At home in Florida, I have a picture above my bed that I have owned for at least 10 years. It is a picture of two people standing by the Grand Canal in Venice. I have been wanting to see Venice for myself for as long as I can remember. The Italian Job (the newer one) is one of my favorite movies just because it takes place there. Here in Italy, I am actually very close to Venice. A mere 30 minute train ride that only costs 3.30euro. So naturally, on my first day off, I went to visit the city I have been wanting to explore for the better part of my life. I went this past Sunday. My host family had other plans and my fellow American teachers all live at least 4 hours from me. So I went to Venice alone. It was definitely strange being in one of the most romantic cities in the world by yourself, but it was quite the experience. It was actually nothing like I had imagined.
I had originally planned on taking a vaparetto to get from the train station to the end of Venice. But I decided against it. Granted, I was there on a weekend, but not even in high tourist season. Still, all the boats were all standing room only. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had fallen out of a boat that day. Instead, I did a lot of walking.
I wore comfy shoes. I wore my running shoes actually. I had read enough about Venice to know that you will do a lot of walking. I did not track my mileage but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I had walked nearly 10 miles. As someone who not only runs but also walks a lot in daily life, it is saying something that my feet hurt the next day.
I did not ride a gondola. And I do not regret it. The expense was a big reason. And prices are per boat, not per person so I would have been fronting that bill all by myself. It is something I *would* do, but I don’t feel it is a must-do situation
The crowds are awful in the places you would expect. Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge (even though it is currently under construction) were mobbed with people. There were selfie sticks everywhere. I took the main road to get to these places, which was also fairly crowded. I thought this was Venice. I didn’t like it, honestly.
Once I walked past Piazza San Marco, the crowds calmed down. By this point, I was starving. I was ready to eat anything. I walked a little farther, nearly to the end of Venice, near the gardens. Finding a restaurant in Venice is not difficult. I found one that only had two languages on the menu out front (I had been told that the fewer the languages, the better the food) and ordered. The gentlemen serving me seemed very confused that I was not waiting for anyone to join me. The food was not the best and was quite overpriced but a girl’s gotta eat! And I am glad I did. Most of my walking took place after lunch.
I walked to the Dorsoduro area of Venice (which means I had to backtrack through Piazza San Marco). It was a far walk, but definitely worth it. The Basilica di Santa Maris della Salute was stunning. And it’s close to my favorite spot I found in Venice: the point, the end of the Grand Canal. I took zero photos of that spot, mostly because nothing would do it justice. On left you can see San Marco on the right you can see the island of Giudecca. There are beautiful churches all around. It was quite spectacular. I just stood there for a bit and took it in.
That’s when I got lost. On purpose. I put my Google maps away and just started walking. I made it to a point where I didn’t see any signs in English (or any other language except Italian, for that matter). The streets were quiet and I was the only person around. Occasionally I would see someone enter their home. Or someone pulling their laundry in from the clothesline. I still can’t believe that people actually LIVE there. I’m still not sure how anyone could. It would be like if I lived at Disney World and millions of tourists came through my town everyday. But that was the Venice that I fell in love with. That is the Venice I had pictured. The quiet, real life Venice.
I am positive I will return to the city, possibly even this weekend with some of the other English teachers. But it was definitely a nice experience being able to explore on my own without any real agenda.