Every good American knows that Europe has three Cities: London, Paris and Venice. It is of utmost importance to visit every single one of them and only them. This is to be educated about the old world and to tell the family back home, how much culture there is.
We already ticked off London and Paris on our list to discover Europe, and recently Mercedes told us that Venice is A) sinking and B) very beautiful. Two reasons to choose the city for our honeymoon.
As much as I was looking forward to discover a car-less city with Italian food, as much was I dreading the tourists. You see, Venice has something like 50 000 inhabitants on the island. Every day an average of 75 000 tourists come to visit. And we booked our trip in the main season in June, so I expected the worst.
I was rarely so happy to be wrong.
First off: Yes, tourists in Venice are a massive pain. But luckily, they herd themselves very effectively just on the connecting streets between Rialto bridge, the dock and St. Marcus square. On these routes there is a steady stream of predominantly US American and Chinese tourists that buy cheaply made masks and say things like “Uhm Venice is like … so romantic” and “I want to eat the Menu Turistico please, but make sure the fish is very very well done”.
But as soon as you step aside and discover the city, it is so much less crowded, so much more enjoyable, and so much more Italian. I have never been to a city that looked so much like a postcard. Wherever you turn, you see beautiful canals, old buildings, cloth lines between the houses and a steady fresh breeze of air. The houses provide cooling shadow in the heat of the day and lots of small bars and osterias offer cheap and good food and provide a constant supply of Spritz and Ombre, one is a cocktail of sparkling wine, water and liqueur, while the latter is just the house wine for a mere price of 1 Euro. Both give you a constant gentle buzz, which is fine, because: no cars. Just mind the canal borders. You don’t want to fall into that… water.
The city has the right size to be big enough to discover new things for several days but at the same time it is small enough to be very accessible on foot. There are public transport boats to get you around, but you can totally do without them and still see all ends of the city. Once you understood the basic system of calle, campi and ramo, you don’t even run into dead ends any more. Just take once the boat along the grand canal (a vaporetto is more than good enough) to see the beautiful facades of Venetian buildings that were built with the focus on water access.
Everything has to be transported by hand to the nearest boat.
There is a lot of culture to visit, but honestly, we came for the weather, the city and the food, so we skipped on the palaces and museums. They are certainly very interesting for different seasons, but we wanted to grab food from an osteria, sit at a canal and enjoy it.
People here are friendly, especially if you interact with the true Venetians, not the people who run the tourist restaurants and try to lure you in. I usually started with very bad Italian, they reply in Italian and I awkwardly say in English that I can’t understand them. That usually resulted in a big smile and a warm conversation.
I can’t think of any city that coped with such a massive stream of tourists so well. There are problems, but more and more people are aware of them and try to promote a sustainable tourism that allows Venice to live and be a good host. So, if you come here, please ignore all the tourist traps, find the nice spots on the side and do fall for any of the cheap tourist crap.
Our favourite thing to do was to get Cicheti: bite sized pieces of ciabatta or baguette topped with a variety of things. We had a stock fish paste, vegetables in olive oil, pancetta, cheese, olive paste, cured fish, pickled fish, scampi…
I just love this honest approach to bars and food. The British have their amazing pubs, with a hearty and warm atmosphere and the Italians have this joyful way of sitting outside with your friends and strangers, enjoying small bites of delicious food and refreshing spritz. I wish German pub culture would feature more than professional drinking and smoking.
We went at a strange time. The football euro 2016 was about to transition into the elimination phase, and on the first night there Italy was playing. Unlike in Germany, there was a cheerful atmosphere when watching the game in the street, in pubs or at home. No unsolicited fireworks, no yelling, just joyful reaction to the game.
Then, on the last morning, news about the Brexit decision made the rounds. We, and other guests of the hotel, had this uneasy feeling, the uncertainty of the future suddenly became too aware. A British man at the breakfast table was devastated. His wife tried to shush him when he turned to us, shaking his head in disbelief, saying that the vote was “utterly horrific”. Other Brits on that day shared that opinion and even the receptionist asked us whether we were British when paying, knowing that it would suddenly cost us so much more. It was almost unreal, having all these nationalities meeting in Venice, far away from the problems that affect us all.
It didn’t take forever though to get our spirits back up. We revisited some of the places we got to enjoy on the first two days. We managed to glance into every part of Venice in these three days, and now we were exhausted from the heat, the walking, the aperol spritz.
Later that night we learned that our flight was delayed for almost three hours, which annoyed us, but not too much. It was clear that we would return home eventually. After three days of encountering almost exclusively Americans, British and Chinese, we met Germans for what it felt like the first time. The Germans were annoyed, they were bitchy, they shouted at the service person, ignoring all offers to resolve the issue. Two overweight young women found themselves in the role of provocateurs, they talked to the other passengers, incentivising them to complain at the counter all while the two were loudly exclaiming their miscontent with the state of the food tickets we were given. Another hour longer and these two would have lead a lynch mob to serve justice to the easyjet service woman, who was clearly at fault for delaying the plane from Scotland.
And guess who sat on the seats next to me, once the plane finally arrived. Two heavy, gum chewing, hysterically laughing, self-proclaimed guardians of justice.
But that didn’t matter.