There’s a lot to be said for hitting the ground running and as we approach our 60th day on the road, there’s been a lot of running.
Our time in Venice was effectively cut in half by a day-long deluge of cold, soaking rain. Without knowing in advance the fate of our Venetian vacation, we made the most of our short time between the canals by aggressively seeing much of the city in our first hours.
Straight off the train we made reservations at the tourist information office, got settled into a conveniently located closet-of-a-room complete with a matchbox-like bathroom whose shower, absent of doors or curtains, sprayed directly in the floor. From this economy wash room, one could easily shower while on the toilet or at the sink, certainly an invaluable asset for the on-the-go multitasker.
More to the point however, after dumping our bags, we began our siege of the city by crossing the Grand Canal opposite the train station and sauntering along the waterway. Distracted at once by the first gondolier we passed, we listened earnestly to an expert pitchman in his late twenties.
As Adam, the gondolier, described routes and options, all the time pointing to a map of the city, he informed us of the coming storm. Tomorrow, our last and only day in Venice, would be a rainy one, he said. We feigned disinterest and began to walk away garnering at last a small discount on his medium tour of the old and new city.
Although we gave in to a well spoken gondolier with a knack for persuasion, gondola rides – or anything else in Venice, closet sized rooms included – don’t come cheap. Despite research, we were left without a clue and given no example of price, though warned that harsh negotiation would result in a shortened trip. So, for future Venetian travelers, take note that we paid €100 for two people for a 45 minute ride. Remember that this price may increase in the months of June and July or at sunset.
Despite the steep price, an extravagance which led to several days of ham and cheese sandwiches, you may very well be in Venice only once and a gondola ride with someone special is worth the cost.
After winding through narrow canals, navigating under low bridges, maneuvering around water bound traffic and passing by the home of Casanova,we arrived back on the Grand Canal where it all began. Back on land and lost in a romance induced stupor, we strolled through the city of water making turns as we pleased and taking bridges simply for their view ignorant of their direction with nary a glance at maps.
It’s a rite of passage, I suppose, to be lost in Venice and for our initiation, we pulled out all the stops. We were brought back to reality by intensifying hunger pains. To remedy this, we would seek out a market, as we so often do, for a cheaper meal. Without asking directions, we began to follow the flow of passersby in possession of grocery bags. In many cities this strategy works well tracking down Co-ops, Billas and Nettos (dependent on the country) with sufficient ease.
In Venice however, this plan did not prevail. After nearly an hour of wandering, taking unknown paths and countless bridges, we eventually emerged on the other side of the island facing an even larger swath of the Grand Canal. Turning along the coast, heading into the setting sun and, in theory, toward our hotel, we noticed once again a procession of Billa bags before sliding glass doors and hand baskets welcomed us to a world of affordable food.
Upon gathering our sandwich supplies, we headed back toward the sun, guessing wildly at each intersection and dead end before reaching our shoebox-of-a-room an hour later with weighty groceries in tow.
The next morning proved Adam correct and rain continued for the rest of day. We lazily put ourselves together that dreary day in May before seeking out the Rialto Bridge and San Marco Plaza. Bracing ourselves against the cold, we gleefully consumed melon gelato in fond farewell of Italy.
So, when visiting Venice, remember to take a map – or don’t – you’ll get lost either way; look at the weather because gondoliers won’t work in the rain; and most of all take full advantage of your time, rain or shine, in this unique Italian city.