First impressions from our second visit to Venice.
Five years after our first visit to Venice it is both familiar in a comfortable sense, and exciting as we have made several new experiences.
A good flight, with an upgrade to an exit row seat from Adelaide to Dubai, but Dubai airport was old and tired (in Terminal C) and the 15 minute drive from the terminal to the plane on the tarmac was unexpected at such a transport hub. Emirates has the best airline food we have tasted but the in air staff seemed very formal and structured in their approach to the customer.
Venice is a real melting pot of tourist cultures and the locals are challenged to maintain an authentic Venetian/Italian culture under these external but economically essential tourist demands. Everywhere you go throughout the island there is the sound of suitcase wheels across the cobbled pavements, crowds and queues. It is almost as though it is a living theme park of history and culture in which the tourists immerse themselves.
But, despite the faded glory of aging palazzo that can appear decrepit and empty from outside, there is a vibrancy that exists within. Nothing that we have experienced elsewhere can quite match the appeal of dining alongside a venetian canal as the sky fades and the limited night lighting takes effect - with a background soundtrack of lapping water, ferries and small water craft well into the night.
Excitingly the coffee is uniformly excellent or better, same for the gelati, the food wonderful and our second experience of Venice is everything and more than we could have expected although not always as we have originally envisaged. We have also developed a serious temptation (but not yet addiction) for the local aperitif - Spritz (a blend of Apero and Prosecco).
To get the 'boring' stuff out of the way - our accommodation is a one bedroom apartment in the Cannaregio district of Venice (near the railway station) and about 25 minutes walk from St Mark's Square if you don't take a wrong turn. The wrong turn is a tourist hazard in Venice that can be embraced and provide wonderful unplanned experiences.
The apartment by the way is very comfortable, totally quiet and matching the on-line description when we booked.
We have a stunning coffee shop (MQ10) just around the corner that provides a great heart-starter each morning as we set out.
The weather has been mixed - one day rain, one day fine. The grey skies have changed our photographic approach but also allowed us the flexibility to time our many visits to museums and churches (containing over 1200 years of history and precious art) using the benefit of the VENICE CARD - an opportunity to skip waiting lines at up to 10 museums and 15 churches of significance, amongst other things.
When they say possible thunderstorms they mean thunderstorms all day, so we have become used to finding an indoor visit whenever heavy rain threatens.
Highlights so far:
- The aging splendour of Venice - its richness in what it has been and the sadness that its glories are faded.
- The Doges Palace was amazing - the history behind the government of Venice is remarkable until Napoleon invaded and ended the Venetian Republic in 1797. The Doge was a leader elected for life but without the supreme power of government unless by force of personality and opportunity.
- The islands of Burano (every house brightly coloured differently from the neighbour) and Torchello in the Venetian lagoon.
- The sheer history and beauty of the Chorus Churches with significant architecture and art from well before the renaissance.
- The 50 year retrospective of the Italian landscape photographer Franco Fontana - beautiful work combining landscape, colour, simplicity and abstract composition.
- Dining canal side in the evening.
- Meeting up with our friend Jonathon, who led our Tuscany workshop five years ago.
- Friendly locals, including the furry friends that Barb keeps finding everywhere we go.
- Did we say Spritz already?
- Friendly Locals
With two days to go in our stay in Venice we realise that again we have just scratched the surface of what is on offer here.
Symbols of Venice