Venice. The City of Canals. One of the many names of this extraordinary city. Instead of cars, the people of Venice travel from one end of the city to the other using motorboats or water taxis.
I’ve visited Venice twice in my life and both were distinct experiences. Once as a sixteen-year-old with my grandparents and once as an adult with my husband some forty years later. While my youthful visit consisted of two days, my adult visit was merely hours.
My husband and I didn’t have much time to drop our bags at the port to board our ship for an eastern Mediterranean cruise that would take us to Croatia (I have posted the Dubrovnic adventure), Athens and Turkey. We left the luggage at the hotel so we could spend more time in Venice proper. But it had been a mistake.
The trip started out early with a bus ride to one of the 118 islands separated by canals and 400 bridges in a low-lying lagoon.
Massive amounts of debris littered the canals when I visited the first time in the late sixties. I remember thinking why would anyone want to visit a place where there was smelly garbage everywhere you looked, but I worried about the garbage issue when my husband insisted on a Gondola ride despite the exorbitant fee. You can imagine my delight when the waters were clear of debris and the water pristine. (Venice has had its challenges this year with flooding they’ve not seen in decades.)
My husband chuckled because our gondolier thought I was an interpreter. I’m not, of course. But I grew up listening to my grandparents conversing in Italian so it was a natural way for me to learn the language. That and having spent ten years with a family who spoke primarily Italian led me to be fluent in the language. And while my grammar isn’t top shelf, I make myself understood.
The ride was romantic, but the gondolier didn’t sing, I’m sad to say. It’s probably an extra cost, and I didn’t even think to ask. Several times during that short trip through the canals, I worried we’d tip over or hit the bottom of the bridges. Even the gondolier had to duck! Funny, I didn’t remember that being the case at sixteen.
My biggest disappointment was that I couldn’t show my husband the Bridge of Sighs because it was being restored and covered with advertisements that helped to finance the restoration. I didn’t even bother to take photos. This famous 17th century bridge took prisoners from their prison cell to the courts and ultimately to their deaths. The name says it all.
Being close to St. Marcos Square, I remembered my grandfather pointing out the spot where, in World War I, his plane crashed in the square. Dumbfounded, I wondered how he survived but at sixteen didn’t voice the question.
Early morning rainwater dotted the piazza when I slipped and fell but wasn’t hurt but embarrassed. I worried about getting up. People around me, including my husband, wanted to call an ambulance which further embarrassed me.
On my feet again, my husband purchased a bib with photos of Formaggia on it because I dropped food on my shirt every time we ate. The Italian restaurant owner, opposite our apartment in Stuttgart. would get a kick out of me wearing it when we dined there.
With our purchase in hand, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a break from walking around the piazza and refresh ourselves with a small bottle of soda and one small bowl of gelato. Both for the meager price of $30.00. Good thing we didn’t have lunch!
A thought niggled and I double-checked the cruise documents because it was nearing two pm by this time and found I misread them. Four pm was the departure time, but we had to be there by three. I panicked but God bless my husband; he remained calm and took in the sights.
We hurriedly found a water taxi. The opportunity to enjoy the Rialto bridge, the oldest bridge in Venice (12th century) passed with me worrying. Time ticked faster than the taxi moved and my nerves now stretched tighter than a rubber band. When we got off the water taxi, we still had to get to the hotel and pick up our bags.
I procured a taxi, told him what we needed and told him to do whatever he had to do to get us to the hotel and then to the port by three. A tall order. I was never so thankful to speak the language as I was that day even though the Venetian dialect is difficult to understand.
My husband, who likes to drive fast, held on for dear life as the taxi driver maneuvered through streets and passed other drivers who honked and gave him angry hand signs. But we made it, just barely, and gave that taxi driver a great tip. If we hadn’t had made it by three, we would have had to get to Dubrovnic on our own to meet up with the ship. Cruise ships wait for no one. A hard lesson to have learned on vacation but I’m glad we made it on time.
A beautiful city I recommend to anyone looking for a romantic getaway. Seek the out-of-the-way places and forget the tourist traps. Except for the gondola ride.