We got lost, a lot. It didn’t matter though. The Venetian lagoon is ridiculously romantic and beautiful.
I had been once before to the unique ‘floating’ city back in 2004 while on a Contiki tour (don’t judge me) when I was 20 years old. I didn’t really appreciate it as I should have, and i’m glad I went back. Rohan and I always say that we shouldn’t travel to the same place twice, as there are so many new places in the world to see. I thought that Venice was an exception though, because you really do need to see for yourself what all the fuss is about. He’d never been to Italy, so it was only fair to take the detour up to the north-east, and i’m glad we did. You see, when you’re 20 and drinking cheap wine with a bus load of other 20-somethings for 3 weeks, everything becomes quite a blur. It was a chance for me to really see this place, to take it all in, and be able to share the experience with Rohan.
We stayed on the mainland in a cabin in a camp ground. It was clean, in a really leafy area, and super easy to get a bus over the bridge and into Venice. We spent 3 days just wandering around, trying to find sights, and walking in circles. It was the only time i’ve ever felt like a compass would have been handy. The buildings wind with the canals and the alleyways weave through the buildings, mostly quiet, and sometimes surprising you with a dead end or open piazza. Hidden treasures like 2 euro wine shops and little art galleries would appear along the way. We found an amazing little deli type store with lunch rolls or a glass of wine for 90c each! That’s what it’s all about.
One of the days was spent getting out of Venice and we went to see a couple of the other islands in the archipelago. Murano is famous for it’s blown glass so we caught a ferry out to take a look around. There wasn’t much happening in the back streets, but we managed to find a couple of stores that were showing demonstrations of how they sculpt the glass. It was quite interesting and they did really beautiful work, but we felt a bit put off by the pressure to sell and how tourist driven the area had become – move along now, can I help you, buy this, buy that. Understandably though of course.
From Murano we caught another ferry over to Burano, which was a pleasant surprise. It was quite a bit further out from Venice so it felt a bit more laid back. To our surprise there was even a gondola championship race happening all day and the whole town was out to see it and cheer on their local teams. Burano was once famous for its intricate lace work traditionally made with needles, and some establishments still continue to do so today. They had some small stores with demonstrations (once again) but this time it was a much nicer experience. I’d never seen anyone sew lace before and was in awe of the little old Italian ladies struggling to see the fine work they were doing. They didn’t try and gain attention (like in Murano) from passes by, and we found most of them just sitting on their own in a back corner of a dimly lit store in a not-so-busy street. The other drawcard for the island is the brightly painted rows of small houses. It’s an artists dream and when we found a particularly bright and sunlit street there were people everywhere snapping photographs and painting and sketching. I joined in. Apparently, the colours of the houses follow a specific system originating from the golden age of its development; if someone wishes to paint their home, one must send a request to the government, who will respond by making notice of the certain colours permitted for that lot. Interesting fact.