After another doozy of a train mishap from Lake Como (Milan seems to have a monopoly on missed and cancelled trains this trip!), we took a train ride through Dante’s Inferno before arriving in Venice. The broken air conditioner on the train was barely puffing in our carriage and temps outside were close to 90 degrees. You were lucky if you could bogart a spot to stand near one of the emergency windows that were slightly cracked open to get a breeze across your forehead. After about an hour of sweating it out, the train conductor invited us to move up a few carriages to where cooler climes awaited and we settled into two empty seats for the duration of the journey.
Once we checked into our hotel in the Cannaregio district, our first order of business was an ice cold reviving shower. The concierge at the hotel said that the hot sticky weather was quite unusual for this early in the summer. Lucky us! Dan and I are not fair weather fans. More like overcast and misty with a slight chill fans.
Once we had sufficiently cooled down and changed into fresh clothes, we headed out to explore our new surroundings, winding our way through Cannaregio, the northern most sestieri of the six central districts that make up the historic center, along the Strata Nuova lined with restaurants, gelato shops, and stands selling carnivale masks along with the other typical souvenir offerings.
After stopping for some juicy ruby red cherries from one of the market vendors we made our way through the Campo de Ghetto Nuovo, the world’s oldest Jewish Ghetto dating to the 1600s, and then along the Grand Canal pausing in front of the train station to take in the lively, spirited atmosphere and the many passing gondolas loaded with visitors enjoying a private and pricey tour of the waterways.
Any local or visitor who did their research on saving a Euro or two in Venice will steer you instead toward the €7 a trip vaporetti aka public water buses or the €2 a hop traghettos, a public service put on by the gondoliers to ferry you the short distance across the Grand Canal as there are only four bridges that span the length of the canal. Its a budget friendly way to get the gondola experience in but just a warning not to expect much in the way of romantic ambience as you cautiously sit on the edge of the boats instead of lounging up against plush pillows and there may be up to forty other passengers riding alongside you.
We continued south through the Dorsoduro sestieri, stopping at the Ponte dell’Accademia bridge to take in the gorgeous and oft photographed views of the Grand Canal in either direction. Venice is incredibly beautiful and romantic in the early evening light with the twilight reflecting off the Roman Catholic church of Santa Maria della Salute.
After strolling past Santa Maria della Salute we made our way toward Punta della Dogana, the triangular area of land where the Grand Canal meets the Giudecca Canal, to sit along the edge of the canal for a spell and enjoy the changing view of Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore across the the canal as the twilight faded into night. As we doubled back over the Ponte dell’ Accademia we were treated to the sight of June’s full rose-tinted moon known as the ‘strawberry moon’, called so because June is the busiest month for picking strawberries and not necessarily because of its red hue. A bit of useful useless trivia for you.
After frustratingly trying to capture the perfect picture of the rosy tint of the moon, we admitted defeat and agreed that a camera lens upgrade was needed in our near future before we ambled on in the direction of Piazza San Marco. The square was lively and boisterous with several string quartets playing to the gathering crowds and the notoriously insistent selfie stick, rose, and light up toy hawkers that prey upon the tourist crowds of Europe’s major cities. The selfie sticks have become so ubiquitous and obnoxious lately that a number of locations such as the Colosseum and even a number of London museums have banned them. Have you all seen the selfie shoe parody yet? Hilarious! Do yourself a comedic favor and catch it here.
In keeping with our usual ‘too constant to be called coincidental’ bad luck, the famed Rialto Bridge was covered in scaffolding like most of the most of the iconic landmarks and architectural gems of the cities we visit. Nevertheless, the bridge is still a sight to see even under all the plastic sheeting and wooden planks.
After a nightcap of a glass of delicious house red wine and tiramisu (the Venice region is credited as well as disputed as the origin of the sweet treat meaning “pick me up” or “lift me up” and pick me up it sure does!), we pleasantly wandered our weary selves back to the hotel to collapse in bed and bask in the coolness of the 60 degree air conditioning.
Venice truly is a romantic city don’t you agree? It’s made for late nights dining by the water and strolling hand in hand down dimly lit cobblestone streets.