I want you to do something for me.
It won’t take long I promise.
Just for a moment or two, think back to one of your favourite childhood books and a place from it. Narnia, Hogwarts, or possibly a generic fairytale forest. It doesn’t matter where, just think of a place.
Have you got one?
It’s OK if you don’t, I’ll give you another minute or two to think.
Alright, I’m assuming you’ve got a place in mind now.
Now imagine getting to go there. As if the pages swallowed you up and you landed right bang in the middle of your childhood fantasy.
That’s what Venice felt like for me. I had to swallow a lump in my throat as we walked along from Saint Marcos’s vaporetto (water bus) stop. I ran my hand along a stone white bridge, walking across a canal, needing to prove to myself I was here. That it was a real place.
If you were wondering, my childhood book was The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke, though – weirdly – I wouldn’t class it as a favourite, But despite the fact I only read it a couple of times, I’ve got a strong memory of my little self eagerly turning the pages and conjuring vivid mental pictures of the streets, the square with the lion statues and the ancient, magical atmosphere of the city. I got tingles when reading it so imagine what it was like for me being in the actual place.
Walking around Venice does genuinely feel like you’re in a book. You walk along a narrow street, so narrow you can stretch your arms out and touch the walls either side, and feel like when you turn the corner you’ll tumble in to an adventure.
It is so beautiful. Despite trying to tell myself as much, I couldn’t believe it was a real place. I wanted to take a photo of everything. I must have taken photos of over 50 canals.
The canals and their bridges arching over them was something I always thought of when I pictured Venice so to get pictures myself, and physically see them was a simple pleasure. The most surreal moment was gliding through them in a Gondola.
At first we decided not to take the Gondola. It was 80 Euro for half an hour. Far too expensive and a rip-off we thought.
But it took us less than a day to change our minds and we decided to get one on our second day and I’m so happy we did. It was wonderful. There were a moments we were stuck in Gondola traffic and I cringed at how touristy it was. But in the quiet moments when it was just us and the Gondolier floating along a canal with nothing but the sound of the oar stirring the water, with the ripples lapping against the boat, the ancient beauty of Venice once again flooded through the senses.
One of the first things we decided to do was go and see the most famous landmark in Venice -the St Marco Basilica.We had bought a Lonely Planet Travel guide with us and it described how tourists hushed in to silence at the golden domes. You’d think with being the most famous landmark in Venice, we would find it with relative ease.
We did not.
We have one slim defence for not being able to find it, and that was where we staying. The Lido. It is a ten minutes boat ride away from the main city of Venice. It is a completely different world over there, with cards, roads and even a beach. .
We got to travel across the water everyday and I could never squash down the butterflies every time I saw the city get closer. But I need to stress to you something about that view: we saw a big dome on our approach to the city. We assumed this big, most noticeable dome on the landscape, was – of course – the Basilica. With no regard for the map, street signs or our guidebook, we went by our feelings and aimed for this big dome.
After wandering down side streets, asking two people for directions and crossing a canal on a boat, we got there. We got in and saw no golden domes. It was pleasant enough, but neither of us were blown away. Mum sat down and for the first time in a fair few hours, we looked at our guide book.
“Where’s the square?” she asked.
“In here, it said the Basilica is in the square. There’s no square here.”
“We’re in the wrong place aren’t we?”
We both tried to quiet our giggles as we left the apparently random church we dedicated hours finding.
We realised the actual Basilica was literally two minutes away from the vaporetto stop we had arrived at earlier in the afternoon. By the time we go there, it was closed for the day. We tried the next morning but felt uncomfortable by the herds of tourists plodding around. So we decided to come back at a different time.
Tip: We realised Venice was rammed with tourists early in the morning (we assumed it was the cruise ships dropping people off.) You’ve got the time to have a leisurely breakfast and then start your day and miss the rush hour. This is in September, in summer months it may be different.
And when we did get there?
Yeah it is pretty spectacular.
For 5 Euro you can climb up the stairs and go up to the balcony and look out across the square.
A special little moment for me was seeing this:
The lion statue I could remember from the book. It just brought a smile to my face.
We decided to go back there in the evening. The square is a hot spot for tourists, both in the day and in the night. But be warned: like many places to eat in Venice – it is insanely expensive. I was recommend to go there for a drinkand listen to the orchestra playing. It was wonderful. But pricey, even with just paying for drink.
I jotted this down in a notebook while we were there:
Waiters in white jackets glide between chairs. Holding a silver tray with one hand, one of them clicks his fingers to the music. A church bell tolls in the distance and voices come together to sing to the orchestra playing in the lit up square.
I’ll will end on this note for I wouldn’t want to write a novel in one blog post. For further Venice wanderings, just click here.