, his lasting memories were that it was crowded and smelly and that his ice cream cost a fortune, for these reasons it hadn’t been one of the places he was keen to revisit. When we began to plan our route to Slovenia however, we realised it was pretty much on our way, we decided to make it a stopping point. Additionally, I’ve never been before and was really keen to visit.
We were lucky to find a good campsite, just a short bus ride away from the city so arranged three nights there so we could have two full days exploring.
Venice fascinates me! It’s made up of 117 islands, connected by around 400 bridges over 150 canals. Underneath, the buildings are supported by huge wooden uprights set in to the clay floor beneath the water. The large cruise ships that visit Venice daily, have been accommodated by the digging of deeper channels but these let more sea water in to the lagoon which corrode the foundations of the buildings and, over time, increase high tide making the city even more vulnerable to flooding. Upkeep of
the city is constant and expensive but it’s so beautiful and unique to see, everyone who visits should take their own steps to try and help preserve it rather than destroy.
We took a bus from our campsite, all busses, cabs and trains terminate at the end of the bridge from the mainland, once you arrive, you then wander the streets on foot or take a boat. The city is divided in to six districts but, even with a map, the labyrinth of tiny streets, alleys and bridges are mind boggling! However, everywhere you look there are signposts on the buildings to Piazza San Marco: St Mark’s Basilica, a huge church with elaborate domes, marble walls and intricate mosaics.The church stands in a large open square (where you’re not allowed to eat anything for fear of dropping litter, there are litter police!), to the left of the church, as you face it, there is a beautiful clock tower: Torre dell’Orologio, displaying a gold leafed clock that tracks lunar phases as well, there is a legend that the creators of the clock were put to death once the masterpiece had been finished so that no other city could copy it
but when the clock malfunctioned and the bells began to ring randomly, no one knew how to fix them! On the other side of the church there is a bell tower, built in total contrast to the very fancy and ornate St Marks: it’s a square column, 99 metres tall, of industrial looking red brick! I thought it was really ugly in comparison but perhaps that was because of the contrast.
From the Piazza we used our maps to wander across the districts, through the little streets and canal bridges (and still got lost). Along almost every canal you’ll see Gondoliers in striped shirts and neck scarves, paddling traditional boats skilfully under low bridges and around sharp corners. At particular meeting points for two or three waterways, the Gondola traffic will be quite busy and the Gondoliers, with their boats backed up, will gesticulate and shout at each other in a kind of ‘get out of the way’ style, although these exchanges are mild and without any hint of aggression, I think it’s part of their show for their audiences: us!
That evening as the sun disappeared, we sat outside the van and noticed some faint flashing in
the sky, we assumed it must be due to some nightclub shining laser lights in to the sky but the flashes became brighter and so we moved from our seats shaded by the van for a proper look up above the trees. Fork lightening was tracking across the clouds, the likes of which I have never seen in the UK! Silently, no thunder, no rain, just crackle after crackle of bright white zigzags, getting bolder and brighter each time! It was an amazing light show that spanned a couple of hours before the thunder caught up with it.
Our second day in Venice we stayed later, planning to enjoy a slice of takeaway pizza (they’re huge!) for our dinner as we continued our amble around the city. We walked a long stretch of the Grand Canal, noticing as we looked down one of the side streets, a tower leaning at a precarious angle: Campiello dei Greci, a church built by Greek Orthodox refugees, the bell tower was completed in 1603 and has leaned at a wonky angle pretty much ever since! I’ve since read that apparently Venice has more leaning towers than perfectly straight ones! We turned away from
the Grand Canal at the Palazzo Ducalle, a beautiful building where Venice’s doges have ruled the city for centuries. Although the building has elegant white arches and pretty pink patterns covering its exterior hidden inside, beneath water level, were cold, cramped and infested prison cells!
After our pizza on one of the bridges, watching the traffic pass beneath, we headed back to our bus taking time to stop for a Spritz or two (made from Campari Aperol and Prosecco, olive optional) and to admire the handmade Venetian masks sold in many of the shops, some of which also displayed examples of 18th
century dresses and courtiers costumes, they reminded me of the French and Saunders parody sketch of ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ which really made me laugh.
Venice is a very unique and romantic city, we saw a couple have their wedding photos taken in Piazza San Marco and a man propose (yes, on one knee, a clever manoeuvre in a gondola) to his partner on the Grand Canal, parts of the city are crowded but it’s easy to lose the crowds if you duck down a side street in to one of the lesser known squares but, and most
importantly, the ice cream is very reasonably priced!!
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