The City of Romance

By on March 14, 2012

By Victoria Boster –

Venice is one of the most romantic cities in the world. There is something special and intimate about walking the narrow cobblestone streets that have no names. With stunning canal views, romantic foot bridges, and gentle waters lapping against crumbling buildings, Venice is truly a city for the senses.

You can’t really get lost in Venice- but you should try– Not only are street signs often invisible in this city, but the streets themselves often come to an abrupt end. As you stand and stare at a canal intersecting the path you were once on, there is nothing you can do but turn around and start over.

Amidst the confusion however, will be remarkable and memorable opportunities for romantic walks along side canals, eating gelato on the corner of streets, passing locals down back alleys and stopping at the end of the road to reflect on the special moments of the day.

On our daily walks we found ourselves in small secluded neighborhoods where Venetians conversed with each other from open windows and children kicked soccer balls down small alleys. As we strolled along narrow streets, the delicious aroma of home cooking filled the air and we enjoyed eating authentic and delicious Italian food made from the freshest ingredients, in small family-run restaurants. We came upon small Piazzas and sat and watched as day turned into night and night turned into darkness. It was a truly amazing experience!

When the cruise ships are in port, huge crowds of tourists make their way to the more famous areas of St Marks square and close neighboring streets. You might think that it would be hard to escape these throngs of people- but the truth is- it’s really quite easy. Simply walk away from the square in any direction- leaving the tourists behind- just keep walking and walking–

Venice is filled with architecture, art and history and is a city just waiting to be discovered. It doesn’t provide grid lines to follow or a street sign to go by – rather it gives each person the chance to be an individual and leave their own foot prints along unknown streets.

English is readily spoken in the main areas along the square but that becomes less the case as you travel further away from the main tourist areas.  On our trip to this great city, my husband and I made a habit of starting our day early- sometimes as early as 6 am.

St Marks square is beautiful in the misty foggy quiet of the early morning. There are no crowds to muffle the sounds of the bells. The first rays of the sun seem to glisten as they reflect upon the elaborate ornate trims of the Basilica. This sight alone is cause enough to want to start your day early. Only early risers will witness the vendors setting up their produce at the famous floating markets. The newspaper delivery boy arrives by boat– fresh pastries are delivered to local restaurants along the canals–and in the early morning mists, you will often see artists at their canvas- hoping to capture the perfect mood and light for their Venice masterpiece. If you sleep until 9 am- you have missed all this.

Because we were constantly “lost”, we often enjoyed our time  alone in the city by sitting along a canal and watching as gondolas passed by us one-by-one, slowly drifting, as we sat quietly trying to forever capture these memories in our minds.

One of my favorite Venice memories is of an early morning walk that brought us past the “gondola garage” and then to a haphazard little bookstore where we saw several Monks in their traditional robes shopping for pleasure. (I did manage to sneak a few pictures!)

Along the back of the shop was a door that opened to the canal- no steps- just an open door above the water. And in the corner of the room was a giant wooden desk- under which was a little box that held 5 newborn kittens. When I stopped to pet the kitties, a little old man with a gentle smile came over to talk to me. Speaking only fluent Italian and no English– his 6 year old granddaughter translated for us. “Did I want a kitty? Could I give it a good home and lots of love?” How I wish I could have said yes! I found the whole experience to be both priceless and memorable.

The out islands surrounding Venice are wonderful places for escaping the crowds. Most cruise ship visitors won’t be found on these islands- and yet they are easily accessible by way of the vaporetto (water taxi).

The islands of Murano (known for glass blowing) and Burano (known for lace making) are the most famous. They are both full of character and color. Murano will be the more crowded of the 2 and is about a 25 minute vaporetto ride from Venice. Beautiful Burano is usually not populated with tourists and is a 40 minute ride on the vaporetto. Of the two- Burano is my favorite- I found it to be quaint, quiet, and totally captivating in charm.

Further from Venice proper is the rural island of Torcello. Devoid of any industry- this small island has only a few farms and homes, very few restaurants, and will have little or no tourists. Why go there? Because the island is home to the oldest antiquated church in Venice. Frescos dating back to the 1400’s are worthy of the almost 2 hours that it takes to travel to this little out of the way treasure. Torcello is reputed to be the original settlement in what is now known as Venice.

Just across the Grand Canal from the city of Venice is the most revered of places. The island of San Michelle- often simply referred to as Cemetery Island is a place that I loved to visit. Only true Venetians, those pure of heart and loyal to Venice are entombed there. I found this little island to be a spiritual and humbling place to visit. Beautiful in character, serene, and amazingly photogenic, this island is dear to the hearts of Venetians. Most certainly worthy of a visit– but go on a day when the cruise ship is not in port. Because of its close proximity to Venice, San Michelle is another popular tourist attraction- but on off days– no one will be there.

While Venice is a remarkable place to visit- there are some things that you need to know–

1.  Venice is expensive. Very expensive. Crazy expensive! However, there are ways to enjoy this beautiful city and NOT pay the greatly inflated tourist prices. All along St Marks square and the Grand Canal are restaurants and cafes. These will be consistently flooded with tourists willing to pay the higher prices– and the restaurant owners know that! Avoid these places and walk instead about 5 blocks back in any direction. You will find quiet, quaint little piazzas with charming cafes, bakeries, and restaurants. This is where the “locals” eat and where you want to be. Not only will you be rewarded with more reasonable prices, but you will enjoy a lovely meal in a setting that is more in tune with the real Venice.

2. Shopping in Venice is not as easy as you might think. The stores that encircle St Marks square and along the canals are truly beautiful. The windows are mesmerizing in their displays of blown glass, gorgeous jewelry, and artistically crafted carnival masks.

Stop only to photograph these beautiful store fronts- do not shop here! While all of the stores proclaim their goods to be made and produced in Venice- you would be wise to question the quality and authenticity of most of it. Venture instead, along the side streets and walk away from the main tourist areas as far as you can. My suggestion is to walk completely out of the English speaking district. The difference in price will be dramatic.

If you are planning to spend a considerable amount of money on Murano glass ( and it is costly!) – do some research to determine the location of reputable shops before you go.

The most popular souveigners to bring home include Murano glass, lace items from Burano, and beautiful Carnival masks. Venice is also noted for exquisite jewelry. What did I bring home? The most exquisite glass earrings–!

My top suggestions for “must do” things in Venice–

1. Get lost! Go ahead— it’s going to be wonderful!

(Before your trip I would recommend reading City of Falling Angels by John Berendt. This incredible story describes Venice in such a way that you will eagerly want to visit all the places described in the book. I actually used it as one of my guidebooks.)

2. Get up early for the sunrise at St Marks square. There are no words to describe this incredible experience–

3. Plan to take a tour of St Marks Basilica. Avoid the long lines and crowds by paying a small fee for an advance reservation.

4. Visit the islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello. The Vaporetto ride is also a unique experience.

5. In the early morning- or late at night after all the crowds have gone home and Venice is once again all quiet– find a place to sit close to the Square– and listen- just quietly listen to the bells.

The thing that I love most about Venice- the part of Venice that lives in my soul- the reason that I have to go back— is the bells. I have to hear those bells again–

 

 

Victoria Boster-
An empty nester who now spends many hours crafting knitted artisan “nests”~~Vicki is passionate about her hobbies, her travels and her busy life. Vicki states that she loves to travel and that she and her husband are always either just getting back or just getting ready to go- someplace.”
Between travels Vicki works full time as a Neonatal Nurse in Huntington, West Virginia. Her career spans over 35 years of Neonatal care. You can visit Vicki at her blog
www.vicki-2Bagsfull.blogspot.com where she shares her crafts, travels, and all the happenings in her Sacred Yarn Room.

Victoria Boster

About Victoria Boster

With her bags always in a state of readiness, Vicki yearns to travel to places she has never been. She and her husband have traveled around the world; her photo essays beautifully detailing the amazing places that she has visited. When she is not on the go, you can find Vicki at her blog www.Vicki-2BagsFull.blogspot.com.

8 Comments

  1. SuZeQ

    March 16, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Ohhhhhhhhhhh, Vicki! Your words are music to my soul. Everything you write is magical in that I feel like I’m right there vacationing with you. We shopped, we ate, we listened to the bells and we played with the kittens. Tell me that’s not magical!

  2. Joyful

    March 18, 2012 at 1:20 am

    Beautiful post. You make this destination come alive for me. I love your tips which will help me should I be able to get to Venice some day 🙂

  3. Lili

    March 18, 2012 at 8:42 am

    This was so beautifully written and illustrated that it gave me a sense of longing to travel there someday. I really enjoyed the travel tips and can appreciate the adventure aspect of just getting lost and immersing and delighting in the true Italian experience.Hearing those bells set off an emotional response for me too. Bravo Vicki for sharing this wonderful experience with us!

  4. Erin Houghton

    March 18, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Thank your for the lovely and beautifully written and photographed article about Venice. The travel tips Vicki gives are very helpful and it is nice to know that one can travel there and stay away from the expensive “tourist traps” and find wonderful and affordable meals and shops.I look forward to hearing the bells when I travel to Venice. Thank you for sharing another delightful travel adventure with us.

  5. michelle

    March 18, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    oh this was wonderfully written my friend! Pure joy to read! You eloquently shared what Venice has to offer…heaven! merci! 😉

  6. Shirley

    March 18, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    Vicki, I knew that I would enjoy the pictures and reading every word of your post. It made me feel that I was right there with you. Thank you for my wonderful trip to Venice. Enjoyable Shirley

  7. Janet

    March 21, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Venice is my husbands favorite city in the World. Vicki’s description is so vivid and true. vicki, hearing the bells makes me want to pack up and go back now. thank you for sharing. Janet

  8. Linda at Beautiful Ideas

    March 30, 2013 at 10:19 am

    What a fabulous account! You have brought this place back to me, Vicki, and make me want to return soon. I love the way your write, my dear. Thank you for this gift.

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The City of Romance