Venice isn’t the only city in the world that has a train station. But I think Venice might be the only one on earth where, upon leaving it, people start sobbing. I filled up both times. Arriving by train you get no sense of what Venice looks like, then suddenly, right in front of you is the Grand Canal. In any other station in the world there would be a road, but in Venice, it’s a canal. Like a road, but a road made of water. Crazy. It’s the speed of the transition that shocks the visitor like a slap across the face. The contrast between a banal railway concourse and the most beautiful city on earth is enormous and moving.
Many European towns do ‘crumbling beauty’ well, Italy does it better than most, and Venice is the jewel in the Italian crown. It’s not just crumbling though, it’s shabby, literally falling apart, and that is why it is beautiful. There’s a ‘Venetian Resort Hotel’ in Las Vegas which offers a Disneyesque version of the real thing complete with canals, boats and singing gondoliers; but it’s not scruffy enough. In real Venice the bricks are flaky, the plasterwork peeling, the towers leaning, the paint is faded, the streets are chaotic and the whole scene is a living work of art.
I like Venice.
Is it expensive? Any accommodation with a canal view tends to charge more but there are always bargains to be had. We stayed at American Dinesen, complete with a canal view from the veranda. If you eat or drink in a main square expect to pay top dollar, ambiance comes at a price in Venice. If you are prepared to walk ten metres down a side street however prices can drop dramatically. I had a beer in one square and half a glass of beer cost a whopping six euros, around the corner we ate in a pizzeria where a litre of wine cost a mere ten euros. The prices in St Marks Square are the stuff of comedy legend and a small beer will cost you 13 euros, unsurprisingly the cafes there are almost totally empty all the time.
I have to address the question; ‘does Venice smell?’ I’ve heard this said, but I’ve never had a smelly day there. Or, more accurately, Venice hasn’t been smelly when I’ve been there. My only gripe about Venice is that it can get uncomfortably crowded with day trippers. If you can stay in the town do so because the streets are much less busy, and much more pleasant at night. The city comes into its own when the cruise ships have left. It is the global capital of romance. For honeymooners, a trip on a Gondola, complete with a singing Gondolier is an attractive option. Divorce is a cheaper option.
It’s a wonderful place to amble round and let your feet take you where they will. There’s lots of little shops to explore and little bars to rest in, but make sure you’ve got a map. It’s easy to get lost, and hard to get your bearings away from the grand canal because there are few landmarks visible in the charming but chaotic alleys. Oddly, though there’s a lot to see to see and do, I would also say there’s not much to see and do. A diary of a day in Rome would be full of ‘did this, saw that, went to such and such’ etc. Venice isn’t a place for ‘doing’, it’s a place for ‘being’. It’s not about doers, its about beers, (see what I did there?).
Should I go?
If you asked me what I my favourite city in the world was I would answer very quickly; Rome! Then, after you left, I’d be drumming my fingers on the table wondering and mumbling to myself… or is it Venice?
If you liked my blog, there’s every possibility that you’ll like the comic novel I’ve recently published. As much as I enjoyed teaching, and respect those who do the job, there’s plenty to laugh at. I spent 30 years giggling 😊. It’s a bargain at £2.21 for the Kindle! Click on the image for the Amazon link.