Many moons ago I watched this romantic comedy that may perhaps be familiar to some of my Wanderlusters. The name of the RomCom: Just Married, where, without spoiling the storyline too much for you, a young married couple went to Europe on their honeymoon. Thanks to this movie, Europe has been on my radar for ever. The idea of road tripping through Europe and going to countries like Switzerland, France and Italy, well, if you have watched Just Married then you get what I am talking about. One of my dreams emanating from said movie was visiting Venice, and experiencing life along the Grand Canal. As Oprah aptly put it,
“The biggest adventure you can have is to live the life of your Dreams”.
And live out some of those Dreams, I did, whilst setting Footsteps in Venice! Welcome again dear Wanderlusters, to part 1 of my 2 part article series on my escapades in this city of canals.
“I’m going to throw that bag into the canal” were the first words that came out of M’s mouth as we lugged our bags across the busy square in the centre of Venice where our driver had dropped us off. I had read that water taxis in Venice cost a fortune and I was busy mapping out in my head how the heck we were going to drag all this luggage onto the Vaporetto (water bus), and get to our hotel situated smack in the middle of the Grand Canal. And all the while struggling to keep my darn bag on my forearm, because there was no strap to hang it off my shoulder. Yeah. Great start to Venice! I can laugh about it now but I can tell you that I was pretty miffed at the time and pretty close to throwing said bag into the water myself!
In M’s head however, he was clear from the onset that there would be no fumbling around trying to find a Vaporetto and we would be riding the Grand Canal in the epitome of luxury by way of water taxi, and boy am I glad that M had the sense that I seemed to lack because as soon as we had boarded the water taxi, it was like the travel fairy had waved her wand and transported us to this surreal, romantic and magical place. I can tell you with great conviction that this indeed, was the Venice of my dreams.
It honestly felt like we had stepped into a postcard. Those pictures that I had spent hours poring over were actually materialising before me as we glided on the Grand Canal, its waters splashing on the walls of the hotels and buildings lining either side with those red and white candy striped poles outside their decks, water taxis and Vaporettos buzzing past us, the whole atmosphere electric with excitement. Dreams do indeed come true, but I must confess that I had to pinch myself constantly to confirm that this was indeed happening!
All checked in to our gorgeous hotel on the Grand Canal, I couldn’t wait to start exploring! Now, the best thing to do in Venice is to ditch the guidebooks, get lost in the little streets and cross the bridges over the canals and find your own magical Venetian adventure. Frida Ginannini put it perfectly when she said that
“Venice never quite seems real, but an ornate film set suspended on the water”.
Wandering the streets and getting lost and then getting found again, as you place landmarks in your mind. Walking across the bridges that interconnect the canals, some lined with restaurants, others with gondolas bobbing around, looking across at the narrow houses with laundry strung across, a sure sign of life going on amidst all the oogling! As you wander around the many streets and climb over bridges over mini canals and larger canals, Frida’s words do ring true in your mind. The first couple of hours were spent just soaking Venice and all her charm in. Indeed, all guidebooks and maps well and truly ditched, all we did was walk out of our hotel and into the first little side street, and started our own little Venetian adventure.
Our jaunts led us to the quaintest shopping streets, abuzz with activity. What I loved most about these were the number of shops and stalls selling Venetian Masks. You can’t come to Venice and not see these – they are everywhere and each one more gorgeous than the last. Colourful, mysterious and elegant all in one, a bit like the city that they originate from.
Finally got to ride my Gondola!
I am a traveller but I am also a tourist. If you read my posts about my Footsteps in Las Vegas and Macau, you will know that I have been obsessed with riding a Gondola in Venice, and until I actually made it to Venice, the closest I had gotten to living out this dream was The Venetian in Macau.
As much as Gondola rides are overrated and yes, completely overpriced, I just couldn’t go all the way to Venice and not indulge my inner fantasies, as cliché and touristy as this activity may be! I must say however that Gondola rides in Venice are as commercial as commercial can be. Having experienced the ride in Venice, I can now honestly say that the ride at The Venetian in Macau was probably more romantic as our gondolier in Venice disappointingly…DIDN’T SING!!!! He had a stripey shirt but no cute hat I am convinced that we may just have landed a sourpuss because he didn’t even smile. Le sigh. You know how you build up a moment in your head and the reality is so starkly different from your imagination? Yup. Insert Gondola Experience here. Maybe I exaggerate a tad bit because no singing and all, there was still something quite special about bobbing around the Grand Canal from Rialto Bridge, meandering in the smaller canals to the bridge of sighs, and back again and having checked that off the WanderList.
Exploring your OWN Venice
Whilst I do enjoy seeing major sights and following a plan some days, most days, Footsteps for me mean soaking in as much of the vibe of a place that I can. And I must say that quite apart from the usual touristy things that one does in Venice, there are three things that I particularly enjoyed, which make me smile as I type up this post for you. One was walking around and discovering these quaint alleyways and houses, with their laundry strung from end to end. The other was sat in front of my hotel along the Grand Canal, sipping on a cappuccino or indulging in a classic Venetian favourite, the Aperol Spritz, and penning down my thoughts whilst watching the world go by. There was something really soothing about the humdrum of life on the Canal. My third favourite was simply riding along the Grand Canal from end to end, to get a great feel of life along this main water body in Venice, admiring the beauty of the buildings and getting off wherever I desired to explore some more.
I have enjoyed showing you these Postcards of Venice and rambling on about what Venice means to me. Join me in the second part of this series in my next post, as I show you some more sights of Venice. Until next time, thank you for hanging out with me! Xoxo.
-On Getting to Venice
M and I were in Slovenia prior to Italy and so we drove from Lake Bled to Venice via Koper and Trieste. There is no need for a car in Venice – you will either walk or take the Vaporetto (public water bus) or a private water taxi everywhere. If you have hired a car for your travels, don’t include Venice because there isn’t anywhere to park or drive it around.
-Transport and getting around in Venice
Walking is the best form! However there are Vaporetto stops along the Grand Canal and outside pretty much every hotel on the Canal. You can buy a ticket from the conductor on the water bus (fare will depend on where you are going but a good example would be the Number 1 which goes from one end of the Canal to the other and costs Euro 7.50 one way) or from the ticket counter at the stop. Make sure you validate your ticket by scanning it on the white gadget that is at every Vaporetto stop. If you are in Venice for more than a week then consider getting the Venezia Unica stored value card to save yourself some fares.
-Private Water Taxis
This is the ultimate way of getting around Venice’s waterways in luxury and style. A water taxi costs Euro 60 one way and this is for the whole boat. Doesn’t matter where you go, be it 5 minutes or 25 minutes away, this is the flat rate. In my experience: totally worth it!
Harpreet’s Wanderlust Nugget on Transport:
It is nice to experience both forms of transport to give you a real feel of wandering on the Grand Canal. However nothing compares to the luxury that a private water taxi has to offer and so if you can, ride the Vaporetto for the experience but for that truly luxurious touch, ditch the Vaporetto for a private water taxi.
Are not cheap by any means!! Euro 80 for up to 6 people for a 40-minute ride, with additional increments of 20 minutes costing Euro 40. After 7 pm the price rises up to Euro 100. The most magical time is indeed dusk. Consider getting on to a Gondola from near the Accademia Bridge or a quieter street versus Rialto Bridge or St. Marks, as these Gondoliers are friendlier and some of them do sing, especially the ones from the smaller canals. My experience with the Gondola from the Rialto Bridge Station is highlighted in my article.