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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (and other lands)

Venice, like a tourist

ITALY | Tuesday, 27 August 2013 | Views [254]

The main difference between when I last visited Venice and this time, is the accommodation. Last time, in 2007, I was on a serious, serious budget, so ended up staying in a cabin at a campsite bordering Treviso airport. It was kind of great, we could watch the planes taking off and landing from the pool, but it was a good 45 minute drive on the shuttle bus to get to the islands, and because of the exorbitant cost, we didn't use any vaporettos (vaporetti?) so we saw most of Venice on foot. This time, however, I found a hostel that was easily the most expensive hostel I've ever stayed in, yet was still significantly cheaper than any of the hotels available. The hostel, run by the Generator group, was big and commercial, but it was in a fantastic location - right on the waterfront of Giudecca island, overlooking the Giudecca Canal across to the heart of Venice, Piazza San Marco. This time I decided to get a 48 hour vaporetto pass (best idea EVER), which for 30 euro enabled me to get as many trips as I wanted within the Venice network. Not bad when you consider a single trip costs 8 euro! This meant that I was able to see a lot more of the city than I did in 2007, and I saw it in a totally different way - apparently the vaporettos are the only form of public transport through Venice used by both tourists and locals, so I could see the city from a slightly more local perspective!


Arriving on Sunday, mid-afternoon, at the Venezia Santa Lucia train station, I jumped on a vaporetto across to Giudecca to check in to my hostel, and then quickly headed back out again to take advantage of the evening sunlight. Walking through Venice on a Sunday evening in late August was AMAZING - there was not a soul around! I could never have imagined that it could be so quiet. I walked through the laneways on a mission to find a couple of essential things - my earrings were irritating my ears really badly (I was wearing cheapies just in case I lost them), so I had to find some new ones with a slightly more decent backing, and I had got confused about which power adaptor to bring and had brought North American ones, so I had to find a European adaptor! This meant that I had to have a really good explore, as Venice only has tiny little boutiques and they're scattered all throughout the city. Eventually, after visiting Piazza San Marco and the Rialto bridge, I found what I was looking for and also found a decent restaurant to have dinner. Venice specialises in super-fresh seafood, so I sat in a restaurant garden and had a plate of salumi for antipasto and some 'fried mixed seafood' which ended up being whole baby sardines, whole decapitated prawns, some scampi meat and a lot of squid, with a few fingers of fried polenta to the side. I didn't quite know if you were meant to eat the prawns and sardines whole, so I gave it my best shot and just left the tails. As I was finishing up, some thunder and lightning began to appear, and so I quickly paid and headed off to the vaporetto terminal. By the time I got to the vaporetto stop, I was drenched. Venice was even more empty than it 




Ok, so Venice was even more empty than it had been - as soon as the storm broke, everyone dashed for cover. I waited in the terminal for the next vaporetto back to the hostel and watched the storm, Venice by lightning is really something. The storm at least meant that my first night in a hostel in several years went quite well - the rain put everyone to sleep quickly, and it was lovely to listen to.


I had intended to go to the Biennale on Monday, but it turned out that Monday was the one day of the week when everything was closed! Instead I visited the Rialto Mercato (the local fruit and veg market), had a stroll through the back streets of Venice, picked up some post cards, and popped into the only Biennale exhibition I could find open - the Prada Fondazione, which was showing 'When Attitudes Become Form', a show from Bern in 1969, which was reproduced exactly as it had been first shown. It was very strange - European art from the late 1960s can be very strange - but it was quite interesting, and there was a documentary made at the time about the artists which was also quite interesting. My favourite bit was an American artist who was chiselling the plaster off a wall in a perfect square, and when asked about it, said that 'it's just art, it's the idea, the idea is art'. Typical. On my way back across the island I visited the Gallerie Dell'Accademia, another art gallery, but this time of Medieval and Renaissance art, including several Bellinis and a beautiful piece by Titian. The building itself was magnificent - amazing ceilings, painted and artfully plastered and gold leafed. Unfortunately the museum closes for a couple of hours in the afternoon, so I headed off, back to Giudecca, where I spent a while wandering the back streets and having a sticky-beak at the local parks and gardens and houses. Giudecca is much more a 'local' island than the rest of Venice - there are some new-build apartments, there are playgrounds, and there are lots and lots of children. It's quite nice and very peaceful. As it began to get dark, I found my way to the hostel bar, where I lounged, drinking aperol spritz and eating olives ascolana (olives stuffed with pork mince, crumbed and then deep fried). Not a bad way to end the day!


Tuesday was my last day in Venice, as I was to get a ferry to Croatia in the afternoon. I thought that it might be nice to get a ferry across to Murano (famed for their glass) or Burano (famed for their lace) but it all turned out to be a bit hard, so I went to the Lido instead. The Lido is a long island (basically a big sand bar) across the south-eastern end of Venice, protecting the main islands from the Adriatic Sea. The 'inland' side has amazing views of Venice, while what I would call the 'back beach' is sandy and covered in resorts, with a few public beaches dotted around the place. The beach is very Italian 1960s - depressing grey sand, permanent beach umbrellas in perfect rows, and concrete everywhere. That said, I still managed to find a nice spot to sit in the sun and read my book for a bit, before grabbing some slightly dodgy pizza and getting the vaporetto back to Giudecca, to get my bags and then head on to San Basilio international ferry terminal to get my boat to Croatia.

Tags: biennale, giudecca, lido, rialto, san marco, venice


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