Having just one day to see the infamous city of Venice seemed to me as though it would be a challenge. Guidebooks give you endless lists of sites that you should visit, but because of our limited time we decided to ditch the guidebook and see where we ended up. This made our day much more relaxed than a planned itinerary would have been, and because we wandered around aimlessly, we ended up seeing the Venice that the locals know and love, as well as the tourist side.
It was everything we wanted and expected it to be; tiny cobbled streets, surrounded by endless canals and cute little bridges. Filled to the brim with tourists, gondolas, and Venetian mask stalls at every turn, you won’t find another city like it. It is a city, or set of islands that survive completely on its tourist industry, which is why, when you near the main attractions, things become expensive. An espresso, for example, on the main sight San Marco’s Square, will set you back 8 euros; you could probably get a pizza for this much just a few streets away.
We soon realised that as soon as you leave the main attractions, and wander around residential Venice, things become much cheaper – and quieter. We chose to have a meal quite far from the tourist sites, and closer to the train station- and it meant paying 10 euro each for a meal, instead of 20/30euros. Italy is a county where you must sample the food- it is probably the best food in the world. Everyone I’ve ever spoken to about Italy has raved about the quality of the pizza and pasta; it seems hard to believe, but it really is ten times better than anywhere else. Ice cream too is an Italian speciality, and you can’t turn a corner without being confronted with an ice-cream stall – you simply must try some.
When we got to Venice, we decided that somewhere we must see is San Marco’s Square. I’d been told that if I could only visit one attraction in Venice, that this should be the one. So we set off towards the square, but our terrible map reading skills got us lost quite quickly. Venice is a place that is easy to get lost in, because many of the little streets and bridges look exactly the same. In the end we found one of the water buses which run all over Venice, and although they do charge a fee, there was no-one around to enforce the rule. So we embarked on our free, and somewhat over-crowded journey towards San Marco’s Square.
When we arrived at our destination, the first thing we noticed was St Mark’s Basilica, which is an enormous and ornate church, presiding over the square in an intimidating but impressive way. It’s hard to comprehend how such a building was created and then decorated with such detail, and because of this it is a must-see. We didn’t manage to see inside the building because the queues where predictably long and we wanted to see more of the city, but the square was certainly charming and impressive, despite the overwhelming number of tourists.
The rest of the day we spent getting lost in Venice and we enjoyed watching the gondolas go by, and occasionally they had the traditional singer on the boat. We would have liked to have a ride ourselves but at 90 euros a trip it was too expensive on our modest budget tour of Italy. We found the rest of Venice quiet, and much of the time we were the only people on the street. The further you get from San Marco’s, the fewer people you see. My advice to anyone visiting Venice is to allow yourself to get lost, because we saw a side to the city that most tourists will miss – the local and peaceful part. The city is exactly what I imagined it would be, which is by no means a bad thing, because you won’t find anywhere else like it.