Mum and I quickly realised our favourite thing was walking around the city to soak up the atmosphere. We were in Venice for four days and we tried to get to each district: San Marco, Cannaregio, Castello, Dorsoduro, San Polo and Santa Croce.
I’ve always thought of “losing yourself” in a city as a metaphor for forgetting about worries and just embracing your surroundings. But the act of physically getting lost in a city certainly has its merits as well. We got the feel of Venice and on many happy incidents, found ourself in quiet streets before taking another turn and finding ourselves in a busy market.
The Jewish quarter in Cannaregio was particularly peaceful.
We went to a Kosher restaurant on the side of a canal and water brushed against our neighbouring table. We aimlessly strolled up side streets and I gleefully found one of the best gelato stores on our journey. (Seriously, I nearly welled up with how good it was. My god) Gelateria Ca’ D’oro.
With mum and I both being terrible at directions it was quite easy to get more than a little bit lost. One time we took a wrong turn and ended up near a hospital with the locals giving us a mixture of sympathetic and funny looks. We didn’t bother trying to look as if knew what we were doing and asked for directions as soon as we could.
There are two ways to get around Venice: by foot or by boat. So with our vaporetto day passes (a purchase I highly recommend) we decided to travel the whole way along the Grand Canal. This was one of my favourite moments of the trip. Venice unfolded in front of my eyes, the wind blew in my hair and my senses flooded with awe. I would not be able to take enough pictures to do this journey justice.
It is a wonderful and cheap way to see the Grand Canal. You get such a feel of the city. Mum and I committed and saw the whole thing. Literally. As well as the dilapidated, achingly elegant architecture, we saw the railway station, an industrial estate, a motorway and I think at one point we were at the ocean.
We got top-notch seats for this trip as we were one of the first people on. Like I said in my first blog entry for this trip, we were staying at the Lido. One of the first vaporetto stops.
Our hotel was lovely. The room, staff and food were absolutely top notch and if your’re thinking of staying in Venice or the Lido, definitely consider the Hotel Riveria. It is literally a minute’s walk across from the vaporetto stop and incredibly easy to get in to the heart of Venice.
Now from what you’ve read so far – this may shock you – but for our last night, I took charge of the guide book and the map. Our lovely little guide book told us about bars in the Dorsoduro district. We got on the trusty vaporetto, got off at our stop and I managed to get us to Campo Santa Margherita. This was a completely different experience to the expensive, tourist packed San Marco square a few nights previously.
This time we were in real Venice. This was past the state of disbelief this magical city was real. This was seeing people finishing their day at work and meeting for a drink. Students holding pints and standing together. friends meeting before a night out. This was real life and I was getting a taste of it.
My favourite of the places we went to in this square was Caffe Rosso (known as the red store front) It’s a tiny red, wooden, front, with tables lined up outside but more so people stand around to pay less for their drink. We got there just as people were arriving and by the time we left for dinner, an atmosphere began to bubble like a bottle of champagne slowly being uncorked.
After a couple more cocktails, we went back along the Grand Canal to our hotel. The water was an inky black but illuminated by the full moon glowing white in the sky. I leant my head on to mum’s shoulder and let the feel of the trip wash over me. I had been there for only a few days, seen the tourism, seen the fantasy and the reality, and hated the thought of leaving. I felt like I had so much left to see.
I hope one day I can return to Venice. I think there’s still a chapter waiting for me in my fairy tale city.
X Marks the Spot
Libreria Acqua Alta di Frizzo Luigi
Sestiere Castello, 5176/B, 30122 Venezia, Italy
I am hesitant to say my hidden treasure for you, as I believe Venice is a place where everyone can find their own hidden treasure. But I need to tell you about this place.
A friend recommend I go. We didn’t have directions for it (shocking, I know) and didn’t actively look to find it but stumbled across it.
For those interested in going, if you go from St Marco’s Bascialla to the left in the Castello district.
It’s called the Libreria Acqua and is described as one the most beautiful book shops in the world. Books are in gondolas, on shelves, in boxes, on tables. Outside there is a book staircase, which you can climb up and look out across the canal. Most of the books are in Italian but there is an English section with a wondrous mix of What to Expect when you’re Expecting, philosophy books and children’s books from the 1950s. The shop keeper sits behind the till like a wise Italian Gandalf, willing to help any customer who walks in, wide-eyed in wonder.
If you have your own hidden gem of Venice, please tell me in the comments.