On Monday 20th February I set off for the airport to fly to Venice Marco Polo Airport. Very excited! I met Rhiannon, my niece, we had lunch and flew off at 15.20 in fog. We were assured by Easyjet staff that our plane had extra sensors so no worries. We landed at Marco Polo safely on time at 18.30 Venice time. Only had hand luggage so cleared quickly and went to the Alilaguna Water Bus to Lido. I had done this in the past but all was changed, much larger and modern! Very exciting but dark of course and yes misty. With the help of a handsome young official we boarded our vaporetto (water bus) at Lido for our hotel at St Elena. He was concerned that “it was dark there and did I know my way!” Rhiannon was slightly disconcerted by this conversation (in perfect English) but I quickly reassured her that I knew where we were going. We arrived at the hotel and I explained who we were BUT I was speaking bad Spanish instead of bad Italian! The Reception Staff were amused by this but it set the tone for our whole stay of friendly, helpful service. We had a wonderful supper in the hotel restaurant, with our first bottle of Prosecco of the stay, and an early night.
Next morning we were up refreshed and raring to go. Had a good breakfast for 9 Euros each and set off. We bought 3 day Vaporetti passes which were so useful in that we could hop off and on as many times as we wanted without hassle of buying tickets each time. That morning we walked into San Marco alongside the Grand Canal, sadly still in fog, but in good spirits. We passed the Giardini Gardens, the site of the Biennale Exhibition featuring International Artists shown in 1920s Pavilions representing the different countries staged every 2 years. It is also the start and finish of the Venice Marathon, yes a full Marathon! We passed The Arsenale where the great shipbuilding industry was based helping support the power of Venice. It was Carnavale which is a very special time in Venice, lots of people in elaborate costumes posing in the hope a photographer will feature them. I spoke to several international photographers over our stay who said people queue up to be photographed free and just want a copy. For the photographers it is an ideal opportunity to expand their portfolios. Two of our favourite subjects are featured below, in many ways it was like stepping back in time. Venice was packed and buzzing with excitement. We walked miles that day until we were exhausted and went back to the hotel for another superb dinner and yes more Prosecco. Our hotel was on the tip of the main island but in a less crowded residential area with a park and small restaurants.
I was pleased to remember my way around and Rhiannon enjoyed being guided to familiar sites including St Marks Square, the Campanile, the Doge’s Palace and less famous parts which featured Venetians going about their daily lives including the police boats, ambulances, garbage collections and delivery men all on the canals. Everything is transported in by boat which adds to the traffic on the Grand Canal. We walked through the Fish Market and Rialto Market, hence the statutory photo of Rhiannon on Rialto Bridge.
One morning the hotel arranged a special water taxi for us to Murano to a glass factory. It was fascinating to see glass blowing skills in the tradition which dates back to at least the 15 century. We didn’t buy any but it was wonderful to see. Sadly our video didn’t come out well enough to show you. That day we also visited the Guggenheim Museum as an antidote to the beauty of La Serenissima.
A high spot of my trip was meeting up with a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen for 18 years. We studied together for our Masters’ Degrees, although Louisa was 30 years younger we became firm friends. She married a Venetian after returning with her degree and now has three beautiful daughters and lives on Lido. She lectures to Art Tours, Cruise Ships, at the Biennale Exhibition and to various visiting University student courses so continues the experiences we had. Louisa took us to a wonderful Venetian restaurant, Anice Stellato, which was hidden away where we had one of the best meals I’ve had for a long time.
Sadly it all ended too soon. Rhiannon will return with her boyfriend Jon and take a trip on a gondola, not something to do with your aging aunt! I think it will be my last trip but one I will treasure. We took off on Friday 24th February in fog! Whilst I had wanted Rhiannon to experience Venice set against a bright blue sky the misty, foggy conditions added to the glamour and mystery of this beautiful city.
I’ve attempted to give you a flavour of Venice but please try to visit yourselves if you haven’t been already, if you have I hope it brings back good memories.