Venice was beautiful. Alas, I was stressed about my monetary situation for a great deal of my time there (therefore I was a bit “blind” to the city… Venetian Blinds, get it?)
Anyway. The first night I spent at my tidy little Venetian campground, which was a world of difference from my last campground. Instead of 200 roommates, I had…. zero. I had my own nice little hut (I had booked a 3-bed “dorm” cabin, but ended up in a 2-bed private – with just me in it – for the same price!), which was a welcome change really to sleep in a room by myself. The campground also had a handy bar, restaurant, supermarket… as well as a pool & hot tub (which I never got down to using). I ate a couple meals at the restaurant (Spaghetti Carbonara – really different than I remember at home – and a nice lasagna, before heading into Venice on the hourly shuttle bus into town the next afternoon).
Saturday afternoon I made it IN to Venice, and started on the Vaporetto (AKA water bus) “tour” from my Rick Steves guide (which again proved to be my favourite guidebook). It basically just told me what buildings to keep an eye out for at which stops. I was entirely impressed by the mansions along the Grand Canal, especially the fact that pretty much none of the first floors were in use, due to the fact that Venice is sinking, and they are probably all damp and mossy.
I took the Vaporetto all the way to St Mark’s Square, where I watched the people, watched the pigeons (and even attracted one onto my arm), and got some great views of St Mark’s Basilica from the outside, as it was closed for a special service on the inside.
Then, I decided to wander back to the bus station, following the signs and the hordes of tourists, at a leisurely pace. This was deceivingly easy, so I stopped for some dinner at one of the many squares. I had a full “menu”, or fixed price several course meal – with primi piatti (a big plate of pasta is their starter), secondi piatti (a piece of chicken), and a big juicy salad. With wine, of course. Alas, there was a problem with my Mastercard, so I had to use up all the cash I had on me to pay… leaving me with very little money. I decided I’d keep walking back to the train station, but it was now dark, and all the daytrippers and cruise ship traffic (people traffic, not car traffic) had disappeared, and I couldn’t find any of the signs pointing me to the bus station!
I walked and walked… and it was getting dark, until I found a vaporetto stop. But now didn’t have enough money for a ticket! So I used my sad little maps from my guidebooks and the location of the stop to try to find my way back… and pretty much failed. I walked for a good hour, until I found myself entirely lost, and in the entirely non-tourist district, with no shops, restaurants, or hotels to pop in to to see where I was. I finally ended up seeing… a gap… behind a wall (a gap that was NOT filled with houses), so I worked my way over… and found a cruise ship, on a real street, with buses and everything! I asked a guy at a random checkpoint where the Piazzale Roma (the bus station) was, and he pointed me in the right direction. Which was down this sketchy area of Venice – empty warehouses and abandoned train tracks, for about another half hour. Phew. But I made it!
The next day went a lot more smoothly. I walked from the train station to the same square I had eaten dinner in in a very short time, before continuing the tourist trail to the Rialto Bridge (and its market!). Then I continued on to St Marks Square once more, and was horrified at the line of people waiting to get into the (free) basilica. I decided instead to check out the Doge’s Palace, which I had heard (from my guidebook), also usually has a big line. Apparently everyone had decided to just go to the Basilica, because I just walked right into the Doge’s Palace and bought my ticket.
It was a grand old palace, but for me, the real thrill were in 2 things: 1) the art! The walls were pretty much entirely covered with the Venetian Renaissance Masters’ paintings (Tintoretto, Titian… others… including the Rape of Europa, which was probably the most famous), and I do enjoy the Venetian Renaissance style! 2) The Bridge of Sighs and the Prison (aka dungeon). It was the most dungeon-y dungeon I’ve ever seen. Very neat.
I also visited the Correr Museum (because the ticket was included with the Doge’s Palace), which had a lot of art from the Venetian Renaissance and prior to that. Seemed to be a great deal of Madonna and Child where at least one of them – either Mary or Baby Jesus – looked like they had something wrong with them. And always in gold leaf. Like, Mary with a giant unibrow and crazy eyes, or Baby Jesus with a giant head, one big eye and one small eye, and a tiny body… etcetera. I don’t really know when that style was popular…
And then, I did some more eating. Pasta, and some pizza off of a street vendor (very very thin, and probably the best pizza I have ever tasted in my life, despite the fact that it was only cheese – “Margherita”), and gelato a couple of times. I find I prefer the fruit flavours best (Pecha and Frugalo.. I think I have those names wrong, but Peach and Strawberry were fantastic! The chocolate is a bit much for me).