After 73 days of this trip, but many years since when a whole bunch of my friends at high school went to Italy, I had finally made it myself. Skirting along the top of the shoe, Venice via Verona was our first stop.
Verona is famous for being the location where Romeo and Juliet is set. William Shakespeare himself never visited the city apparently but indeed set another two plays here. Further, there is not even evidence to suggest that the families existed, yet someone apparently built the balcony out of a sarcophagus and has said that it is where Juliet would have called out to Romeo. It’s all a little tacky to me and a bit pointless. On the tunnels going in though, there are peoples graffiti of their love for each other — though whether in real life their love is as permanent they will only know. Indeed, as you can see, there are much nicer balconies to have a look at in Verona, the city itself in the historic centre something quite beautiful to look at.
From Verona, we then headed onwards to to our campsite on the mainland near Venice. Of course, bringing 34 people and their baggage into the main city would be a headache so we were out a little way where we had a little room. It was here that we got dinner cooked for us by the Topdeck crew, including some delicious pumpkin gnocchi which might be among some of the best pasta we had while in Italy. Also, there was bottles of wine on the table which meant that that night, a fair bit of alcohol was drunk by all.
It meant the next morning and the early start to exploring Venice was a little shaky but nevertheless it worked. We got up, got on a bus and got the people mover across into the city. Within the city of Venice, there are no cars. Transportation is by boat or by walking. This meant that it gave the city quite a quiet calm feel to it, interrupted every now and then by a motor boat.
Of course, it wasn’t that quiet when you hit the heat of Venice and St Mark’s Square. The Square is probably one of the most iconic parts of Venice, surrounded by the the columns and porches of the surrounding buildings, holding stalls and cafes — though we didn’t eat here as it is reportedly the most expensive place to sit down and have a coffee. Full of people and pigeons, the square teemed with life.
Just a little way out of the square, a view opened up of the lagoon, sparkling in the clear sunny day. Here, the sounds of people talking, the gondolas hitting the wooden posts, people calling out, you could almost imagine what it would have been like back when Venice was at its heights of its power as the centre of trade between the East and West. Of course now, its mostly a tourist place with the goods of silk and spice replaced with souvenirs. Just down the way yet again was the famous Bridge of Sighs, the view from which would be the last thing that prisoners heading towards their imprisonment would see. Its a little morbid and yet its an interesting bridge.
As part of our tour, we were able to take a gondola ride around Venice. It was an incredible experience, seeing the gondolier in his blue striped shirt move the boat around using the one paddle on one side. It was an impressive feat of skill and strength. Further, the view of Venice from the gondola is quite different to that which you get from walking along the canals. The lower view makes everything seem more grand, and you start to see how they would move around, and how different it is from other cities. You also notice the risks of living on the water as they do. Unfortunately, our gondolier refused to sing but for a brief moment, we managed to follow in the path of one that had a band and it was simply beautiful to be floating down the canal and hearing the sounds pass over our heads. Incredibly and surprisingly relaxing.
Of course, one of the things that we did in Venice was to wander the canals and streets and get lost. During this time, we came across some gorgeous little cafes, basically rooms on the corner of buildings, serving some gorgeous lovely cooking from what we could smell. It was a shame we hadn’t done that earlier when we had lunch, to escape the main area and have some authentic food. I guess when one is hungry, one isn’t wanting to be adventurous and see what’s to offer in the back alleys. However, it is something I would recommend, wandering in the silence the canals, stumbling across squares where old couples sit next to each other eating gelato. Venice certainly does have that romantic vibe about it, and its no wonder that people get engaged here — though god forbid it happens to me there, I think it would be cringe-worthy.
Venice is a lovely place to go, and I think with more money, more time, it would be great to explore, find the tiny places the locals love. It certainly is a city that one needs time to explore and I think that’s what I’ll do next time. Next stop: Tuscany!