The curved canals, flashy gondolas and the laundry waving in the wind out of the small shutter windows….all of these visual descriptions stay true to the reality that is Venice. Venice was exactly how I pictured it in my head, but even more charming. With it’s small pathways and little connecting bridges, Venice was picturesque.I visited Venice twice during my trip backpacking Europe – once for three days on my own and another 2 days with Alex. But five days were still not enough time to truly enjoy and fall in love with the romantic city.
When I first got off the train at Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia – Venice’s main train station – and walked out of the station, I was immediately greeted upon by the gorgeous never-ending canal right in front of me. Damn, I thought, this is unlike any place I’ve ever seen.
And it is. Venice is truly unlike any other city in the world. There are those few places in the world…New York City, Antarctica, Machu Pichu, Rome, Paris. Venice is also one of those unique places in the world that really is unlike any other.
After I walked out of the station, I followed my hand-written directions to my hostel, all the while being immediately entranced by the charm of this magical place. Italian women hanging out their laundry from their windowsills, Gondola men wearing black & white striped shirts and hats singing to their passengers, people spending hours and hours drinking coffee and cappuccinos outside of cafes….the stereotypes are real, guys.
I spent an entire afternoon living like an Italian, where I sat at a tiny circular table and nursed my cappuccinos, pastries, and read my novel. Every so often, I’d glance up and let my mind wander. Other times, I’d take notes and practice my Italian while looking up words in my Italian phrasebook.
I’d take notes in my little black moleskin book, calculating my budget and writing down my favorite Italian phrases like “Bel far Niente” – the enjoyment of doing nothing.
Although disappointed by the flashiness and gaudiness of the modern gondolas in Venice with the leopard and zebra print seats and shiny gold lion heads, I was amazed by how beautiful they looked as they sailed along the peaceful waters. It looked so relaxing. I admired the gorgeous couples as they held hands and looked out over the waters together, riding down the canal. I observed the children playing on the stone paths, the tourists snapping pictures and feeding the hundreds of pigeons gathered around Piazza San Marco. I paid a Euro for a giant orange smock to cover my shoulders and knees while I prayed in St. Mark’s Basilica. I thought about spending 80 Euros on a gondola ride…but then I thought about persuading Alex to see Venice with me later in August. Fortunately, he happily agreed and we got to see Venice together in August!
I had a magical and highly rewarding time traveling Venice solo in July. Although I was happy, I was also quite lonely being in Venice alone. Venice is an incredibly romantic city. Couples are constantly displaying public affection around the city, and everything is advertised for couples – from it’s candlelit dinners, violinists on gondolas, many lingerie shops ( which I did shamelessly indulge and splurge in! ) and honeymooners strolling around hand-in-hand. But although I was a tad lonely without a partner to admire and take in the stunning views while riding a gondola during my first trip, I also did some of my best thinking in Venice.
Venice is consisted of hundreds, if not thousands, of tiny streets and cobblestones alleyways. And all of these alleyways and paths are surrounded by skinny canals filled with fishy green seawater. You can’t really go anywhere. You’re forced to wander and explore on foot, unless you pay extra for a boat to sail you around. So, that’s what I did: I wandered. Endlessly and aimlessly. Without a GPS or WiFi, I would jot down notes and street names and circle points on maps and pray that I would find my way back to my hostel, Anticoeapon late at night.
My first dinner in Italy was sitting 3 hours alone at a little table in a tucked away alley, complete with lots of journaling, chatting with the couple next to me, and practicing my Italian phrases. I also had my first cappuccino in Venice, and am now forever addicted. I window-shopped little bakeries and find jam-filled croissants and famous Venice S-shaped cookies called “Venice Butter Cookies.”
As in most of Italy, stone-carved water fountains are especially popular among the locals. With my plastic reusable water bottle ( which I bought from Eastern Mountain Sports here ), I refilled my bottle plenty of times with the fresh-tasting water at these fountains. Venice is filled with them around every corner, so you’ll definitely never get thirsty!
Another interesting discovery I noticed in Venice was the style of the toilets! With NO toilet seat for sitting and no toilet handle. To use the restroom, I would have to squat and press a foot lever! I was so perplexed I had to snap a photo before I walked out.
The food in Venice, as it is in most of Italy, is insanely delcious. S-shaped butter cookies, Biscotti, and jam-filled Linzer cookies, are all super popular. Here I am munching on a powdered chocolate chip cookie while wandering the canal-filled streets near the Disney store at Sestiere di S. Marco. While wandering across many of the bridges and past thousands of small doorways and linen-lined window shutters, I also made a small discovery with two small home accessories: doorknobs and doorbells!
Each doorknob in Venice is very interesting and unique in its own way. They all have their own symbol or artistic style – a lot of them being dragons and fish – and make quite the statement on a house. I mean, look at those shutters! I was always looking up in amazement at the many different, unique window shutters on each little house.
A lot of travels I met during my backpacking trip through Europe didn’t particularly enjoy Venice. Many people warned me of how “run-down” Venice was…how “sad” it was that this ancient city was falling apart, and no one was doing anything to fix it. Venice is indeed run-down. It’s worn out and it’s very obvious that the city is falling apart when you see it. But although it is old and a bit damaged, I never saw it as “sad.” I always looked at it with wonder and history. This city is ancient, and the fact that this city is still above water is a miracle. I would not be surprised if this city drowns completely under the sea in the next 30 or so years, maybe even sooner. The fact that this romantic place will not be around forever is very sad. Venice is special and so unlike anyplace else. I encourage every person I know to fly out and experience Venice at some point in life. And preferably sooner, rather than later. The more time that passes, the more destroyed and run down this water-filled city becomes.
Charming does not even begin to describe Venice. The window shutters and Aladdin-like carved windows always make me giddy. My first three days in Venice were quite peaceful and enjoyable, and I was so excited to come back to Venice is just a little over a month with my romantic partner! Venice, although lovely to be explored on one’s own, is ideal for the romantics out there. Visiting this ancient city is even more special with a teammate to enjoy a romantic candlelit dinner and a gondola ride with.
Snapshots from my time in Venice…
21st Year Eurotrip: Venice, Italy
February 14, 2017
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I'm Helena! As a creative storyteller, I document magical moments through my lens and my pen. A lover of childhood, fairytales and natural light, I'm inspired to share the light around me. I'm the ultimate Disney nerd, and I'm obsessed with cats and expressing my love for the simple joys of slow, daily life.
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