"Venice a city without cars" Venice by sirgaw
Venice Travel Guide: 8,256 reviews and 21,910 photos
It was our last night in Venice that we took a vaporetto (water-bus) to Lido. We sat and gaped at the passing vista and then we arrived at Lido. As it was the last run for this particular water-bus, we were all ordered off and told to catch the next vaporetto.
OK I can handle that and lit up a smoke as we wandered along a road-way. Suddenly a car came towards us blaring its horn - it was then that we realised what had been missing for the last 3 days - the complete absence of the automobile in Venice.
The cities transport is exactly as it has been for hundreds of years - water and walking. We saw almost every conceivable form of hand drawn cart and trolley know to man and the only thing that separated the scene from the previous centuries was the attire of those wheeling their carts and their constant chatter on mobile phones.
Boats are the main form of transport and we even saw police, fire services and ambulances rushing along - on water. We saw traffic jams of water craft on the Grand Canal where the canal narrows at the Rialto Bridge and it seems the gondolas almost have right-of-way over other traffic - including, surprisingly, the police (when not on an emergency). We also saw some of the back canals of Venice - quiet places where the water gently laps against ancient stone walls.
We choose to stay in a B&B which we thought a bit expensive, but then again Venice is perhaps one of the most expensive cities in the world. With some 60,000 local residents catering for an estimated 20 MILLION visitors annually, the accommodation houses can charge almost whatever they like in full knowledge that they will be full most of the year and particularly in the warmer months.
Our entrance into Venice was by train and as we disembarked we were befriended by a lone young woman from somewhere in USA - in reality she needed someone to guide her on her way. As it was our first trip to Venice, it was almost like the blind leading the blind. She was clearly disappointed when she realised that we could not take the same vaporetto as she needed to get to her accommodation.
We caught the vaporetto and discovered we had actually gone in the wrong direction - perhaps the young woman should have guided us, so we had to disembark and wait for another vaporetto going in the right direction. In a way the error acted in our favour because we managed to get a good position and watch the passing vista of Venice. We stood in awe at the scenery of Venice.
Arrived at the Accademia vaporetto stop and then consulted our B&B supplied map of how to get there. In blind faith we followed the directions and found our accommodation - great place too. After a quick freshen up after our longest day of travel (4 different trains from Manarola on the Cinque Terra coast and a stop to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa) and then we found most of Venice was closed as it was Sunday, however the B&B suggested a restaurant - more expensive than we'd hoped, but at least the US Austin Girls Choir also dined there, so we were in good company.
Breakfast in our B&B was a grand buffet lorded over by the very friendly mien host in a very spectacularly decorated breakfast room - which included murals on the ceiling - that could be the setting for a fine restaurant.
Over the following 3 days we explored Venice. We crossed the famous Rialto Bridge, found the market and bought the makings of a fine lunch that we enjoyed sitting on the waters edge of the Grand Canal and marvelled at the constant passing parade of water craft.
From the Rialto we headed "inland" and crossed the island via a labyrinth of small over-crowded-with-too-many-tourists-streets to St Marks Square, where the crowds of tourists seemed to reach a zenith - and with good reason. As bird fanciers we just had to buy a bag of corn each and with arms outstretched, feed pigeons. Unfortunately we got more than pigeons as arms outstretched seemed to be a signal for the local beggars to pouch and try and snare more than corn - at least the pigeons had better sense when the bags of corn were emptied, not so the beggars who refused to take a polite "no" as an answer.
A visit to St Marks Square is simply not complete without a visit to the ornate St Marks Basilica, so like hoards of other tourists we lined up. As we entered the basilica my wifes clothing was deemed unacceptable, so she was forced to spend 1 Euro and buy a disposable modesty shawl to cover her bare shoulders. We walked around the basilica and wondered how so much wealth can be on display whilst beggars troll for anything outside - one of the paradoxes that I am yet to come to grips with.
The following day we visited the Accademia and decided to walk into another area. We could see storm clouds, flashes of lightening and we knew that we should have a stop out of the expected storm. We just made it into a cafe/bar, ordered a coffee and cake each before the rains pelted down. We witnessed a well-practiced pack up of the outdoor eating area by the staff, which was almost as good as watching the covers go on at the Wimbledon tennis - everyone knew their job. After the heavy rain it was time to head back to our B&B. We then witnessed an odd use for used pizza boxes - instant umbrellas. My wife decided to use her St Marks Basilica supplied modesty shawl as a head covering and so we wondered if there is a book to be written - "1001 uses for a disposable modesty shawl," so if you're a writer and you use the idea I want my cut of the royalties.
Restaurants and cafes are like their accommodation counterparts in the price for service department in Venice and so we found everything far more expensive than other Italian cities, however the gastronomic highlight (for us) was a tavern in a side street so small that the few pedestrians had to walk sideways in order to pass each other. The dining part of the tavern was tiny with only 3 tables, there was no menu and as the owner said, "It's all in my head." A duo of locals got a delicious looking mussel and seafood pasta dish, we got a pasta meal while being OK was nothing as grand as the locals were fed. Outside I jokingly commented to another Australian couple that the tavern should be in the guide books - apparently it is, but would be very difficult to find again - except by the locals.
Perhaps one of the most recognisable symbols of Venice is the Gondola. As I am involved in the taxi business I wanted to talk to some gondoliers. Most seemed happy to have a yarn to a fellow people transport operator. I was surprised to learn that their income levels are quite low in comparison to the very high charges for gondola rides that can exceed 120 Euro for a 45 minute journey. The waiting times for fares can be very long and there is little work in the colder months of the year.
Another recognisable symbol of Venice are the famous masks. Made of paper mache, we saw originals displayed with price tags in the hundreds of Euros. We even saw a mask designed to cover the rear quarters of probably a gay male. One of the little mysteries was the number of mask shops claiming they had supplied their masks for the film "Eyes wired shut," which stared Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, surely there was only one supplier?
The greatest threat that faces Venice's future is the impact of global warming and rising sea levels, which would inundate the city. I have read that Venice may only survive another 50 years before it is irreplaceably damaged by rising waters and has to be abandoned. It would be a world tragedy if this does occur. Perhaps the business houses in Venice should be forced to pay a percentage of their overly high tariffs and prices to a fund to ensure the very survival of their city - after all their own livelihood depends on a Venice that can continue to attract visitors from across the globe. However there are a number of organizations who are assisting in the preservation of some of the cities treasurers. One is titled Save Venice and I can only hope that you can help with at least a small donation.
I would love to return to Venice and hope to do so - one day!
You can also visit my separate Venice photo album
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