Venice: A jewel in Italy’s crown
Rome, Milan, Florence, Naples – there are so many iconic and famous cities in Italy that come to mind. Whether it be for history, art, fashion, music – a combination of some or all. However, one stands out as the most unique and one that many other world cities are likened to.
Venice – the Queen of the Adriatic, the floating city, “La Serenissima”.
Born in Australia of Italian heritage, I remember as a child dreaming of the day when my parents
would take me to their country of origin. I would study the map and research all the main cities as well as the Sicilian village where my parents came from, but of all these amazing places only one really caught my imagination. I must go there. I must see Venice.
After a couple of trips for family visits with my parents, I did finally get there on a coach tour at their insistence. “Let’s see more of Italy”, they said. “In style”, they said, albeit with an Italian accent.
Yes, my chance to see Venice did become a reality. However, my recall now is a little blurred as it was such a fleeting visit. Yes, we saw all the main sights and they were incredibly amazing, but it was so rushed. I knew I had to come back. I knew I had to give Venice a second chance
Temporary citizen of Venice
Four years had passed, and in the spring of 1990, I returned to the beautiful floating city. Travelling by train was for me the best way to arrive into Venice for this second visit. It was early afternoon and quite warm for spring as the train made its way along from the mainland station of Mestre along the “Ponte della Libertà (Liberty Bridge) to Santa Lucia central station on the main island of Venice.
I was so excited, that it felt like the first time.
Upon arrival and disembarking the train, I could see right down the platform and through the exit of train terminal. We were right on the Grand Canal. As I got close, I could see the water taxis busily commuting. I could hear the noises of the local street vendors selling their colourful wares and the gondoliers trying to attract the tourists to ride on their gondolas. WOW! I am so ready to go exploring.
I found a quaint little family-run hotel Albergo al Gobbo located about a five minute walk from the train station. Once settled, I was ready to navigate the maze of streets to familiarise and orientate myself, as this would be home for the next 10 days. Now I had the freedom to explore this beautiful historic city and revisit some of the famous sights at my own pace.
The hotel’s room attendant mentioned a Venice City Pass which at the time was known as “Cartavenezia”. This was then offered only to local Venetians or Italian citizens, so luckily my dual citizenship came in handy. This gave me access to the extensive network of water taxis & ferries at a fraction of the standard tourist rate. Now this is available to anyone planning to regularly use the public transport.
The benefit of staying in the Canareggio area of Venice is that you’re away from the busy main tourist areas such as the Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco. I remember wandering aimlessly each day through the back streets, getting lost, discovering enchanting little bridges over the smaller canals, and then finding my way out into a hidden piazza or in front of a lesser known old gothic church.
My last evening, as I recall was a warmer than usual night for Spring. Picture this. Piazza San Marco, somehow less crowded, eating a delicious pizza, drinking a strong espresso while listening to a string quartet with the beautiful sounds echoing throughout the square. Yes, this is my everlasting memory of this fascinating and unique city.
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