Alleys and Bridges in Venice
Venice was one of those places that I heard so much about in my lifetime. I heard about it so much that I felt like I already had been there and knew it. But as my dad once said: "Hearing about a place from someone else will never be equal to actually seeing it and knowing it for yourself." Seeing and knowing Venice for myself was indeed different from just hearing about it from others.
Our morning started off with a nice continental breakfast at the hotel and many cups of coffee. (Hello jet lag...) I filled my plate with lots of scrambled eggs and green beans to build up my energy for the day. This heat and humidity can really knock you out quickly if you don't stay hydrated and stock up on fuel.
After a slow first day in Milan and a good night's rest, we were fully charged to venture out to see Venice! Located about three hours away from Milan by train, we prepared for one whole day of walking and exploring. The train matching our ticket number pulled into the station and the corresponding loading platform number popped onto the screen. We quickly loaded our things and bodies onto the train.
It's so obvious we're tourists. Ivan and I triple checked our bags to see if we had all our cameras, chargers, maps, water bottles, snacks, and handkerchiefs. No shame! After the train departed, each of us got comfortable and found empty seats nearby and did our own things. My dad worked on his iPad. Ivan went back and forth between sleeping and taking photos. I listened to music and slept. Mom did everything – slept, read, wrote, and sometimes looked out the window to admire the scenery.
I liked seeing regular Italian business folks working on their contracts and editing papers on the train. Made the trip seem calm and normal. A feeling I like much better than the hysteric hustle and bustle of being a tourist.
BENVENUTI A VENEZI !
We arrived in Venice on time and were greeted by an intense wave of heat. The humidity felt a bit worse near the water... but when I saw what was before my eyes, I was able to momentarily ignore it. There were tourists everywhere scrambling to take photos of the mesmerizing scene. This was one of those moments where I realized I was really in a foreign place. Some scene I'd seen before on a screen, but somewhere entirely unfamiliar.
It's been evident that Italy works hard to preserve their old buildings. (At least the street facing side.) It's fascinating how they manage to maintain the uniformity of their neighborhoods so well despite the years that continue to fly by... (Side note – With the influx of tourists everywhere, July is definitely not the most ideal time to visit Europe. Good thing I have short hair. Humidity is not my friend.)
We walked around some more and were pleased to walk through areas that weren't as crowded. Once in a while, we stopped to admire the canals and bridges that flowed between the buildings. I loved seeing the hundreds of little boats parked alongside the water rails. Not a car in sight.
Many of the homes were grayish and gloomy. Pretty rundown. Then there were also areas that were the complete opposite! Bright, vibrant, and somewhat renovated.
Finding our way
At some point, I got so distracted by my surroundings that I totally forgot where we were even headed. Thankfully, my parents continued to navigate while Ivan and I stopped every few steps to snap a photo.
PIAZZA SAN MARCO
Saint Mark's Square is apparently the most visited tourist spot in Venice and we could instantly see why. It's a wide open courtyard with magnificently detailed architecture. The (warm) breeze blows and water waves splash right next to the area.
The 360 degree view is remarkable when you stand in the center of it all. On three sides, you're surrounded by the white columns of the various shops and museums in the plaza. On the fourth side, you get a full view of the basilica and the pier.
SAINT MARK'S BASILICA
The religious hub of the square, Saint Mark's Basilica, is the most famous of the city's many churches. It stands next to Doge's Palace and across from the courtyard. It was a bit stuffy and crowded inside the basilica, but I really enjoyed the ornate gold designs on its exterior. It's aged a lot, but still proves to be a very lush and glamorous piece of art.
Doge's Palace is one component of the square and also one of the most visited sites of Venice. It's a Venetian Gothic style palace in which the Doge of Venice used to live. It's a widely loved museum that showcases the courtyard, its many chambers, rooms, and more.
We had a hard time leaving this courtyard since we were so in love with it. There were lots of students visiting the place for their field trips. They didn't look to pleased to be dressed in their uniforms (hahaha). I hope they noticed though how beautiful the place was despite the obvious educational angle on their visit.
The detail in the artistry and craftsmanship of the chamber ceilings are absolutely astonishing. I enjoyed this part of the palace a lot...
When my family and many others stepped into this space, we all fell silent. Although it's not a church or complete religious space, the grandness of it oddly caused all of us to be reverent of the moment. Can't say that's how it always is... but it was how our experience seemed.
I got pretty creeped out by the dungeon and prison. It had an eerie vibe to it! There's a part of the tour where you have to walk through some of them to get out to the prison courtyard. Let's just say I moved pretty quickly in this part of the tour.
A few hours later, we were back out next to the pier. There seemed to be even more people than when we'd arrived. I noticed a lot of people were stopping near the water to take photos and trying to beat the heat.
It's not captured in this post, but we did make a few stops to eat and just admire shops. My dad really wanted to purchase a Venetian face mask, but failed to find one he really liked. Many of them were overpriced and not well maintained. He did buy a handmade golden gondola miniature piece in one of the gift shops. (We don't have anymore room at home for more souvenirs, but he always insists haha).
My favorite part of the day was getting on a boat and traveling back to the station. Seeing parts of Venice fly by on the water was very cool. It was cool both as an experience and temperature wise (water and windy breezes).
The way the place moves and handles all the tourists is mind boggling. I read in my travel book that tourists usually only visit about 8~10% of the islands. On the train, I was disturbed by this number. Really? 90 percent of the entire place isn't even interesting to tourists? But I guess this is a good thing. It's natural for tourists to want to go to the highlights and skip everything else. Residents also should be able to avoid clumsy people like us at all costs (hahaha).
I've always been an advocate of slow long-term traveling. I enjoy staying in places for long periods of time to really let the local culture soak into me and become a small part of me. This trip is one of the first in which I've done more of a touristy style of traveling. I can't really say that I'm enjoying the fast experience of it 100%, but I'm thankful that it's still been insightful.
I could see glimpses of the ordinary parts of Venice in which the locals were just struggling to get by... Communities that have no choice but to build their livelihood around tourism don't seem like they're truly thriving. I hope to come back someday and be in a part of Venice that is ordinary. That is, I better come back before the whole thing sinks underwater and becomes Atlantis!