Italy: Canal Maze of Venice

November 2007, by Gini

We stepped outside the train station into another world. A world where water is your road and boats are your transport, so unique and magical. I have to admit I was giggling all the way on the ferry down the Grand Canal because I just couldn't believe my eyes, I instantly loved the place. It was so different with a fairytale atmosphere.

We past many amazing buildings with unique Venetian architecture and water at their doorsteps. It looked nothing like the rest of Italy and the water had a memorizing turquoise effect throughout the canals which you could gaze at for hours. We hopped off the ferry at the Rialto stop, which was just after one of the three bridges that cross the Grand Canal. Ponte Rialto.

So the guide book said 'one of the things you must do in Venice is get lost in the maze of streets and canals'. Well now that isn't a hard thing to do. The only thing that was of any help is the signs, which are on most corners (for the stupid tourists I expect) that either say Rialto, San Marco or Romano. So with those helpful hints you either know you are accidently returning in the direction you came or heading down another path to another sight. After a few wrong turns and endless gazing at the amazing crafted glass stores we eventually found the Hostel. With our packs still on we had a few hours to burn before the Hostel opened for the evening bookings. Through our path to the accommodation we noticed a cute campo with a coffee bar, which we happy sat down with a coffee in hand in the outside square.

Tom being a little internet hungry after little WiFi throughout Italy decided to try his luck while we enjoyed the atmosphere of the sun setting and the local people going about their day in the campo. What luck! No one would ever believe we were drinking the finest caffe while sitting in a campo in Venice writing emails to friends.

Six O'clock rolled around so we headed for the Hostel, hoping there was room for two more cold souls in Venice. Once we were settled into our a very flash hostel, we just had to go out and explore! After wandering through the Labyrinth with gasping and arring at every cute bridge and canal (mostly me I will admit) we got ourselves good and lost again! Once we found a sign (not from god) naming San Marco we finally found San Marco Piazza. It was worth the long lost walk. It felt like we were on a broadway stage, no pigeons, very little people around just us and the amazing light show.

The next morning was still unreal. As we looked outside our windows and seawater canals past by and not roads, I can now see why Venice is a very romantic city. Happy Sigh. With a good free full breakfast in our tummies which would set us up for most of the day we hit the pavement running to see it all! We didn't let the streets get us this time and made it to the Piazza to see what the day brings. The bell tower seemed the best place to get a great view of the islands so up we went but for the first time in a lift! No stairs to climb humpf. The day wasn't the best but it was still stunning but a little nippy from the top.

After our vertical challenge we came upon the square which is famous for the pigeons and expensive caffes! We skipped the five euro caffe and headed straight for the piles of pigeons in numbers I have never seen before. eeekkkk. There are several pigeon food stalls in the square which tourists (not us of course) pay their euros and get covered in pigeons, we happened to be in the middle of one and it was quite scary, you can feel them fly a faction to close and wonder if I moved suddenly would they hit me? We never got hit by a pigeon but Tom had a few land on him which he happily befriended.

There wasn't much of a queue to get into the St Marks Church being the off season and all so we made it our next stop. The outside gives you an idea of what to expect on the inside. It is covered with gold mosaics from top to bottom. Just breath taking and they are still adding to them! The floor had an interesting wave like surface going on, probably the proof the land underneath is always moving. The various colours of marble coating the pillars and sides of the church on the outside seemed a little extravagant but had a fitting flare with the Venetian culture.

Between lots of beautiful canals and buildings we roamed the stores as they were as much a part of the culture as the environment. Masks were sold in every second store which we found out some originated from the plague. In particular the masks with large pointy noses were used to store herbs and spices inside the hollow nose cavitary to help with the smell and protect from the disease. Some stores had the artist at work which was fantastic, we particularly loved watching the glass man create a little rooster with sticks of coloured glass, just magical.

There was always something new to see around another new corner but the next day we decided to take the exploring in style and took to the canals by Gondala. We managed to get the price down to fifty five euro and got a song or two along the way. It was quite relaxing and peaceful traveling by water so we sat back and enjoyed ourselves.

Later, after we were well relaxed we tackled the Palazzo Ducale. Which was truly a different way of life. It was used as the official residence of the Doges, seated the Republic government and of course housed the Venice prison all in one. The courtyard echos San Marco's Piazza on a smaller scale with one side defined as the Renaissance block. Through one of the arches you climb the golden staircase which creates the setting you are in a palace. There were first private rooms for the Doges and family which had a warm feel to them with fabric wallpaper, personal furniture and fireplaces, then you come to a long room which housed a large globe in the center (which Tom wanted to take home of course) and maps all over the walls. Up another flight of stairs housed the government in many interesting rooms. All were beautifully decorated with paintings on the walls and ceilings. Some of the rooms were huge, fit for a ball of a grand scale I reckon. You could get an idea from the way the seating was laid out, how the pecking order went.

We didn't get to see the bridge of sighs or the prison as they were under restoration but you got the impression the place in its time was a well oiled machine. It is said that many European countries looked up to Venice's government structure for a number of centuries. So they must have done something right.

On our last morning the rain had set in over night and left Venice in a flood of seawater. Which was an interesting experience. Before our departure we quickly strolled around the campos and streets and spotted locals in their annual gumboots tradition and watched the water spilling onto the footpaths and steps closest to the canals. The locals weren't bothered in the slightest and carried on with their day. As for us we were on our way out of Venice.

It was a truly an enchanting city made up of 118 islands with 150 canals used as water roads. Only in Venice this would happen. Until a hot summer ciao.

Have we seen this before?

Have we seen this before?

Washing at night!

Washing at night!

Fancy a ride honey?

Fancy a ride honey?