Before arriving in Venice and taking my first steps through the crooked, cobbled back-streets, I didn’t realise exactly just how much of an impact it was going to have on me. When I booked the trip – as an excursion whilst staying in Porec, Croatia – I was excited at the prospect of visiting two new countries all in one go. It seemed like a great opportunity – both for travel and for my blog! Those were my first thoughts. Then I began to think about how this was going to be my first ever trip to Italy – the country my great-grandmother originated from along with so many Italian relatives whom I’d never had the chance to meet. Thinking about them and hearing stories from my parents always fascinates me but leaves me wishing that I’d had that little extra Italian influence in my life. I’m not sure how else to explain it but thinking about that suddenly made me very eager to have my first Italian experience and ‘go back to my roots’ as the saying goes.
Spending just one day in Venice was simply not enough but definitely a must for anybody staying in the Istrian region of Croatia, so here’s the best details I can share with you on my 5 hours in the wonderful City of Water.
I boarded a boat with Venezia Lines from the port in Porec, Croatia early in the morning and after roughly 2 and half hours, we arrived in San Basilio Terminal in Venice. From here I opted to follow a tour guide for a 40-50 minute walk into St Marks Square. I am so pleased that my frugal mind chose the free guided walk to Piazzo San Marco, as opposed to the quick and easy alternative of hopping on a shuttle boat for 20 euros. The walk allowed me to see the floating homes of Venice and all of the locals who lived in them. It wasn’t a fast-paced walk and I had time to absorb everything that I wanted to see. All of the Italian authenticity, the gondoliers preparing for a hard days work in the sun, the wonderfully dressed women walking their pooches, the labor men, the artists, the street buskers. I wanted to experience all of this before reaching the buzz of the main tourist location. This is of course St Marks Square, complete with St Mark’s Basilica and St Mark’s Campanile – the most recognizable symbols of Venice.
Our guide left us in St Mark’s square, after explaining a few housekeeping rules. No feeding the pigeons in the square, no sitting down in the square, no shirts to be removed in the square and no swimming in the canals are among the rules of Venice that I can remember. Our kind guide pointed out the yellow signs on the corners of buildings in Venice directing you with arrows to the most famous landmarks and tourist spots. He told us, ‘follow the yellow signs or follow the large crowds of people and you will never be lost in Venice’. In a sense he was quite correct but the narrow streets surrounding the square can be all too familiar yet confusing at times. This was proved to me when I tried to follow the signs to Rialto Bridge. I made it eventually and it was actually one of my highlights, although it was super-crowded with tourists as you’d expect. Rialto Bridge is a prime spot to visit due to the view of the Grand Canal – Venice’s main waterway – and the shops and markets very close to the bridge giving a taste of Venetian culture.
The weather on the day we visited was sublime, the heat reached a huge peak of 40 degrees that day. An absolute scorcher. I chose my outfit the night before without much thought to the heat. I was wearing a black dress, I was running low on sun cream supply and I had just about enough euros to buy gelato and all the bottles of water I most certainly needed. We did plan to eat in style at a real Italian restaurant just outside of St Marks Square, but the truth is it was too hot in Venice to even think about eating anything and I didn’t mind that. Next time I visit I’d like to think I’ll be spending much more time than just a day so I can eat all of the calorific Italian food that I want!
I would’ve liked to experience the view from the top of the Campanile but we just didn’t have enough time, I did have a chance to see the San Basilica however. For one euro I bought a blanket for wrapping around my waist to respectfully enter the church. It really is a beautiful church, it’s just a shame a large portion of the exterior was obstructed by scaffolding. However it was explained to us that this would probably be the case and that the pure beauty of the entire building is rarely seen due to so much labour constantly taking place to maintain its survival. The Italian gentleman who sold me the blanket at the entrance of the church was the friendliest local we’d come across that day. He asked where we were from and gasped with joy when we replied ‘London’. I told him how much I admired Venice and he smiled the proudest smile, telling us how he adored living there – who could blame him?!
Ultimately, I enjoyed every minute of my trip, in fact I was pretty quick to fall in love with Venice. That’s a bold statement to make and I know that it might have some connotations of being a clichéd, stereotypical, romantic city but I’m sorry, it is far too easy to fall in love with Venice. My surroundings for the entire day were stunning, every direction I turned I was presented with colourful architecture and postcard-perfect scenes all around me – the proof is on my camera! I was also pleasantly surprised by the prospect of no vehicles, no traffic lights and no busy roads – it’s surreal but amazing. Of course I didn’t have time to see the museums or spend all of my money in the designer boutiques just off the square (I wish) and this time around, I didn’t have a gondola ride but I feel I saw a lot in a short space of time in Venice and I know I’ll always have fond memories of my first visit to Italy.
My only disappointment was having to depart from Venice after just a day – in total it was just over 5 hours – and not being able to see the city after sunset. I’m sure it’s just as pretty at night-time, it would’ve been nice to experience a little bit of Venice in the evening, BUT no regrets! I’ll have plenty of opportunities to see Venice in both daylight and moonlight when I return. 🙂
I will leave you with this. Pure Italian bliss. Soaking up the sun and enjoying the bright blue skies with a gelato in the great Piazzo San Marco.