The day we were scheduled to leave Cinque Terre was one of the few rainy days we had for the entire trip, so it wasn’t so bad that it came during a travel day. We spent about 4 hours on the train, much of which were spent napping or reading. But while switching trains, we did have time to stop for a Coke for Signore Bella Vita.
While Venice is one of the world’s most unique and visited cities, it was not particularly high on my travel list. It seemed a bit too cliché, too played out. But I figured that while we were in the area, we should go see it, but it was more just to “check it off the list.” Upon our arrival in sunny Venice, I was pleasantly surprised that the charm of the place was authentic, and not simply kitsch.
By now, everyone knows the story about Venice – at least the basics. Described by the New York Times as “the most beautiful city built by man,” Venice dates back to the fifth century. As it was built up little by little over 118 small islands, “The Floating City” grew into the wealthiest city in the world by the late 13th century. Now, Venice is predominantly known for its canals and well-preserved architecture – both of which make it known as one of the world’s most romantic cities.
My initial fears that Venice was simply a tourists’ city were allayed when we arrived. Yes, there were tourists. Yes, the streets could be crowded. However, enough of the city’s original charm and beauty shone through that it overshadowed the busyness and bustle.
The reports of Venice’s canals have not been exaggerated – they are, indeed, the only way that you can really get from place to place. When you arrive at the Santa Lucia train station, you need to find a water taxi (not cheap) or the more affordable water bus. If you are arriving with luggage, prepare to pay over 10 euro for a spot on the water bus – but it’s still a relative bargain compared to the 50+ you’d be spending for a water taxi (a guy driving a motorboat). I guess that water transportation is in such high demand by people who apparently have disposable income that they can get away with it.
Once you get to your residence, get settled and then go out and enjoy the atmosphere – what I like to call “the calm bustle.” It’s busy, but it’s not hectic. People are at peace, enjoying the romance of the city.
In short order, we found Venice to be a place where it was inevitable, yet desirable, to get lost. The meandering streets and many detours down small alleyways and bridges guaranteed that you’d lose your sense of direction within minutes. Around every corner, though, was a charming piazza or building that would make your wandering worth it. Come back soon to find out what’s worth seeing in the city of Venice.