When traveling, it’s a good idea to try not to visit a place just to “tick it off the list” of places you wish to see. Instead, you should learn a little about the place you are visiting, check out its local food and drink, meet its people, see what it looks like under a setting sun, that sort of thing. Venice… Venice is a little different. A sure sign of troubling things to come: when you can see not one but three cruise ships docked next to the city you are in route to.
Later we discovered that some Venice residents are protesting the cruise ships. Up to 10 a day arrive and depart, all the while running their engines while in port to support their electrical systems. Having been on a few cruises myself, I know all too well the type of experiences they offer: “When you are in (port of call), make sure to buy lots of stuff from (name of cruise-company-owned shop #1) and eat at (name of cruise-company-owned shop #2)! Remember to have lots of fun shop, shop, shopping, and that you must return to the boat by (a few hours before sunset) to catch the free buffet dinner!” Venice is, at first glance and after two days of walking through it, a massive cruise port of call. It’s hard to find a single corner of this historic city that has not been blighted by tourism on a mass scale.
Cruise ports, for those unacquainted, are small, crowded, expensive shopping malls decorated to resemble the place that was likely demolished so that they could be built. And I use the term “resemble” somewhat loosely here, because the result is neither accurate or authentic. It’s like comparing the overly romanticized Pirates of the Caribbean to the life of real pirates. I imagine if you were able to go back in time and meet Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard) and show him that movie, he might stop the film at some very early point, turn to you, wrinkle his brow and say, “Is that… is that supposed to be us?” Venice feels he same way in comparison to other historic cities we’ve visited on our trip.
Not all is lost though – Venice is very beautiful.
It would seem that Robert Frost had the right idea all along: If you come upon an intersection and take the road with the least number of people on it, you’ll quickly get away from the crush of souvenir connoisseurs, pushy rose peddlers, knock-off designer purses, and menus in Italian with English printed right below each line. What you will find are ancient buildings, huge wooden doors with iron keyholes 1.5″ tall, well-worn alleyways so narrow that one must step aside when meeting another person walking, and almost total silence. Seriously – Venice is almost completely silent once you are away from the throng of crowds.
During our stay in Venice, we stayed at Camping Serenissima which I would recommend to anyone looking for a good value for their traveling dollar. Efficient in the “no money wasted” vs. “cheap” way, everything we needed was there. It wasn’t right in the middle of everything, but that’s a good thing to most, including to us. We had a small camper that had just enough room for our bed, a little storage, and a small shower.
There wasn’t a place to prepare or store food in our camper, but that wasn’t an issue because we had access to an outdoor community kitchen. There were various pots, pans, dishes, and cutlery. This might seem trivial to you readers at home, but being able to cook your own food on the road is a huge money saver.
They also had a small bar that served beer and coffee. Already a fan of good coffee, I’ve enjoyed espresso pretty much since the day we left the states. Angela, however, thinks that they are a bit bitter…
I’ve said it already, but it’s worth repeating: Venice is beautiful. When walking through the city, one cannot help but take photo after photo of the canals.
Every time you see one, you think, “This right here, this canal, this is the most beautiful one in all of Venice.” You take out your camera, snap a few shots, and walk 20 meters and there is an even more beautiful canal. And another. I apologize in advance to anyone that flips through my photo collections in the years to come: there are a lot of pictures of Venice’s canals.
It’s common knowledge that everyone visiting Venice must ride the Gondolas. Buddy, let me tell you – the Gondoliers know that and they price their services so: you can expect to fork over €80+ for a 20 minute ride! During our visit, that was equal to $104 for 20 minutes, or $312 per hour. Ever the budget-minded couple, we followed a tip from Rick Steves and crossed the Grand Canal for €2 each! True, our ride was about 90 seconds long, but that was plenty to get the just of it and we snapped a few photos to commemorate the event. We also learned that Angela does not have sea legs.
Oh, the best part – we met another traveling couple just outside our campground while waiting for the bus. We had been to Venice the night before and they were just starting out, so we were able to tell them how to use the bus, where to find cheap food, how to navigate the city, etc. The conversation flowed for well over an hour during the entire bus ride and into the city. We parted ways and I offered to meet them for dinner later that day. To our delight, they emailed us and we setup a time/place to meet and had a blast eating pizza and drinking well into the night. As luck would have it, we will both be in Florence at the same time and will meet for dinner there as well. Good times!
That sums up our Venice experience. Glad we went, glad we don’t have to go back. On to the next adventure!