It remained freezing cold and rainy as we made our way by train to our next destination: Venice. Luckily the rain let up for the rest of our stay there but it remained quite cold. I for one was glad it was cold because I had heard stories of this city stinking to the high heavens when it’s hot out and the water is low. For us, it was high tide and there was no stench. On our first full day, we set off to take a public vaporetto– which are like water buses in Venice– tour with one of our Rick Steves audio tours.
I’m glad that my husband and I were able to see some of the flooding of the city going on because it’s actually quite interesting. It made us both wonder how much longer the city will last with such extreme flooding going on.
Many of the buildings in Venice have their first floors regularly flooded and some are uninhabited because of it. But seeing the detailed architecture of the buildings was an interesting glimpse into another time when this area was known for all the rich merchants who partied here.
The picture above is a view from the water, during high tide, into San Marco square. Waves were lapping up past the parked gondolas onto the stones of the square as tourists made their way along gangways put out so those without rain boots wouldn’t get their feet wet.
In the picture below you can see that most of the square had water covering it but off to the left, where you see a wall of people, there are the planks laid out for people to walk on. The people you see walking through the water had obviously planned ahead and wore rain boots or bought plastic covers for their shoes to wade through the water.
It’s just amazing that this city manages to function with daily flooding. You may have seen a news article about Venice flooding where the arms of chairs like those above were barely visible. That was just two weeks after we left. I’m certainly glad we didn’t experience that much flooding.
This is my husband questioning how buildings were ever built so darn close to sea level!?
My husband and I quickly agreed that there were too many people (all trying to avoid the water) so let’s use our vaporetto passes to head over to Murano and buy some glass! We were both enchanted by Murano’s more sparse walkways, colorful and more simple buildings, and all the glass.
Several tour books advised that most of the glass in Murano is not actually made here so we sought out the one recommended shop in hopes of authentic Italian glass. We found the small, colorful shop and found several items to bring home. The shopkeeper (who said she lives on Murano) also told us that the shop floods every morning! But that the other side of the canal usually gets even worse flooding. When you look around the shop you notice that all the shelves have metal legs lifting them higher off the ground so that there aren’t issues with the water.
With some trinkets to take home with us we decided to head back to Venice proper and see San Marco square now that the water had subsided and we could more easily walk around. At this point in our trip we were pretty churched out and didn’t end up using our Rick Steves tours for the church or the square. Plus, did I mention it was cold?
Many of the narrow alleys had water still drying in them or the gangway/walkways still set up from the morning’s flooding. Looking at the bottom of the buildings you could see how the salt water eats away at the structures.
There is certainly no other city like Venice in the world and it’s mind blowing to take it all in no matter how many pictures you see of it. I was also surprised by just how many gondolas there were! There are about as many gondolas in the canals everywhere as there are taxis on the streets of New York. As for whether we took the gondola ride or not, we did not. Why? Because the price (80 euro for 40 minutes, 40 more euro for 20 more minutes) was a little too high for us. The more gondoals I saw, all packed together, with some tourists sharing a gondola, the less it felt like “a romantic” thing and more like a touristy thing to do in Venice. My husband and I enjoyed ourselves more wandering around on our own than we would have packed in a tiny boat with people we didn’t know.
Venice is interesting for many reasons but among them, they do not have any cars on the island. That means that everything must be done by boat. When I saw the trash boat I got very excited because it hadn’t sunk in yet despite seeing some DHL delivery boats scooting around. See the green boat in the middle of the canal below? It’s the trash boat! Instead of a garbage truck! It makes sense it was just one of those things that had never occurred to me before.
Venice is a great city to walk around but it’s very crowded with tourists even during the off-season. It’s a MUST to wander and find empty canals and bridges to enjoy peacefully and take in the carless city sounds.
Our exploration was wrapped up with a splendid sunset. We had found ourselves in the southwest part of the island and while we waited for our vaporetto, watched the sun sink into the horizon amid a glorious display of colors.
For dinner we stopped into a quiet restaurant. Or at least it was at first. When we arrived, we were the first ones there for the evening while the bartender and his mother got some things ready for service. She wrapped up and headed to the kitchen to cook while he remained behind the bar and serving tables.
As we enjoyed a drink, four men walked in and to the bar where the bartender, upon seeing them enter, already had their four drinks poured. Shortly after, a large, boisterous Italian man walked in singing and greeting the bartender and the four men. He received a glass of wine and went off to see Mama in the kitchen (which we could see through a window at the back of the restaurant). As he came back to the bar area, he came to talk to my husband and I… in Italian. Neither of us had any idea what was really going on but he seemed very friendly (and drunk) and apparently was thrilled to discover that we both had blue eyes. He soon departed and my husband and I decided to take a table for dinner.
Dinner was really excellent and was typical Venetian food. My husband enjoyed Mama’s liver and onions and I had stuffed squid which was killer. As we were wrapping up and heading out, our new Italian friend was back and addressing us while asking Mama to come out of the kitchen and have a glass of wine with him. I’m not entirely sure what he was talking about but the bartender informed us that this fellow, who would occasionally break into opera, was known as “The Voice of Venice.” I wish I knew more Italian because I’m pretty certain that I would have loved to know what he was saying. Either way, Mama came out of the kitchen and we asked to take a picture with The Voice of Venice and Mama which only required a little instruction to another Italian man on how to use an iPhone to take a picture.