Having only ever spent 1 day in Venice on a trip from Porec in Croatia ( my husband and son had never been ) and not remembering much about it, I was faintly worried about our planned week long stay there. I felt vaguely responsible (being the expert you understand ) to make sure things ran as smoothly as possible – a tall order even when one knows an area like the back of ones hand!.
Anyway- having been back now for 1 week and having inwardly digested all that we saw in Venice, I thought I’d write a bit about our experiences and how it was for us!
I had been dreading the transfer from Trevisio airport to the Cannaregio area – not sure about the bus, not sure about the vaporetto, not sure if we’d find the house- a real worrier. It was all fine. It went like a dream, the bus and the vaporetto were easy to find, quick and cheap. I had worried in vain.
The house when we arrived couldn’t have been more welcoming- it was in a quiet sotoportego between the Cannaregio canal and the Rio Batello. It was great. It had everything we needed to hand including wellies in case of Aqua Alta and proved to be a comfortable and relaxing place to return to at the end of a footsore day, ( not to mention the days when we were totally wet through and the washing machine, hot shower and central heating came into play).
But Venice itself? Stupendously, magically, fantastically magnificent. ( I think I used all my adjectives in one go there!) It was all we had hoped for and more.
The Cannaregio where we were living is a busy working canal – you can see everything pass by if you sit there long enough and we did. Taxi’s, vaporettos, ambulances, fire crews, delivery boats carrying furniture, towels, clothes for the shops and market stalls, boats carrying barrels of wine for the local wine shop (to be sold by the plastic bottle), refuse collections, - everything you can think of passed us by at some time during our week.
It was a lovely area to be living in – the canal was busy during the day and serene at night, the locals were friendly and helpful, the restaurants were cheap (in the main) with good food, it had none of the ‘touristy feel’ that the more popular areas of Venice have – it was, for us, perfect. A real taste of the real Venice. We felt honoured to be living as part of it albeit for 1 week only.
During our week we did the obligatory visits , S. Marco, the Palazzo Ducal which was magnificent- the Secret Intineries tour which was very interesting, Rialto bridge etc.
We bypassed Murano in favour of Burano- we had a glorious day there in the sunshine – but felt that it was a little too pretty . Perhaps we should have gone to one of the other islands as well to compare.
The real gems however were the churches of Madonna del Orto and S Maria Gloriosa Del Frari . The art work in there was staggering- more Tintorettos and Titians than you could shake a stick at -as my grandmother would have said.
We walked from the Frari down to the Fond.Zattere where we had gelato at Nicos. On the way we passed by the gondola workshops in S Trovaso .From there we walked along the Fond. Zattere, past the Incurables hospital to St Maria della Salute and crossed over to St Marks to be met by a flooded piazza- it was great fun- everyone had their shoes and socks off and were paddling in up to 10 inches of water! The Fond. Di Cannaregio flooded as well which cause my son to wonder if Aqua Alta was on the way and if we would be stranded in our house- great excitement.
The area in Cannaregio leading up to Fondamenta Nuova and around the Rio de Misericordia, Fondamenta della Sensa and of course the Ghetto were all full of everyday life and happenings which seemed much more fascinating because they were happening either on or by the water. We wandered around Dorsoduro and S. Polo and S. Croce, every turn had something new to look at.
One of the highlights was the church of St Giovanni Christomo near Rialto which we stumbled into during a downpour- it was so beautiful and not at all ostentatious.
We had a dose of culture at the Peggy Guggenheim museum which has a terrific collection. My 10 year old son who has been doing Kandinsky at school was fascinated as he was by the huge collection of nudes at the Ca’ Rezzonico !.
We shopped in the large supermarket at Piazzale Roma and in the local stalls and shops around Guglie bridge. We travelled across the Grand Canal by Traghetto and stood up like real Venetians-(my son was so proud and relieved that I managed not to fall over!)
We walked for miles and miles as it is the best way to see things , but we also used the vaporetto for which we had bought blue Venice cards. We had been unsure about the value of doing this, but found them immensely useful –particularly in the rain, or when one of us felt too tired to walk any further, when we just hopped on and off at will. We certainly got our monies worth out of them and .. no queuing for tickets.
Our overall feelings about Venice are that we are in love with the place. My son wants us to pack up and live there, my husband and I would willingly oblige if it wasn’t for the small matters of work and earning a living!.
We will go back- we don’t return to many cities- there being so many others we still want to see but I think we will be making an exception for Venice.
I would recommend Venice to anyone and everyone who love things of beauty, faded elegance and cities with a lived in feel about them.