Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Venice is a fish

I am probably not the right person to talk about Venice having spent only a weekend there. But a weekend was enough to fall hopelessly in love with that city. A dear friend, who came to see me during my stay in Venice, gave me a book called "Venezia è un pesce" (Venice is a fish) that I read on the way back to Rome and I must admit that now I already long back to this fantastic town. 

Bild: https://www.flickr.com/photos/42858885@N00/
If you look at the picture you can actually see that Venice has the shape of a fish. It is not big and you can actually walk around it quite easily. If you can walk. When I arrived and started crossing some of the 500 bridges, I wondered how a person on a wheel chair can survive in this town. But for a person who has no problems to walk Venice is like a dream...

How can all those fantastic buildings be standing there in the middle of the sea? How was Venice built? The "palazzi" that you see, all those fantastic marble buildings, could not be built in the water. They would have sunk in the mud. No, there are hundreds of thousands, no milions of trees under the town, that hold up the buildings. Under the Basilica della Salute there are at least one hundred thousand of trees. Under the Basilica di san Marco there are rafts made of oaks. Impressive!

 I arrived in Venice by plane and took the "vaporetto" to the centre of the town where I had booked a room on the internet. I had a map and thought it would be quite simple to find the B&B. But no way! Venice is a labyrinth! There are 6 sections in Venice and the place where I was going to stay was in the section Cannaregio. You can find the places by asking the number of the building. Or - you can call the hotel/B&B- and ask them to come and pick you up :) My advice is to live in a central place so that you easily can walk around. 

"My" room in  typical Venetian style.
I was lucky enough to find very nice staff at the B&B. I was shown all the places I could go on a map and how to get there. I was also informed of the prices of the museums, ferries and how to save money. Venice is very expensive and if you don't know how to move a weekend will cost you a fortune!

On Saturday I met a friend who showed me around Venice on foot. We wandered the whole day long and had some fantastic spaghetti in a nice restaurant. She gave me the book Venice is a fish written by Tiziano Scarpa, that I started reading already on Saturday night when I came back to the hotel room. 

I was surprised to read about things I had never thought about. There are no cars in Venice, we know that, but I had not thought of the fact that there are no bicycles either. The author grew up and spent his adolescence in Venice and even tells how difficult it is for young couples to meet. Italian families rarely let the young family members bring a boy/girlfriend home and since there are no cars to meet in they often find places in the narrow lanes or at the stairs inside an entrance. Scarpa even tells the story of a couple making love on a bench in big sack in a park at night. Incredible for a Swede but not for an Italian.

Scarpa guides his reader through the Venice of the senses, starting with a chapter on feet, then legs, heart, hands, nose, eyes and so on, exploring the smell, taste and look of La Serenissima. My friend, Desirée, took me all around Venice on foot and showed me "her" Venice; the places that she visited when she studied at university. It was indeed a great experience listening to this Swedish woman speaking Italian with Padova accent making the local people think she was one of them.

Everybody smiled and was friendful in Venice, it was really contagious! The gondoliere who welcomed us to cross the Canal Grande from the Fish market (mercato del pesce) to the fruit and vegetable market smiled warmly, even though this tour cost us only about 2 euros per person. It is called a "Caronte-tour", since it gives you a chance to sit for a while in a gondola, crossing the Canal Grande. A normal tour by gondola cost about 80 euros, which would be a fantastic experience for a romantic couple, but the Caronte-tour was perfect for me!
My friend Desirée shows me where we are on the map.

A good piece of advice that I received from the young man at th B&B was not to go to Piazza San Marco during the day since it is far too crowded. He was right indeed. The line to get into the church was very long. Next time I will follow his advice and go there at 7.30 in the morning. 

If you walk a lot during the day, it is great to take the vaporetto (ferry) number 1 from the station on the Canal Grande in the evening. Venice is very beautiful at night and you can see a lot from the ferry while having your feet rest.

Murano. Photo: Private. The flowers are made of glass.
Murano and Burano are two islands that should be visited. I only made it to visit Murano, the famous island of glass factories. The craftmen that blew glass in Venice were banned to this island a long time ago due to the risk of fire. I really advise you to go there! I didn't like objects made of glass so much before visiting this island, but now I love them! It is also very beautiful to travel around on the ferry.

Venice has about 13 million of tourists per year. It is sited on 118 islands and the historical city (Centro storico) has about 60.000 inhabitants whereas the Terraferma (Mainland) hosts 136.000 people. Venice has been called with a lot of different names, such as: a Dominante", "Serenissima", "Queen of the Adriatic", "City of Water", "City of Masks", "City of Bridges", "The Floating City", and "City of Canals" . 

Venice has to be visited at least once in a life time. For me it has to be at least twice because I really didn't manage to see everything I wanted! 

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