The Fairytale City Called Venice.
People are standing all around me, jammed into a bus like sardines, far too close for comfort and people are helplessly touching other people in ways that shouldn’t be allowed. A low chatter in a language I am unfamiliar with is buzzing throughout the bus that will take us to the city centre of Venice. After an hour of frustration, walking up and down the same street in search for the much needed bus stop, the reward of sweaty, human bodies with their arms raised to hold on for support was not what I had expected. The smell is overpowering and Alex, Sophie and I do our best to hold our breath until it is no longer possible. The heat from Manchester to Venice had changed drastically; here, you sweat just from being outside. I had once thought that the tube in London was bad, but I hadn’t met the buses in Italy then. And yet, none of this changed my built up fascination with Italy, a place I had barely allowed myself to dream about. Of all the places in the world, I was lucky enough to be in Italy and I could not contain my excitement.
As I walk over the bridge that takes me over the canal from the bus terminal, the enchantment of Venice takes over. Once you cross over that bridge it’s like stepping into another world. The only form of transportation is by boat. There are boats for everything here: taxis for those in a hurry, cargo boats bringing stock to the many vendors and shops that line the canals, romantic gondolas for the romantic, tour boats and personal boats of the residents. So awestruck as I was for that entire day, I didn’t even notice the lack of grass or the color green at all! Our morning was spent tasting all the delights that Venice had to offer. Giant fruit cups filled with the freshest of cantaloupe, kiwi, watermelon and pineapple, eaten on the side of a canal with our feet dangling above the water of course. For a breakfast dessert, our very first taste of gelato. Unlike anything else, gelato is like heaven and sunshine in your mouth and from that moment on we had at least two, three-scoop gelatos every day for the following three weeks in Italy. It tastes nothing like the ice cream we suffer with in North America. Since that life changing day, I have yet to be truly satisfied with an ice cream at home.
The easiest way to explore Venice is by foot. The days were spent wandering over bridges, through narrow alleys where cheerful Italian men would urge us to come to their pizzeria, as their pizza was surely the best. As we emerge from one of those narrow alleys, we are all stopped in our tracks as a palace looms over us. It was marvelous and larger than life, amazing architecture and intricate details. This was not a palace, but St. Mark’s Cathedral in St. Mark’s Square. Although the tourists are absolutely everywhere, overpowering Venice, this was the largest mass of tourists I had seen yet. All were trying to achieve the impossible: a picture encompassing the entire cathedral. From the square to the shore, only a short distance, the crowd dispersed and the setting changed to families lingering by the sea, relaxing on the steps of Doge’s Palace and going for a cruise in a gondola with a handsome Italian in a striped shirt. All the while, everyone is rushing about where there is no room to rush. Venice is simply overwhelmed with people during the day and around each corner there seems to be an Italian man old enough to be our father calling out “Ciao Bella! Bella, bella, bella!” which is awkward and funny at first and then slightly annoying by the end of the day. But, this is all part of the charm that comes with Venice.
You either love Venice or you hate it. I loved it and I hope to have the chance to return someday. However, next time I will take advantage of the evening in Venice, for I only experienced the beauty of Venice at night for a short while. As the sun sets, the tourists disappear and Venice becomes empty and seductive. The rush has stopped, people are suddenly in fancier dress, sipping wine and enjoying the moment. Venice at night is beautiful and something I still long to return to. As my first experience in Italy, I am glad it was in Venice, where the bustle of the city could keep up and fuel my excitement even more. For me, Venice is a place straight out of a Disney movie, somewhere where you feel as if you’ve woken up in a fairytale land and can actually take a minute, feel like a child again, and live it. Have you been to Venice? Did you love it or hate it?