Venice – Oh So Very Venice

I don’t know what it is about being around water.

Its so calming and relaxing, and its not like we are waking up on the water, but its just the knowledge that we are around water and on the water, is just food for the soul.

We don’t rush the morning, but we wanna make the most of being in a place as amazing as Venice, so we kick our day off at a pretty decent time, while still allowing us the chance to sleep in a touch.

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We have fully embraced the Italian tradition of starting brekky with something sweet and a coffee.

Yes, we have put on more weight, and we are both very fully aware of this, but we can work the weight off when we get back home. However, we can’t eat perfectly crafted pastries and immaculate sweets like this in Australia, so you can guess that we tend to err more in favour of the Italian’s breakfast habits.

We leave our little room, and make our way to find a bakery. In true Italian form, it takes us only a few minutes to find one. We are getting used to our language being a minority, and after spending a bit of time with Anne and Doug in Sicily, we have picked up just enough words for the locals to understand that we don’t really know what we are talking about.

We get a little variety of treats for our taste bud’s pleasure, and nibble away on the bench opposite the counter.

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As with all good days, we begin by wandering the streets of Venice.

The idea that this whole place is supported by centuries old wooden poles is really absurd. Knowing that only a short distance below your feet, the water is lapping. And there are houses and buildings and cathedrals built on top of it. Hundreds upon hundreds of tons. Venice is something to marvel, and something that everyone should not only see with their own eyes, but experience.

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Bridges and walk ways cross over the thinner canals, just high enough for the gondolas and smaller boats to cruise under. They vary from wooden bridges, to a combination of stone and iron, each with their own unique flare. Majority of the small canals are serviced only by the local traffic, disturbing the water from time to time as they gently meander across the water.

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Not to mention that the skippers of both the boats and the gondolas are water ninjas. I mean, it makes sense if you have grown up on the water, but these guys can manoeuvre these vessels around corners I couldn’t imagine, like they’re just taking a leisurely afternoon stroll.

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We decide to not follow a map, and instead just follow where the path leads us. Our path leads us down narrow streets, with tiny openings that would be more suited to doors frames than walkway entrances, passing in and out of busy sections of the city. One moment we are surrounded with tourists, and the next, we seem to have taken a turn forsaken by the rest of the visitors.

Quiet one moment.

Shoulder-to-shoulder the next.

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One thing you can count on, is that wherever there are tourists, there are gondolas. The operators (if I can stoop as low as to call them that) seem to stick together when acquiring passengers, and one seems to just sit and enjoy the Venetian sun, while the other employs every over-abused 90’s sales tactic to acquire customers. The gondolas sit there, gently rocking with the tides created by the other passing boats, adorned with the rich red velvet seats and cushions, and gold painted trimmings glistening in the midday sun.

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But, it comes at a price… 80 euro for a half hour ride. They dress it up, by calling it a tour, but I dunno how much of it is really a tour. Most of the people riding the gondolas don’t seem to be interacting with the operators all that much. Naturally, with the exception of a few who seem to be having a hoot with their group.

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We keep walking, zig zagging though the narrow winding streets of Venice, spotting little gems everywhere we go. There are pockets after pockets of beautiful hidden gems everywhere. It is the easiest place to get lost too. You take so many turns that you forget which way you are facing, and have to revert to your Eagle Scout training when you were 10, and judge your direction by the sun.

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Not ideal, since I wasn’t an Eagle Scout.

…I only made it to the rank of Supreme Pigeon Captain**

We find ourselves on the other side of Venice, aaaaages away from St Marc’s Square, and the thing is that you have to take one of two foot bridges to get over the main canal, to the side of venice where the square is located. Being that we are only wearing thongs, we decide to take a break and pull up on the river bank for a bit. After letting the water lap against our feet in the water, we decide we’ll make the walk to the iconic square.

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We swing into this adorable little pottery store, and find ourselves amazed by the skill that this particular potter has. Using gold trim & certain colours, she blends everything together to create masterpieces that I really shouldn’t ever drink anything from, but I 100% would, if I owned them. I little further down the road, we come across the pasta version of the sandwich place we visited in Florence. You don’t have much option, but that is good.

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Its quick service, amazing flavour, and simple ingredients. We grab our boxes and make our way to the square for lunch. We had no idea how far away it was, but we committed to it anyway. By the time we arrived, it was considerably colder, but still edible. Again, the walk there is littered with peeks down narrow canals and walkways separating one building from the other.

Finally, we arrive at the square.

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It is massive, and as you would expect, people everywhere. I’m a bit of a knob of a tourist. I mean, I really don’t like sharing the places I visit with other tourists, and to be honest, most of the time, I don’t vibe the mad iconic sights because they are all just bombed with tourists. The photos you see  of all these amazing places, are very well planned (and most likely edited a fair bit) to not include any tourists in them. Bec and I tend to find ourselves sitting in some little dingy corner somewhere, enjoying a smaller, but more intimate part of the cities.

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We sit & eat the fresh-ish pasta, and begin to wander the square and the surrounding areas. We head toward the side of the square that backs onto the water, and begin to walk along the river banks. We have been talking about wanting to take home a painting from this trip from somewhere, but have yet to find the right one. We came close in Rome, with that guy on top of the Spanish Steps, but when we asked ourselves if it was going to be something that we were in love with in 5 or 10 year’s time, we both knew that it wasn’t going to be the right painting.

Plus, we don’t want the same stereotypical paintings or drawings that you see in every grandparent’s house.

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I mean, just like the painter in Rome, I am sure that his skill set is not the sub-par, but it is the general feel and style of the painting that didn’t tick my boxes. This bloke, however, was a different story. The price of his paintings were a different story too. The painter in Rome was selling his paintings for 180 euros, and in a frantic bid to sell us his piece, dropped his price to 120 euros. This bloke was selling his for 299 euros, but through our time with him dropped it down to 200 euro, and offered to throw in another smaller painting to get us over the line.

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We literally sat with this guy, tossing up what we should do for a good 15-20 minutes. It was a hard decision. We have maintained throughout this trip, that as long as we both feel that we will look back in years to come and not regret those purchases, and that the value of the memories is more than the dollar amount, we would make the purchase.

But, this was a lot of money, being on our budget, and we were already over by about 1000 euros.

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We decided to go for a walk, and think about it. Which any sales person will know is a precursor to talking yourself out of the purchase. We decided that we would just wait the remainder of the day, and if it was still on our minds, we would head back and (most likely) buy it. Bec was utterly in love with it, and when I asked her if she would still love it in 5 years, she was adamant that it was going to be the case.

Thats enough for me, so we’ll wait till the end of the day to see where we stand with it.

We head along the bank, and find ourselves a drinking fountain and a bit of grass to chill out on. We watch the boats pass us by, including a military boat which wasn’t shy of revving out and tearing up the waters a little.

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We read our books and nibble our food a little, and decide to make our way to the back blocks of Venice to see what we can find. It is these kinda suburbs where you really find hidden gems. Not so much iconic gems, as much as cultural gems. For instance, around St Marc’s Square, you’re not going to find clothes lines strung up across courtyards, laden with the washing of the building’s inhabitants.

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Another little gem was a Venetian we came across, who was jamming on his own, out the front of his place, to an audience of pigeons and brick walls. He’s not busking. He is just having a good time, singing decades old blues classics and tapping his foot to his own rhythm.

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A chef stands on the back wall of the restaurant, taking a smoke break. Not sitting anywhere, just standing right on the waterfront, watching while the gondolas and boats pass by in the afternoon sun.

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We turn a few corners, and find ourselves down the back alley for what seems to be only a means of servicing the rear access to the properties either side.

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We reach the end, which backs onto the canal’s edge, and the sun is shining through the walkway between the two buildings on the other side of the canal, so we just sit ourselves down and read for a bit. Its a pretty quiet little canal, but we figure that we have got nothing to lose, so we are going to try and hitch a ride with a skipper if they come past.

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Over the course of the next hour, we would have only 4 boats pass us, all of which were more than willing to give us an affectionate smile and laugh, but none were so eager as to give us a ride. We used google translate to come up what we hoped was an understandable phrase of begging for a ride.

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With the sun having crossed behind the buildings, leaving us in the shade, we decide to abandon our aquatic hitchhiking mission, and make our way back to our place for dinner.

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We swing by a super market, picking up a mammoth bottle of Lambrusco, and a variety of meats and cheese to make dinner sandwiches with, all the while passing all kinds of people out with their dogs. We passed this one guy who had this little english bulldog. She was going gangbusters with this squeaky toy, positioning herself as the centre of attention for the entire street.

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We pass monuments in squares that back onto churches, with kids climbing and playing all over them. Its cool that kids are so free to do what kids do in Italy, but I can only imagine how old that monument is, and if it were in Australia, it wouldn’t be so ok.

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We get back to our place, and Bec tasks herself with the preparation of dinner, while I am tasked with the making of our fort. We found all the sheets and blankets in the cupboard last night, but didn’t have the effort left to make the fort, so we decided to leave it till tonight.

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We settle in and watch a few mandatory episodes of Brooklyn 99, and decide to go for a walk at night, as I am pretty keen to get some photos of the empty streets of Venice. Unfortunately, I wasn’t so happy with the shots that I got from our walk, and then, as we are on our way back to the place, literally no less than 100m away from our apartment, we come across the shot I was looking for. Its still not as mind-blowing as I had envisioned, but it was still better than anything I had captured on our night walk.

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We tuck in for the night, and Venice has surpassed all our expectations of the city.

It’s beautifully intimate & stunningly different to any other city I have visited before. The oddity of it being built on the water is really intriguing and there are is so much character to the buildings, canals, bridges, squares and walkways. Each of them showcasing their own little piece of Venice to those willing to take make the time to take it in.

Venice is the sorta place that you definitely want to bring your significant other.

Come back for the next story,

Billy

**I was never Supreme Pigeon Captain, because I don’t know what the scout ranks are, because I never joined the scouts. I was in the Boy’s Brigade for a little while as a kid, which is equally as not-brag-worthy, but not The Scouts.

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