"A City of History, Canals, and Shops, lots of them" Venice by mydreamquest

Venice Travel Guide: 8,430 reviews and 22,535 photos

First Impressions

The memory of Venice is always romantic. The reality of Venice is painful. Such is the paradox you will find yourself in upon visiting this charming yet poisoned city.

I arrived in Venice after a long train ride from Salzburg's Sudbahnhoff Station at 7am to Villach at 9:45am then on the 10:40 train that would take me to Venice at around 2pm.

On the way to Venice, I just prepared myself for what was to come. I was anxious going to Venice. My friend and I had 4 pieces of luggage! I planned my vacation backwards and probably should have gone to Venice first, however, I decided to go to there last because I didn't want to experience the August heat . Going there in September was wise, but having all the luggage made my train trips tricky. I had to calculate loading all the luggage and as a result, I did get in shape at least.

It didn't help that whilst reading, on the train, my Venice tour guide, on its list of "top ten things not to do" the number one answer was: "Bring too much luggage."

So I arrived at the busy Santa Lucia station (Venice S.L.). There are two Stations: Venice Mestre and Venice S.L. It seems that the trains are never on time and it's very slow once your train gets into Italy. We arrived 20 minutes late, which by the standards I observed, was pretty good.

When I got off at Venice S.L. station, I was awed by the crowd and upon walking up to Ferrovia, I was blessed by the beauty of the Grand Canal. Although I could have hopped on a vaporetto free of charge, I opted instead for a water taxi on that September 1, 2005 day.

A simple 5 minute water taxi ride ended up costing me $45 Euro! And although expensive, it was a convenience worth paying for. If I go to Venice again, I'd walk it as the walk is pretty manageable. The water taxi ride took me along the canal to Cassio'd'Favretto Hotel where I was greeted with so-so service and was recommended a place to eat.

On the water taxi drive, the taxi driver non-chalantly pointed at the Casino and told me that Richard Wagner died of a stroke in that hotel. My fears of navigating thru the tight streets and canal bridges of Venice quickly became calmed as I realized that a map in Venice is practically useless.

I noticed couples, all tourists, who would walk back and forth sometimes 4 or 5 times arguing because they weren't sure exactly where they were.

That's the trick about Venice, the whirling canals, unexpected narrow sidewalks makes the city one of unpredictable intimacy. One moment you are lost in Venice, the next moment you are kissed on the cheek by the rush and vibrancy of a piazza.

I read the book "Death in Venice" and the mood of that book is very much the mindset you will develop upon visiting this city. You will find yourself going in and out of consciousness. Sometimes the clarity is sharper after dinner drunk when a sudden storm surge washes away the smells, camera flashes from tourists, and smell of urin from the heat seared sidewalks. A thunderclap's roar seemingly the pacifying whisper needed in order to experience what the deeper, truer Venice is supposed to feel like.

Venice is a lot like that story's character finding his infatuation only to realize that the journey in finding it is a hopeless one. In that sense, Venice is like a battle of Dionysus and Apollo of the mind.

I had mixed emotions about Venice. It was beautiful at times and at other times just a grotesque circus of swindling shopkeepers all promising me the best price only for me to leave one store only to see another store selling the exact same thing for half the cost.

Venice is a surreal mixture of contradictions. Intense history yet polluted by modern capitalism and tourism. Sometimes, the best places in Venice are the hidden ones. Sometimes a quiet bench in front of a church in an isolated piazza is more important than the crowds of papparazzi in Lido because of a film festival, or the voracious throng of pigeons posing for pictures in San Marco Square, or a murano glass store negotiating costs of glass as if you are purchasing a car.

First Impressions/Facts About Venice

My best moments in Venice all happened when I was feeling most suffocated by the dead air and dry humidity. Venice is poisoning at times because of this, but this impression stays in your blood when you return home. And like the impressionist like dream paintings created when day dreaming into its canals, the memory of being in Venice seems more like it wasn't something that really happened in your life. It was as if it was all just a dream and never happened.

My Top Memories While in Venice

1. Turning a corner and finding the Doge and San Marco Square.
2. Walking along the Strada Nova during a massive thunder storm
3. Finding Stravinsky's Grave at San Michel's Cemetery amid the company of a woodpecker on a tree.
4. Walking inside the Doge
5. Crossing the "Bridge of Sighs"
6. Finding the "Bridge with No Parapet"

Funniest Anecdote:

My friend and I were looking for a restaurant recommended in a tour guide and for 20 minutes we were trying to find it on the map. I mean it, we were sitting there arguing about where it was when suddenly we noticed that we were actually sitting on a bench right in front of that restaurant!!!!

Morale of the Story:

Do not be overly dependent on the city maps of Venice from your tour guides or even from the detailed map of Venice that you paid between 1 and 2.50 Euro for. Why? Because the street names are long and is not necessarily alphabetized by the Word you think. So like "via de Italia" (as an example) may not necessarily be filed under "v" or "I" and even if it is say filed under the letter "V", it may be under v. and not vi so you'll be wasting time and thinking, "the street's not on the index!!!"

Well it is, but because of the language barrier, and also because of the compactness of all the walkways in venice, it will be very dificult to orient yourself. When you study this city, keep in mind your points of reference.

Focus on signs that indicate where San Marco, Rialto, or Ferrovia is and you will be much better oriented. Try to make note of statues you see or other points of references so that you will have an idea of where you are. It's less difficult that way and you will be spared from many headaches.

Also, know the main Districts: San Croce, San Marco, Dorsidoro, etc. I believe that the color of the street signs will provide you a clue as to which neighborhood you are in.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Shoppers will Love Venice, Everything is close to each other, A dream like air about Venice
  • Cons:Too many tourists, Aggressive Shopkeepers, Makes me Claustrophobic at times
  • In a nutshell:Venice will stay in your memory as if it were a dream that never really happened.
  • Last visit to Venice: Sep 2005
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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