Venice has always been on my list of places to visit. That romantic notion of boat rides at sunset, seafood pasta beside a pretty bridge over looking the river. I wanted to experience it all, taste, smell, photograph everything. But what I hadn’t expected was to feel so very underwhelmed by the pantomime of it all.
Don’t get me wrong. Venice is beautiful! I mean, it really is. Incredible buildings, built on stilts out in the sea. The whole thing is dream like, fascinating and unique.
But, it felt like I was watching a pantomime. Or part of it! A manic play that involved the tourists and the Venetians who catered for them. At 8am, the director somewhere clapped the clapper board and off we go, on this hot, sweaty merry go round of tourism.
Perhaps visiting Venice in August wasn’t the best idea. Temperatures reached 40 degrees, and the streets were rammed full of people all trying to snatch that elusive Venice dream. I nearly cried with overheating, sweat dripping off me, as I navigated bridges, alleyways and groups of tourists to find our Airbnb.
Too many people. Too bloody hot! We needed to make a plan of action to escape this chaos, and still experience Venice. So, the following day we woke at 5am, to wander the streets at sunrise, before the rest of the tourists and the cruise ships woke. And before it became too hot to handle.
This was probably the best idea we had. Waking that early, there was hardly a soul about. Street cleaners and a handful of other keen photographers wanting to capture the soul of Venice as the sun rose.
We headed across the Rialto bridge (totally underwhelming with it’s tat shops) and walked through empty squares and past the high end retail shops towards St Marks Square.
It was worth it. Early wake up, to see the golden sun rise over Doge’s Palace was magical. I had found the Venice I was looking for. Beautiful, serene, enchanting. I fell in love with the golden light dancing off the marble and the cool green water.
In those short few hours before the rest of Venice woke, were the most magical. I found what I was hoping for, and it was enchanting.
I’m not interested in the millions of ‘tat’ shops selling miniature gondolers , fridge magnets and rude aprons. Nor am I interested in recreating every photograph that every tourist from around the world has taken. Standing with a smelly pigeon on my head in a crowded overpriced square. I’m not interested in an expensive, boring, gondolier ride through smelly, litter strewn water.
I want the real Venice. The beauty, the history. I want real food, not a pastiche of Italian grub. I want to see locals living their lives, eat where they eat.
Did I find it? No. Sadly I didn’t. Will I ever find it? I truly don’t know. I think Venice is too popular for it’s own good. And asking my kids if they liked the city, and how it compared to other European cities – they didn’t like it. Preferring Copenhagen or Barcelona.
In the words of Rufus, “Venice is full of pee smelling alleyways and typical leather bag shops“. I have to agree.