Venice is the ideal location for the weekend traveler. Upon arrival in Marco Polo airport one already is immersed in Venice when alighting the vaporetto (waterbus) that brings you, if you are lucky, to the doorstop of your hotel. If you are less than lucky, you may spend several long minutes dragging your suitcase up and down pedestrian bridges that span the hundreds of canals that make up Venice. Most people who come to Venice seem to come for a day or two, or at the most three. It is usually wedged into an itinerary that may include the Quick Italy vacation (Rome, Florence, Milan, the Lakes in one week or less) or just a Northern version, focusing on Florence and the Dolomites.
Using All Our Senses
It was therefore, an unusual stroke of good luck that had us book our vacation to Venice for nine days and eight nights, suiting my emerging philosophy of “Slow Travel.” This allows one to savor the unique flavor that is Venice, to walk the canals, see the changing lights reflecting on the water that is everywhere, visit one or two museums or churches in a day, and then spend time letting the sights settle in and percolate, before running off to the next site. It is such a refreshing change from our daily rush, where we try to pack in more than is humanly possible in the shortest time known to man. It allows all of our senses to absorb Venice, the smells of water and decaying buildings (not always pleasant), the light on the water, the sea breeze on our faces, and the bite of Venetian espresso on our palates.
Our days begin in Venice looking over the lagoon and marveling at the water traffic that wakens the city before daybreak, when the sky is just beginning to lighten in the east. Boats of different sizes and shapes constitute the flotilla that brings produce, food, building materials, and all sorts of strangely shaped packages from the mainland to water locked Venice. It boggles the mind to consider that every item available for sale in Venice has been transported here by water. Human beings are also transported by water to and from Venice, and it is not a rarity to see an ambulance boat or a waterborne funeral hearse with a mound of flowers on the casket.
The morning continues with a leisurely cup of coffee in the local café, one of the few places with free internet I have found. The café is located right next to the waterbus stop, and serves as the coffee stop for the locals on their way to and from work. Interestingly, they all take their coffee standing at the bar. I learned the hard way that it is half the price to drink coffee standing as compared to sitting. Of course, in order to use internet, one has to sit, and pay the price.
Part of the Slow Venice experience is renting an apartment in an out of the way neighborhood. Our apartment was advertised as “magical stay overlooking the lagoon”. The apartment, in a fairly typical ancient Venetian building is located on the first floor of a three story building. The huge wooden doors that form the entry way need to be given a hard push of the hip in order to enter with a key into a pitch black hallway, that smells rather rank and dank, as do so many Venetian buildings, close as they are to the water. One flight up, and another push of the hip brings us into our small apartment that, for lack of a better word, has character. There is a small living dining room with a window overlooking the lagoon, a teeny but adequate kitchen, and a larger bedroom with a decent bed, and very little closet space. Neither of us mind living out of our suitcases for the duration. The only real downside of the apartment is the bright streetlights right outside our bedroom window, and the lack of shutters or Venetian blinds. Wouldn’t you think they would have Venetian blinds in Venice?? Fortunately, the eye mask I brought for the airplane travel is serving me well.
- As usual our favorite tour guidebook: Rick Steves Venice
- We booked our apartment through AirBnB which proved to be a reliable and user friendly site.
- We purchased a seven day vaporetto (waterbus) pass which was very useful and saved us lots.