If you've been following us for a while, you may remember that in November of 2015, we were supposed to go to Venice for the weekend. We booked an overnight train, got to Munich, only to discover that our train was CANCELLED! It had been for MONTHS and Deutsche Bahn failed to notify us of this important fact. #veryunhappypregnantlady. Well, when we were planning our road trip through northern Italy, I made sure to schedule in a few days in Venice. I was excited to see the city of canals, Piazza San Marco, eat gelato, buy Murano glass, and explore this city before it sink forever (which won't happen for many many years yet, but still...). Thankfully, I had already planned a trip here, so I just pulled up my old research and went from there.
Unfortunately, Venice didn't quite live up to the hype for us. For starters, it was hot. I mean, I guess that's to be expected for the end of June in Italy, but that didn't mean I enjoyed it. Thankfully, our hotel had glorious air conditioning, something our German apartment lacked. We also planned for it terribly. I waited to the last minute and the hotel we stayed in wasn't all that nice. It was clean, mostly, but out of the way (but, that did mean it was quiet, so that's a plus). I also failed to realize that the bridges over the canals are steps - not smooth. We had taken the stroller because it was much too hot for me to wear Evelyn. But that meant there was a lot of lifting and carrying of the stroller. Something I was not a huge fan of, but did anyways. We opted to walk to our hotel from the main parking lot, and that was kind of a mistake. It was over a mile there, with no shade, in the heat of midday. Oh, and we were hauling luggage. Again, poor planning and being cheap on our part. We could have opted for a water taxi, but we weren't interested in paying the 50+ euros for a one way journey, on top of the 25 euro daily parking fee. And the icing on the cake? My dinner the first night made me sick the next day. Word from the wise, skip the cuddle fish.
But, that's not to say that all of Venice was terrible. I actually did like the city. I loved all the alleys to get lost in. We did a lot of exploring and found some amazing little wine bars. The world cup was also occurring during our trip, and we made sure to find an out of the way local pub to watch the game at. We grabbed a bottle of prosecco and settled in to watch the most popular sport in the world. Italy and Spain were playing and, let me tell you, being in the country when their team is playing is electrifying! I'm not a big soccer (football for all our non-US readers) fan, or a bit sports fan for that matter, but even I couldn't deny the energy and excitement of watching Italy play. And then when Italy won, there were thunderous shouts and clapping and singing through the streets. If you wanna feel like a local, go during World Cup time for sure!
We did a lot of walking in Venice, which is honestly the best way to see the city, but didn't do a lot of the museums. We aren't big museum people to begin with, so I was ok with that. I loved seeing Piazza San Marcos at night with the gondolas quietly bobbing on the water, the Doges Palace all lit up, and opera music being played by a live band. The square had significantly less tourists than during the day and the weather was much cooler, despite the ever-present humidity.
I know I just said we didn't do a lot of touristy stuff, but we did do a couple things. I wanted to visit Saint Mark's cathedral and we also took a trip to the top of the San Marco Campanile, the highest vantage point in Venice. St. Mark's is fairly strict with regards to attire - bare shoulders are not allowed and shorts must come to one's knees in order to be allowed in. If you don't meet these requirements, then you will be told to either leave, or cover up. They do provide paper shawls to either wrap over your shoulders or around your waist, but just play it safe and dress appropriately to begin with.
The view from the top of San Marco Campanile did not disappoint. The vast expanse of red tile roofs are packed so tightly together that it makes it seem as if there is no room for streets and especially the canals between them. From here, you really can see how small and compact Venice truly is. The extra bonus, on a hot day, is the breeze. I can see how in the winter, it might be a cold wind that cuts though even the heartiest of jackets, but in the summer heat, it's a welcome reprieve. I only wish we had the place to ourselves.
Venice itself is not a very green city. There are almost no trees - practically all shade is provided by the buildings - let alone gardens or parks. The dominating landscape here is, by far, narrow alleys with buildings that seem as if they touch at their tops, interspersed with canals, most of which are only 20 or so feet wide. In fact, if the buildings were any taller, I'm sure they would immediately sink into the sea, a problem that is already plaguing the ancient city. With all this, it was nice to find a small park facing the sea not far from Piazza San Marcos in which to enjoy a lunch of Italian pizza and a sandwich. A bottle of Italian wine would have been the perfect accompaniment, but we were both at risk of dehydrating in the Venetian heat, so water it was. Thankfully, Venice has the same deal as Rome - nearly all the fountains spout potable water so it's easy to carry a reusable water bottle and keep refilling it as your walking through the city.
Venice is a unique city in Europe, unlike any we have ever been to. I am glad we made it before we moved back to Texas, and before it sinks into the Adriatic, but, in all honesty, I'm not sure I would go again. I much preferred the time we spent just outside of the city along the Prosecco Road, or the relative quite we had in the Dolomites and Tuscany. Plus, it was a mass of tourists there on a day trips from cruises. I think if the weather was cooler, we didn't have a stroller to carry over all the bridges, and there were fewer tourists, I might feel differently. But, they do have good wine, so there is that....
And of course, the obligatory family picture in front of the Grand Canal: