Some fifteen years ago, I took Mrs Nice for a romantic few days in Venice and enjoyed discovering this unique destination. Venice was not the main focus of this particular journey but was to be the starting point of a cruise down the Adriatic. However we intended to have a little time in Venice by staying overnight in a hotel before we joined our ship.
We flew from London and arrived at Venice’s Marco Polo airport, the short trip to Venice can be undertaken by a number of means including water taxis. However we decided to use the coach for the short 20 minute ride to Piazzale Roma which is the main dropping off point for most visitors for Venice.
We were careful to book an hotel that was not too far from Piazzale Roma because one of the main problems being in Venice is travelling around the city, especially with luggage. We were walking over one of the small bridges when we approached by a man asking if he could carry our cases over the bridge. In many places, this might be seen as a good deed, however in Venice there are a number of scams and nuisances that visitors should be aware. The rather over friendly attitude of our good Samaritan was a bit of a warning and sure enough he expected some payment from the people he was ‘helping’.
We quickly passed the large Santa Lucia train station and took the small walk to the Hotel Continental which stands on the side of the grand canal. Despite being quite inexpensive, the hotel was a pleasant surprise with an ‘unusual for Venice’ large room.
After dropping off our bags, we decided to have a wander around some of the backstreets of Venice. Venice is made up of a number of neighbourhoods and is a fascinating place to walk around. It is a place to explore without a map because you will find it almost impossible to successfully navigate the labyrinth of alleys and small passages with a map.
One place we decided to explore not far from the hotel was the Ghetto. The area known as the Ghetto was where the Jewish population lived from the 16th century. Made famous by Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, it is a small atmospheric space with a number of memorials and plaques.
The grey and darkening skies indicated that rain was forthcoming, so we made our way back to the hotel where we enjoyed a meal, drink and pleasant evening as the rain bounced off the Grand Canal.
To our surprise, the rain was still pouring down the following morning and the siren indicated that flooding was expected. One of the most unusual aspects of Venice is the duckboards that are laid down when flooding is expected, outside the hotel, the local market was doing a good trade in plastic ponchos, umbrellas and the strange plastic footwear which visitors use to protect their feet.
Our ship was not departing till late afternoon, so we decided to use the vaporetto to go down the grand canal and explore the main promenade near San Marco’s square and the Doges Palace. The large queues for the vaporetto indicated that many people wanted to do the same. Whilst waiting for the vaporetto, we were surprised how expensive the tickets were in comparison to the last time we were here. We also had a reminder of some of the problems in Venice when Mrs Nice felt someone putting their hand in her backpack, she quickly turned around to see a couple of young girls looking sheepishly. Mrs Nice asked them what they were doing and they quickly made their way back into the crowd. The queues for vaporetto are prime places for pickpockets, so be aware of your belongings in this type of areas.
A trip down the Grand Canal is one of the joys of Venice and if you can find a spot at the back of the boat, you can see some of the various palaces and buildings alongside the canal and travel under the famous Rialto and Accademia bridges. Always entertaining is the traffic on the canal, gondolas nip in and out of the traffic, water taxis ply their trade and boats carrying all kinds of goods move up and down the canal.
The famous Santa Maria della Salute church marks the end of the canal and the vaporetto has a stop near San Marco Square. Walking near to the square, it was obvious that flooding had taken place and crowds of tourists made their way tentatively around the duckboards or splashed about in their various winter footwear.
The expensive cafes around the square was doing little business with many chairs and tables under water and the seagulls dived in the water for any morsels. Tearing away from this rather surreal scene, we decided to walk along the waterfront down to the Arsenale which is always quieter will a lot less visitors.
We stopped at the bridge that looks over the Bridge of Sighs which reminded us of our last visit when we went into the Doge’s Palace and over the Bridge of Sighs into the prison section.
Further on a number of photographers were taking pictures of a bride and groom, we thought it was less of wedding but more of a photo shoot with the wedding dress getting soaked trailing in the puddles.
The Arsenale is the old docks of the city and are a fascinating reminder of Venice as a naval power, although you cannot enter the docks, the gates are full of statues, some which were stolen from Greece. We sat at a local café and enjoyed a coffee as the sun began to appear that lit up the scene in the lagoon and the San Giorgio Maggiore church.
When we made our way back to San Marco’s square, the flooding had receded to some extent and the waterfront was coming to life. We caught the vaporetto back to the train station and made our way back to the hotel to pick up our cases. We were shocked to find out that water had flooded into the hotel reception area and the flustered porter in his wellington squelched through the water to get our bags.
Fortunately, the pier for the ship was not far from the Piazzale Roma and within an hour we were sitting on the ship and looking forward to the next part of our journey.
Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.
Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.