Last week I briefly blogged about Venice. I explained that I had been there twice before, but only briefly, and that “we really must go back some time and actually experience Venice properly”.
Well, dear reader, I am afraid that I was being a little sneaky: I had scheduled my post to appear at about the time my flight was due to touch down in Venice. Yes, we went back!
I know, deception is unbecoming, but although I trust you implicitly, I don’t like to advertise in advance when I am going on holiday: you never know who may infiltrate the obviously trustworthy and discerning ranks of my readership.
Anyway, to Venice. It is a unique and wonderful city, but one question is always forefront in my mind when I visit: why?
Why go to all of the trouble to build a great city basically in the sea? Okay, so back in the fifth century it is thought that people from nearby cities fled to the marshy lagoons to escape successive invasions, but you’d have thought that, at some point, as the city developed, someone would have said “blow this for a game of soldiers, let’s move somewhere easier.”
But no, luckily for us they didn’t.
“How can we build in a marsh?” Someone must have asked. No problem, we’ll drive wooden pilings down through the sand and mud until we reach the harder ground beneath and then build on them.
“But how will we get about with all of these canals in the way?” No problem, we’ll build bridges to cross them. There are now more than 400 bridges in Venice.
“But what about transportation?” No problem, we’ll use boats – gondolas, which will be powered by men in stripy jumpers using poles to push them along.
And it is all of this that makes Venice unique. Whatever other kind of special place you can think of: charming fishing villages, thatched cottages, gothic architecture – they can all be found elsewhere, but nowhere is quite like Venice.
And on this, our third visit, we had a great time. We stayed in a charming hotel called Al Ponte Mocenigo, recommended by friends and just a stone’s throw from San Stae on the Grand Canal. We had time to properly explore and visit places: we went to the Palazzo Ducale and the Basilica di San Marco; we explored the Rialto Market, marvelling at the weird (and smelly) fish on offer; we flexed our little-used artistic muscles and visited the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and, although acknowledging that it wasn’t really for us, we felt our horizons broadening.
We wandered (and frequently got lost in) the maze of higgledy-piggledy streets, being amazed and inspired by every photogenic canal and building; and we had the opportunity to experience Venice by night, when things become even more magical as the sun goes down. It may be a cliché, but the sunset from Rialto Bridge is a spectacular sight.
Eating and drinking is a big part of our holidays: we decided against the uber-tourist approach to “re-mortgage the house for a coffee in St Mark’s Square”, instead we sampled pizza from the ever-present trattorias and we ate in excellent restaurants. One of the reasons for our return was my wife’s desire to eat in a particular restaurant overlooking a canal: against the odds we found the restaurant and managed to book a seat by the window to watch the gondolas glide past.
We also joined in with happy-hours, drinking Spritz and Prosecco accompanied by cicheti in tiny back-street osteria populated by locals. I even found some half decent beer: it’s not all Peroni, the red double-malt (birra doppio malto) wasn’t bad – it was a tad pricey at €9 for 500ml, but then nothing is cheap in Venice.
All in all it was an excellent few days away. It may take weeks or even months for me to go through the hundreds of pictures that I took during those three short days: here are just three to be going on with, expect another blog with many more pictures later!
 A strange thing my parents used to say that I somehow missed from my earlier blog on the subject