I enjoyed my 8th trip to Italy a while back (late March and early April). This time I finally visited somewhere north of Rome, spending a few lovely days in Genoa, followed by a few lovely days in Venice.
I spent more time in Genoa than I had planned (or desired) due to a horrible intestinal virus that was going around. After one night’s adventures in the bath room, I was so weak that I spent a day in bed. After a night of additional adventures, I faced up to the fact that I needed to get to a doctor. By 7am I was sitting in the emergency room at a local hospital. However, my first encounter with Italy’s healthcare system was a positive one. I was given prescriptions for some antibiotics, the female doctor who treated me was utterly adorable, and the whole experience cost me almost nothing.
The illness delayed my arrival in Venice by a couple of days, so I spent only 4 full days in the city rather than the 6 I had planned. I blew off the day trip to Vicenza that I wanted to make, and I missed my scheduled Secret Itineraries Tour of the Doge’s Palace. Oh well. I did my best to make the most of my stay in Venice anyway....which means I tried to see every nook and cranny of the city that the time (and my tired feet) would allow.
While there I stayed at Campiello Zen, a small B&B about a 15-minute walk from the train station (but only a 2-minute walk from a vaporetto stop), in the Santa Croce neighborhood. It seemed to offer the perfect combination of location, good reviews, and (for Venice) low price. I enjoyed staying there very much, and was sorry to leave. They were even kind enough to NOT charge me for the two nights I had missed. Highly recommended!
I was a little worried (just a little) that I might not enjoy Venice very much. It’s one of the most heavily-visited cities in the world, and I half-expected to be annoyed by crowds and generally turned off by an atmosphere too touristy for my taste. My favorite places from previous visits to the country have been Naples and Palermo, so that may tell you where I’m coming from on this point. Nevertheless, Venice was a pleasure, and an incredibly unique one at that. Once I had checked in at the B&B and walked around the corner for my first good look at the grand canal, my first thought was “this looks like a photographer’s paradise.” And indeed, Venice is that. As for crowds and touristy atmosphere, I did experience this the morning I went to Saint Mark’s Square intending to visit the basilica. The crowd was ridiculous, the line into the basilica long, and thus I decided to get away from there as quickly as possible. So I never made it into the basilica - a disappointment, yes, but not a major one as I’ve had the pleasure of seeing many other wonderful churches in Italy. And I did enjoy Saint Mark’s Square a couple of evenings, when there were café bands playing music and far fewer people. One night, a band played a medley of Ennio Morricone tunes that I really enjoyed.
The thing to realize about Venice, if you’re as averse to touristy crowds as I am, is that it’s really quite easy to escape from the madness and to find yourself lost and wandering in a “photographer’s paradise” that is virtually yours alone. Although I had planned to visit a museum or two, I ended up ignoring them as I was enjoying the wandering so darned much - not the first time this has happened to me on a trip to Italy. I explored, pretty thoroughly I think, most of the city’s neighborhoods: Santa Croce, San Polo, San Marco, Castello (the western part anyway), Cannaregio, and Dorsoduro. I never made it to Giudecca or the Lido. I’ve seen others say here in the forum that simply getting lost is half the fun of wandering in Venice. I could not agree more. The quiet serenity, canals, and beautiful architecture combine for an experience that you actually you want to get lost in….an atmosphere that you almost hope you never find your way out of. When you’re there, you can find yourself thinking: “why would I even want to escape this???” Yes, it is that wonderful. Venice may not have displaced Naples in my heart, but it did carve out a little niche there of its own.
A couple of my favorite hidden gems. The famous “spiral staircase” is about as well hidden as anything can be. You have to walk down an alley about 2 feet wide that, for all you really know, leads to nothing. Yet there it is….
And then there was this lovely yet very mysterious blue door, at the end of another narrow alley….
Well, that’s about it. If you’re interested, you can check out the slideshow I put together from my Venice photos and set to music….
Or see the collection of trip photos (mostly Venice, but some Genoa too) here…
However, to appreciate why I really visited Genoa, you have to look here….