Travel for me is like a seesaw: sometimes I’m on top of the world, smack dab in the middle of one of those magical moments that makes me want to travel forever, and other times I’m overwhelmed by all the various frustrations anyone encounters when traveling in an unfamiliar place. Venice was, for me, a place where the seesaw swung back and forth rather dramatically.
My trip to Venice began with a definite low point: stranded at the Verona train station – hot, sweaty, and starving – for hours, then, upon my arrival in Venice, crammed onto a vaporetto packed wall-to-wall with people. I was in such a cranky headspace that I barely even had the wherewithal to appreciate the sights that greeted me on that first boat ride:
Once I disembarked, things got…even worse. The thing about Venice is, of course, that it is a maze. And despite the fact that I had written down what I felt were very excellent directions, I found myself wandering around, exhausted and without a clue about where exactly my hotel was. By the time I weaved my way through the crush of people and finally found my damn hotel (hidden down a tiny lane I must have walked by at least three times), I was tempted just to curl up in bed and call it a night.
Luckily, I didn’t give up that easily. Once I finally found my hotel, calmed down, and grabbed a bite to eat, things got a lot better. Sure, the crush of tourists was ever-present, both that day and throughout my time in Venice but, minus that annoyance, I found a lot to love about the city.
Chief among those things – and somewhat paradoxical, given my initial frustration with finding my hotel – was simply getting lost in Venice’s tiny back streets. It is no exaggeration to say I never took the same route twice in Venice; in fact, it almost would have been impossible to do so. I was never time-pressured during my visit, so I would try to aim myself in the general direction of where I hoped to go and then would let the streets take me where they would.
And it wasn’t just the streets of Venice I adored, it was the water everywhere, from the canals weaving through the city to the gorgeous waterfront vistas of the lagoon to the exuberant children splashing around in a flooded St. Mark’s Square. How many times did I smile over the way the clouds looked or the sun was setting over the open water? How many times did I pause on a bridge to snap a photograph? More times than I can count, and yet I never tired of doing so.
The other thing that enchants me about Venice is how the city itself is the main attraction. Yes, there are museums and churches (and I am sure all of these are wonderful), but I never felt much compelled to visit them, with one exception: St. Mark’s. During my first visit to Venice almost a decade (!!!) ago, I had worn a tank top and wasn’t allowed inside the church (rookie mistake). This time around, I knew I had to catch a glimpse, and the vast, gilded interior did not disappoint. The exterior, the centerpiece of Venice, was not too shabby either.
The first time I visited Venice, I didn’t even linger for an entire day: we took the train from Florence in the morning, hung out in town for a few hours, and then left in the early evening. It was thrilling and exhilarating, but I didn’t get to “know” the city in any way. This time, I am so glad I gave myself several days to explore; I loved (for the most part) everything I saw. Even so, I know all the twisting, turning streets of the city contain a million additional details I have yet to explore. Until next time, Venice.