David and I headed to Venice from Florence and got there in the early afternoon with more than enough time to explore. We were only spending one night in Venice, so we wanted to pack in as much as possible. Our hotel was close to the train station in the Santa Croce neighborhood and on a canal. David was even able to get us a room with windows on the canal. One we checked in and dropped off our bags, we decided to venture out and see the city.
Navigating the alleyways in Venice made me feel like Jennifer Connelly in The Labyrinth. It’s one of my favorite movies from childhood, but not one I ever really wanted to recreate, at least not without David Bowie as the Goblin King. Seriously, the maps were not helpful since some of the alleyway were too small to even be on the map, not to mention the fact that the signs that were meant to help you find your way were anything but helpful. They were often contradictory, and you would have to take numerous twists and turns before you found the next sign, all the while hoping you were going the right way, because you knew you wouldn’t be able to find your way back to the previous sign.
After walking for what seemed like forever, David and I finally found our way to the Rialto Bridge, then to St. Mark’s Square. I was so disappointed by both, and I honestly went in with little to no expectations. The shops on the Rialto Bridge had all the same crap quality Murano glass you could find anywhere else in Venice. Very few shops we saw actually had good quality, authentic Murano glass made by master glass makers. I was told most of it came from China, or was made by the apprentices, which was why it was all so cheap. As for St. Mark’s Square, for me, it was the least inspiring city center we had seen the entire trip. There were a bunch of restaurants, each with their own bandstand and mini group of classical musicians. The restaurants were close enough to each other, that you were confronted with a cacophony of music from all the surrounding restaurants.
Since neither David or I were too excited to find our way back through the labyrinth to our hotel, we thought about taking a Gondola. Honestly, I thought Gondolas were cheesy, but David really wanted to take one. Turns out they are 100€ for 30 minutes. Nope. We decided to try to navigate our way back on foot, which was going smoothly until I mistook a traghetto crossing for a bridge on the map. We basically came to a dead-end at the Grand Canal with no way to cross. Luckily some locals soon joined us, and we learned that for 2€ we could cross the Grand Canal on the traghetto – a gondola boat, but with other passengers that is rowed by two oarsmen. It may not have been as romantic, but David got his Gondola ride.
The city was very pretty as the sun was setting, and we had an amazing dinner at Impronta Cafe. It was one of out best meals in Italy. However. walking to and from dinner made me realize just how glad I was that I had David with me. The winding alleyways become creepy and ominous at night. Since it wasn’t tourist season, most of the walkways were pretty deserted and all I could think of was someone hiding in the shadows waiting for unsuspecting tourist. Overreaction, I know, but I would have been really uncomfortable walking the streets by myself. Even with the sun still out before sundown, the buildings were too tall to allow much sunlight to filter into the alleyways.
The next day, before leaving Venice, David wanted to go visit the Jewish Ghetto. I had zero desire to go visit an upsetting site of our people’s history, so I waited at the train station while he went and explored on his own. I’m glad he enjoyed it so much, but I grew up with such horror stories from WWII and what my family went through, I know that visiting the centuries old ghetto would have been really upsetting for me, even if it pre-dated the war.
All in all, I didn’t love Venice, but I don’t have a solid, rational reason why. Maybe I was just sick of traveling at the tail end of our trip, but I just didn’t like the atmosphere. I’m still glad we got to experience it though.
Our Hotel: Hotel Ariecchino – My least favorite hotel of our entire trip. Our room was tiny and dated, the stairs up to the room smelled of sewer, and the staff was only somewhat helpful. We did have a good view of the canal, but we also had a view of the nearby bridge, and everyone on the bridge had a view into our room.
Best Restaurant: Impronta Cafe – David and I both had what may have been our best meal in all of Italy here. If you go to Venice, you must give this place a try, but be sure to make a reservation!