Venice has got to be one of the most picturesque cities on earth. The colourful buildings, the narrow streets paved with archaic stones, the canal, the gondolas, the historic bridges, and the exquisite findings you might unravel when you wander aimlessly. Even so, because of its stature, an average of 25 – 30 million tourists frequented the city in a year and it is almost impossible to relish Venice’s true beauty while you are sandwiched in between people, simultaneously, trying to avoid being in anyone’s frame. What you do not see in those beautiful photos of Venice are the long line of people awaiting to be photographed at the precise spot, or the long line of people awaiting to enter the St Mark.
Beginning of Venice
The city of Venice was founded in around 400 A.D. The founders were mostly refugees from several towns in Italian mainland that was ruled by the Roman Empire. But in the early years of the fifth century, with the collapse of the empire and barbarians began to sweep down from the northern Europe—lead by Attila the Hun also known as Attila the Destroyer, this had invoked chaos all over the towns. Out of fear, these people fled to Venice, a lagoon away from the chaos, a place where they thought they would be safe and remained ever since. They thought, being separated by water from the mainland could give them a sense of security, which it did for a while. It was a city built from fear, built by refugees who had absolutely nothing. They stretched awnings and built huts and that was the beginning of Venice.
Interestingly, Venice was the European end of the Silk Road trade route which transported goods all the way from China and it became a cosmopolitan city. By the end of the 9th century, merchants from all over the world came to Venice to sell their products –silk, grain and spices. Unfortunately, today, the floating city is now known as the sinking city due to natural phenomenon and global warming predominantly. It has sunk nine inches over the past 100 years. Experts have warned that because of the rise in sea levels, Venice will be completely underwater by 2100.
I had stayed in an Airbnb, 100 meters away from St Marco Basilica, amidst the hustle and bustle of the sinking city. As I wandered through the Venetian streets, I noticed there were a profusion of stalls selling beautiful glassware made out of Murano glass and of course, Venetian leather bags and bought a few as souvenirs. To explore Venice, it is best to explore at the wee hour before sunrise, while the piazzas are still vacant with only a few signs of locals heading to work and others setting up the tables, preparing for the daily chaotic scenes and tumultuous crowds. I find getting lost in Venice a great blessing at this moment – strolling down the quiet narrow streets with no specific place to go, the beautiful canals, and you get to have a faint picture of what it was like to be in Venice hundreds of years ago which, left me in awe — their splendid architecture and majestic art and the brilliance of it all.
SOME TIPS FOR YOUR NEXT VISIT TO VENICE
The city is filled with motley bridges (with stairs) and you might have to carry your luggage up and down the stairs and wheel your luggage for a few kilometres more to get to where you are staying (The hotels aren’t always accessible through the canals). Upon arriving at the Venice train station, you will be queuing to board a ferry that will bring you to the city and that will be a problem if you only have two hands and ten bags. You can however, hire a porter to carry your bags all to the way to the hotel for a price.
Research on restaurants or places to eat
I know how wonderful it is to just walk into any restaurant whenever you are famished, expecting for the authentic Italian taste you yearn for but chances are, you will be paying a lot more for an excruciatingly mediocre pasta. Avoid dining around the San Marco piazza or anywhere touristy for that matter. On top of that, there has been a lot of rumours going about on how Venetians allegedly ‘hate’ tourists, there were cases whereby the tourists were charged a lot more for no absolute reason (merely for being a tourist) and it is said to not be an uncommon practice.
Be considerate when taking photographs
Because of its narrow streets, sometimes, you might want to stop and take photos of the canals or the birds even, although with no absolute intention from your part, you are causing traffic congestion and this will understandably incensed the locals especially when they are on their way to work. Some may hiss at you and aren’t too nice about it. Just do not block their way especially during peak hours. So, it is best to be aware of your surroundings when taking photographs.
On the other hand, if you see a line of people waiting for their turn to be photographed, do not be a jackass by cutting the queue. I have experienced this while i was waiting for my turn to take some photographs at the Rialto bridge when this young couple just crept in out of no where and beat the line. Some people’s nerves i tell you.
Start your day early
If you want to explore Venice, this is the best time where the crowds are little to none. The crowds will usually start building up after 8.30 am until late. So this is the best time to take photographs of the empty piazzas without bumping into one another or having to crop some people’s heads out of your photographs later on which can be an utter nuisance sometimes.
Stay on the Venice islet
If you are only in Venice for about two to three days, I’d totally recommend staying in one of the six central districts of Venice : Cannaregio, San Marco, Santa Croce, Dorsoduro, San Polo and Castello for a more time-efficient trip. Otherwise, you will find yourself squandering most of your time on ACTV buses trying to get from one islet to another.
Water taxis charge a “difficulty fee”
If you are planning to hire the water taxis to get to your hotel/pick-up point where it is located in a congested canal, they will charge you a fee for the trouble. And it ain’t cheap.
Eat all the gelatos
Get all the gelato you see – trust me, there is no better place to enjoy your gelato other than in Italy.
Don’t be afraid to get lost
The fact is, you will get lost and it is okay. You get to be away from the crowd and you get to experience the real Venice as you should. And trust me, it is worth it.