After an amazing few days in Rome we were now back on the train heading north towards Venice. I hadn’t checked my emails since we left our hotel, and given the high charges for data roaming I hadn’t really been using my mobile data but I decided to switch it on for a little bit, only to discover quite an unpleasant surprise…Expedia, on behalf of the Venice hotel had contacted me via email to say the hotel had been double booked and we no longer had a room! keep in mind that this had been booked months in advance and we were now being told we didn’t have a room on the day we were due to arrive in Venice. The second email was from a member of staff at the hotel who told us that as we had failed to get back to them or Expedia they would no longer be able to relocate us. As I read the emails I was seething, I’d received both emails between leaving our hotel in Rome and part way through the train journey to Venice, so maybe 4-5 hours maximum. The person I was talking to via email was quite rude and seemed to think it was unreasonable that I hadn’t replied to him the moment he sent the email…making a hotel booking months in advance is apparently not enough now and you’re expected to have email access at all times. After quite a lot of arguing via email the guy on the other end agreed to relocate us to another hotel.
We were under the assumption from other people that to get to Venice you first needed to get off at Mestre which is the area on the mainland, we realised that this wasn’t the case and stayed on to Venezia Santa Lucia, the main train station on Venice island. Our train tickets were for Mestre, but we decided to chance it and stay on the train for the additional 5 minutes to Santa Lucia. We had been given instructions from the guy we had spoken to from the hotel, he told us to take the water bus to Academia, the university area, this was where our new hotel was and not too far from where our original hotel was. The water-boat journey took around 15 minutes to arrive at Academia where Michael, the man from the hotel was waiting, he seemed fairly nice but also seemed quite irritated that he had to come out late at night to meet up with us, which wasn’t really our fault.
After quite a stressful day of thinking we were going to be left without a roof over our head, we were finally in a hotel, which wasn’t as good as the hotel we had initially booked and we still had to pay the same amount for the room but at this point I was just happy to finally have somewhere to sleep. We hadn’t eaten since lunch and it was now around 10 ‘o’ clock, we decided to go for a walk and to see if we could get something to eat.
Academia by night seemed like a lovely area, it is a maze of tight alleyways, narrow canals with small walkways either side occasionally opening up to grand buildings. We crossed the grand canal and walked for a little while, I was determined to get pizza as we were both famished; we went from one place to the next, and each time were turned away as it was getting quite late. In a last ditch attempt to get some food we walked down a narrow alley hoping to maybe find a small shop to buy some snacks when we stumbled upon a pizzeria that I was delighted to hear was still open for at least an hour, we got a pizza each, some fries to share and a bottle of red wine…I was in heaven.
There are a fair amount of sights worth seeing in Venice, although I think for the most part none them are as awe inspiring as what you will see in Rome, maybe we were just spoilt coming from Rome…
One of the landmarks I had been recommended to visit was Rialto bridge which I thought was a bit of a let down to be honest, I mean it’s a nice bridge but I wouldn’t write home about it, most of the time I can’t keep myself from clicking away with my camera but with this I maybe took three photos and I wasn’t too bothered about that.
Standing on a bridge over the grand canal as the sun went down was a sight to behold, gondolas gliding on the turquoise water below, music bellowing from accordions and with the warm night air caressing our skin, it was like a scene from an old film.
San Marco Basilica and Piazza San Marco were both beautiful and an amazing sight to behold, but I think I had built them up too much from what people had told me. The reality is that the piazza and the basilica are both architecturally astounding, but as they are two of the main attractions of Venice the area is absolutely heaving and the amount of pigeons was almost apocalyptic.
What I loved about Venice the most is just generally experiencing the place, walking around the city day and night, grabbing a beer on the way, sitting at the edge of the canal, stopping for a slice of pizza and just generally getting a feel for the city.
I think when you visit a city, it is important for it to not be a whirlwind trip where your main priority is to rush around all of the attractions and let the rest of the place pass you by in a blur. Stop, look, listen, touch and smell is my motto. When you’re in Venice you should listen to the soundtrack of the city, the putter of boat engines, the sloshing of the water on the side of the canals, the music, the sound of people out enjoying themselves. You should smell the seawater that flows through the canals of Venice, take in the aromas of fresh pizza and pasta cooking. You should take time to let your eyes wander, look at the things the guidebooks don’t tell you to look at, I’m not saying forget about San Marco or the Rialto bridge, etc, but walk down alleyways, notice the general architecture and the less acknowledged landmarks.
If I were advising somebody on how long to spend in Venice, I’d say probably no more than four days as I think this is plenty. I could spend two weeks in Rome and not become bored, I think even one week would be pushing it for Venice.