Friday, September 24, 2010

Venezia - The Venice of Italy

I've written thousands of travel pages over the last year, being paid to imagine what I think places might be like (or paraphrase what Lonely Planet said first), but if this new travelling lifestyle has taught me anything, it's that 70-cent carton wine is never a good idea. But also that you really do have to visit some places to get an idea of what they're really like.

Wow, who would have thought? Expect to have your mind blown with more original opinions like that one for however long I keep this blog up. I'm only writing this because you asked me to, so don't expect it to be good or anything.

Living in Edinburgh for three years, I'm familiar with the tourism trade, and where the self-styled Athens of the North is filled with shops selling borderline racist tartan-and-ginger Jimmy hats and Loch Ness Monster paraphenalia to American tourists, the Venice of Northern Italy has masks. Loads of them. Some shops sell nothing else, yet are somehow getting by. I didn't see a single person wearing one.

Venice is a pretty incredible place to visit, but it would be ridiculous to live here. Just as visiting Edinburgh doesn't really give you an idea of what the 'real' Scotland is like, I expect I'll have to wait until I leave this crazy enclave to get a true idea of Italian life. I haven't even sampled the local cuisine yet - I've just been eating pasta, pizza and ice cream like I do back home (though it has to be said that the Italians imitate these British staples perfectly). I'll be sure to sample authentic Italian food soon, whatever that is.

Free things to do in Venice

Most people I talk to are under the impression that Venice is an expensive place to visit, but with a little savviness and loose morals, a trip to the city becomes much more affordable, and you can experience the best of Venice without having to contribute to the local economy and help preserve the city for future generations. Those futuristic idiots are out on their own.

Get lost in the peopled labyrinth - The best thing about Venice is just how distinctive it looks, and getting lost is the best way to appreciate this for yourself, especially as taking the side streets is a great way to avoid the crowds. You don't have to worry about getting lost forever though and ending up in a minotaur's toothpick, as in my experience you'll always end up stepping back out into San Marco after 40 minutes, even if you were convinced you were on the opposite side of the island.

Steal a water bus ride - Gondolas are ridiculously expensive, but the cheaper journey down the Grand Canal can still be considered essential to see the buildings rising out of the water on each side. At the time of writing, it costs 6,50 euro for a one-way trip up or down the canal on the Vaporetto, however far you're going, but it's very easy to just walk on board without buying and checking your ticket, and enjoy the trip for free.

There are apparently hefty fines if you're caught on board without a ticket. I got away with it a couple of times, but obviously I am not recommending you try it yourself. (Aside: That is exactly what I am recommending. Do it. Do it now!)

Chat with Bruce - If you're looking to delay your bedtime by an hour and Venice's near-nonexistent nightlife has let you down, pull up a stone step outside your hostel and listen to the life story of the strange old American guy who worryingly hangs out there. This one-sided conversation will also give you the chance to existentially ponder whether this is how you will end up - down and out in Venice, regaling young people with your obviously fabricated life story - and whether that's something to avoid or aspire to.

Next: More free stuff in Florence

1 comment:

  1. There was a level on a Tomb Raider game that was set in Venice. I remember getting lost in that quite a lot, but then I was rubbish at the game. I'm not sure which is more important.