Venice has never really been top of my list of places to visit, simply because I’ve seen and heard so much about it, it kind of feels like I’ve been a thousand times over. From the postcard sights to the ever-so-famous smells, it’s always felt as if visiting Venice would be just a little bit underwhelming. And my reluctance wasn’t exactly eased by the fact that it seems like you either love or absolutely despise Venice. My friends and B had labelled it ‘the worst place in the world’ (no exaggeration), whilst my boss had gleefully squealed, ‘Oh, it’s like Disneyland!’ With the crowds the main complaint – even the residents of Venice have begun to complain about the sheer volume of tourists crammed into the narrow canal-lined streets – I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit.
So believe me when I tell you that nobody is more surprised that I absolutely hand-on-heart dance-in-my-socks loved it.
Maybe it’s because we went on a Monday in September or maybe I was just prepared for the absolute worst, but I just couldn’t believe how un-busy it was. Sure, some of the main streets were an enlightening lesson into how it feels to be tinned tuna, but just a few streets away it was pretty much silent. We ate our lunch by the canal, our legs dangling over the water and not a worry in our minds that we might be trampled by the next herd. Even by the Grand Canal, it was quiet enough that we could trot along at our pace, stopping for the odd photo or ice cream. If you’re visiting Venice soon, I would definitely recommend taking a random side street and just going where the mood takes you – Venice is so small you’re sure to stumble across the main sites sooner or later, and you’ll have had a much nicer time getting there.
Speaking of which, the Basilica San Marco and the Piazza are definitely worth a visit – their architecture is just so different from other traditional sights across Italy. We didn’t go into either due to time constraints (5 hours and counting!), but I did enjoy standing in the middle of the piazza and spinning. Seriously, if you visit, look behind you! The buildings lining the square for me where just as worth it as the basilica. My favourite sights though, were the sights that you can lift straight from the postcards: gondolas and the Grand Canal. So. Many. Gondolas. But yet not enough gondolas? I think I should live in a gondola.
I could’ve stood at the edge of the Grand Canal for days. Snap snap snap, hundreds of near-identical photos taken but yet I couldn’t bring myself to delete a single one. We actually spent most of our afternoon in the city walking along the Grand Canal in a long-fruitless search for authentic ice cream, and I wouldn’t change a single minute of it. Yes, the ice cream we settled for was a little sub-standard – one week in Italy and I am a verified ice cream snob* – but to eat it in such a beautiful place, on a beautiful day with one of my most favourite beautiful people… Wonderful.
*Just want to quickly tell my favourite story about how Italy ruins ice cream for you forever. My friend spent her year abroad in Italy, and on her return to London she went out with a friend for a Mr. Whippy. And what did she do? She bloody well returned it! Apparently it wasn’t ‘real ice cream.’ A Mr. Whippy? Not authentic gelato? Get out of town!