If you can fly into Venice's Marco Polo Airport, and catch a water taxi or shuttle to your destination, the view of Venice in the distance and the journey across the water are really magical. Venice is made up of several islands in the sea and there are defining lanes with wooden marker piles and signage in this sea, making water highways from one place to the other in much the same way as roads on land. The whole economy and way of life relies on using the canals and the sea around. The trash is loaded on to a garbage boat, an ambulance boat responds to medical emergencies, a funeral means the coffin will be transported by a boat hearse and everyone gets around on boat buses, boat taxis or their own privately owned boats. There is not an automobile anywhere. But you do notice traffic congestion among the boat drivers and even a bit of boat rage! Tempers sometimes flare. The Grand Canal is the main thoroughfare with loads of smaller canals leading off. Once you are off the water, you make your way around through countless pedestrian ways and alleys with constant steps up to a bridge and down again to cross those smaller canals. A very good work out! And even more so, when you are taking your luggage with you at the beginning or end of your visit...
It is easy to imagine how it was living in Venice during centuries gone by when you are faced with so much antiquity. The run down buildings and faded paintwork have their own charm. I was there recently during the height of a hot summer and the crowds seemed never ending on the popular routes but you could always get away to quieter areas if you felt the need. And getting onto the water quickly dispelled any feelings of claustrophobia.
There were a few drawbacks I noticed
- The number of smokers among the local population. And the way the cigarette butts were just thrown on the street, left to make their way down to the water. No receptacles in the street for their safe disposal.
- Insufficient litter bins for disposing of your unwanted trash. And where there was a bin, it would be overflowing with extra trash piled up on top - what is known as tidy littering.
- And the mosquitoes! I made the mistake of opening the windows and turning off the air conditioning at bedtime but soon rectified that error when the buzzing and the biting began.
But of course there were good things I noticed too
- How there are plenty of communal water pumps in the streets where locals and tourists alike can fill up their water bottles regularly instead of relying on buying commercial bottles of water constantly. Useful too for washing fresh fruit bought from the market place!
- How the satellite dishes attached to the old buildings are terracotta in color, matching the roof tiles.
- The fresh food markets with plenty of fruit, vegetables and fish on sale.
Our visit included a trip across the water to the glass works on Murano Island with their glass blowing demonstration and workshop. Then there are the wonderful museums and art galleries with much to see and to absorb - including Basilica di San Marco
, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection
and more. When you visit the oppulent Doges Palace
, it is just a few steps across the Bridge of Sighs and you are in the dark, damp and dismal prison cells. You cannot help but think about how the prisoners of old must have suffered.
As well as giving you a generous injection of culture, Venice is a shoppers' paradise with interesting stores squeezed into every nook and cranny. With its history of carnivals and masks, my granddaughters spent a lovely afternoon painting and decorating their own masks.
Those looking after the children's workshop were caring - and instructed them on each step in the process so that they walked out at the end of the session with masks to cherish once they were back home again. As well as running their workshops for children, they paint all the masks to supply the retail outlets and send out masks worldwide. The staff told me how Venetian themed weddings have become popular where often the guests are presented with a mask along with their wedding invitation. Of course, I was pleased to see whole shops dedicated to lavender, and its essential oil
, providing natural treatments from this fragrant and favorite plant. There is so much to see and do in Venice and, with only three days there, we managed to fit in masses and to make so many memories.