Sabato 6 maggio
I have always taken the alilaguna to Venice. I love that arrival by Vaporetto and seeing the spike of the campanile appear on the horizon. I love the slow amble through the islands. Amo viaggiare sull’acqua…
My airbnb host Pietro said take the bus to the Piazzale Roma and get the Vaporetto back down the Grande Canale. And for just a moment I was torn between seeing a little bit of the mainland whilst saving a few Euros and sticking to my old routine.
But for me, arriving should always be by water. It is what makes Venice what it is. I am of course a slave to my heritage – i gondolieri are the all encompassing symbol of Venice. And so it seems wrong to arrive by road, even though the Vaporetti are hardly a friend to the gondola. I want to get my first glimpse of them before I have even placed one foot on Venice’s esteemed flagstones.
Thankfully, having been here a number of times I know how it all works, And so I took the ‘Linea Arancia’ and hopped off at the Rialto, walked back up over the most famous of all the bridges and down the Riva del Vin to meet my host at our appointed place at the San Silvestro water stop.
As I only had hand luggage it was no problem. Thanks to ever increasing costs for luggage on flights I am reduced to hand luggage only. I want to spend my money in the city, not getting to it and I don’t have a lot of it to spend. To be honest I have no intention of using the vaporetto now I am here except for getting over to the other islands. Walking is the only way to truly explore the city.
If you want to visualise it, there’s a live web cam at the Palazzo Bembo and you can see my first official landing point in Venice after 10 years right here:
As soon as I was settled, I was off, quite literally champing at the bit to be let out into the street, like a small child who has spotted the adventure play park. By 2.15 I had unexpectedly fallen into the path of ‘Cantina do Mori’ and had experienced my first ever cicheti e ombre. This is a great way to eat. It suits me, picking at food rather than eating huge meals. And at least here in Venice it’s healthier. Most of the traditional menu here is frutta di mare, so if you don’t like your food to come with scales or fins, your choice is limited.
Dinner was a different matter. I really wanted a sit down. I’d been wandering for several hours on no sleep the night before. Most of the places I spotted on my list were stand up cicheti and cocktail bars and / or vastly over my budget which I thought reasonably healthy. Eventually I opted for the no frills ‘Osteria ai Storti’ which seemed to be frequented by long standing locals and the occasional desperate tourist more than anything else. One of the staff eyed me suspiciously, no doubt thinking, oh please not another tourist. I think I had eyed the menu outside for too long.
But I pressed on. They spoke no English, the theme for me today. But I got through it, sunk two glasses of pinot grigo and a two course meal of Gnocchi and then Venexiana cicheti which was basically a lot of seafood with all its appendages still on. And that was fine.
Sabato ho avevo un pranzo tardi , e ero molto fame due to me arriving so late in the morning. I had already bookmarked on Google maps all the food and watering stops I could possibly want for the week. Whilst I have my general sense of direction here I don’t know how to find my way to individual places so this was a handy tool. Day one has given me a good idea what to expect. No English and good hearty fare. I can cope with that.
Lunch set me back 12 Euros whilst dinner was 32. It’s kind of what I expected and I’m happy to go with that. That’s three small glasses of wine a day! I never do that at home. And I’m not buying off tourist menus. I haven’t had my gelato yet. The ones I saw aren’t on my preferred list so I am restrained myself. Tomorrow is a different matter. I’m on a mission.
What Did I Spend?
My major spends were already dealt with in advance including flights, accommodation, airport parking, transfers to Venezia and travel insurance. All of that came in at £451.77 and I have 590 Euros in my pocket.
I pre bought a 24 Euro round trip ticket online for the Alilaguna from the airport direct to the Rialto stop on the Grande Canale. So whatever I spend in Venice now, I know I can get back to the airport to catch my flight. Good tip.
More tips for tourists:
Although I always bring a bank card for emergencies I prefer cash (as do most of the shops – they don’t have our credit card culture) and I only take a small amount out with me every day for security and to stop me overspending. Never ever take all your money and your security documents such as your passport with you. I always leave my passport at the accommodation and carry a photocopy just in case I need it. It’s not the end of the world but replacing passports is an expensive job and very inconvenient. Not that I was expecting trouble in Venice, it’s one of the safest places you can go, but I always do this when I am so far from home. And it’s remarkably easy to leave your bag somewhere or drop a wallet. Fai attenzione al portafoglio.
Other things you might want on your arrival:
Wifi – if you’re one of those tourists that doesn’t want to be left out of the loop back home, you will probably want some wifi. Free internet in Venice is not easy to come by- some tourist restaurants have the to lure you in. I have some at my accommodation but out and about I need access for things like this blog. I thought about trying the Venice Wifi network. 20 Euros for a week is a bargain and the map suggests there’s quite a few throughout the city. However, I can get a roaming package with my EE contract for less which means I can call or text home if I need to so I haven’t bothered. The roaming signal here is fair. However, if you just want to dip in every so often this could be the option for you. Here’s a map from the website to give you a feel for it:
Honestly there are more accessible wifi spots here than in Manchester where I’d usually use my data if I was out and about. Pretty soon this is going to be a thing of the past though as they’re scrapping roaming charges.
10 Years – And….?
I thought it would useful here to add some thoughts on how Venice has changed since I was last here 10 years ago. It doesn’t SEEM any busier. But then I used to go in August (the height of the season). And I haven’t attempted San Marco Piazza yet.
The general attitude towards tourists has not changed. You can hear locals muttering under their breath as tourists wander idly down the stradas blocking up the lanes. But to be honest I found myself also cursing them within an hour of my arrival. Tourists are the same wherever you go. Passive aggressive notes are also common and tourists picnicing are EVERYWHERE. The Rialto was a minefield, but then it always was.
I’ve noted a huge change in some of the shop fronts too. Big name brands have moved in and ripped the insides from the buildings. It’s a ridiculous juxtaposition for Venice as a facade and I think it makes it look really naff. And I can’t tell if people are shopping in them. But what do I know…
After lunch I lost the tourist throng as I left Campo Manin and headed to my first important stop of the holiday – the Palazzo Mocenigo Casa Nuova – which is where it all began for Tita Falcieri and Lord Byron. The Palazzo is non accessible though you can creep up to the street doors if you’re careful.
But if you take the next street on your left – The Palazzo Mocenigo Casa Vecchia – you can go right down to the Grand Canal and poke out on a jetty and see the front facade of the Palazzo where Tita and his father would have tethered their gondolas and where Byron would have stepped out and into the Palazzo. As I headed down Casa Vecchia I was joined by three Canadian tourists on a wander. They arrived in Venice at the same time as me and I gave them a history of why I was there, talked to them about the Palazzo and Byron (of whom they had never heard) and gave them some history of Venice and its development and of what my lot were doing in Venice.
The day had been punctuated by people interested in why I was there. On the aeroplane I had been sat next to two English tourists using Venice as a short stop over to catch their cruise to Athens. I had to bite my tongue. Those grande navi!
But in a queue for the toilet on our flight I met Suzy, an artist and writer, who was going to Padau to see her daughter who was studying there and Tony, an 80 year old Glaswegian artist out to spend a week drawing Venice – one of many return trips for him. He hadn’t been out here in 16 years. Not only were they fascinating in their own right, but Tita’s story captured their imaginations.
That’s enough for day one. I hope you enjoy this. It’s tipping it down outside now. But tomorrow promises to be brighter. A presto.