Here’s one I’m sure you’ve never heard before: Word has it that Venice is a-maze-ing. I can attest to the “maze” aspect of the city. We ran into a few dead ends trying to find our hotel from the Rialto Bridge, which wouldn’t have been so bad if not for the heat, humidity and luggage. Fortunately, a woman at a gelateria pointed us to the right street, which led to a sign, then a cramped corridor, through a plaza, around a corner and then, finally, our hotel. But this is how you navigate through Venice: Follow the signs, some handmade, that point you toward the nearest landmarks. Stray at your own risk.
I have less perspective on the “amazing” aspect of Venice. It’s definitely unique. But we were so tired from the rest of our trip (and the thick air) that we took it easy here. Only one church, no museums. Just getting lost along the streets and sampling plenty of gelato (we averaged more than one gelato stop per day over the two weeks). Our room in Venice was by far the smallest of our trip, but we ended up spending the most time at that one, taking in an Italian cooking show and plenty of dubbed American programs.
When we did go out, we did so in bursts. We didn’t have the energy for any more day-long outings. One evening at dusk, we went for a walk, hoping it would be quieter and cooler, but they city was even more alive than during the day, and the heat had stuck around. The train of gondolas streaming through the canals, so close it was as if they were tied together, did not give off a romantic vibe. Every outdoor seat along the water was claimed. Heck, waiters weren’t even trying to persuade us to take a seat and look at the menu.
Venice did appear to have more restaurants that were open all day. It seems that 7 is the beginning of dinner time in Italy, and most restaurants don’t even reopen until 6. We generally eat earlier than that, so we often were the first or second customers for dinner. I was surprised by the lack of diversity of the menus (outside of the meat options in Bolzano). Granted, we frequented tourist-heavy areas, but most places seemed to serve the exact same selection of pastas and pizzas, and they were fairly straightforward. I learned that I do not like cutting my own pizza. Or paying for water.
For a peaceful Venice, morning is the prime time. Before 7:30, most workers and tourists have not arrived, so you can have Piazza San Marco almost to yourself instead of being offered a rose every 10 steps. Even the pigeons aren’t as prevalent. Mostly, you’ll have to dodge the folks delivering that day’s goods or sweeping the streets.
Venice is absolutely a city worth seeing. After all, who knows how much longer it’ll still be around. But if you’re not visiting any museums, there isn’t all that much to do. Which isn’t a bad thing. It’s unique, and just walking through it is an adventure.
The water taxi to the airport capped off the trip’s variety of public modes of transportation, which included airplane, shuttle bus, city train, high-speed train, city bus, cable car, narrow-gauge train and vaporetto. We passed on the gondola, moped and horse-drawn carriage.