Days: 475-477 (13 October 2015 – 15 October 2015)
Total distance travelled: 123,542.8 kilometres (76,734.63 miles)
With our plan to now travel eastwards overland through the Balkans, it meant we’d therefore be heading in that direction from Milan, and seeing as we were essentially passing right by, how could we not make that short detour to one of Europe’s most famous cities, Venezia!
When in Rome (or as was our case, Venice)…
Before I conjure too many images of gondolas, wine and pasta on and beside the canals, I’ll cut straight to the chase.
We wanted to visit Venice, however we couldn’t afford anything resembling accommodation in the city itself and as such, after our bus dropped us near a sodden port, on a wet and miserable Italian evening, we eventually found ourselves on a packed commuter bus heading towards the elegantly named Camping Serenissima.
By now it was dark, we were intently peering out fogged windows in search of a sign that would indicate we were in the right place and that we needed to get off at the next stop.
It was a task made ever harder by the peak (rush) hour crush of commuters, who pushed their way onto the vehicle, at the same time pushing us further backwards.
A new companion was discovered at this, a most random time, Matt a fellow Australian, also headed to Camping Serenissima, but alas he too was no wiser to where it might actually lie.
The occasional sign would appear, alerting us to the fact our bus was apparently taking us further away, but we put our trust in our shared directions, eventually alighting in the now dark evening as the rains began to grow steadier.
We soon had our cabin, settled ourselves in and cooked up a feed of pasta for ourselves.
There was also one of the weirder conversations we’d had in a while with a sightly rotund Norwegian.
He’d packed his bags for Italy, planning to get away from home for several months in a bid to lose weight… in Italy!?
Home to all that delicious pizza, pasta, gelato…
Needless to say, his plan hadn’t been working too well thus far (the ridiculous ‘individual’ portion of lasagna he was feeding himself, evidence of that).
Come morning, it was still dull, damp and dreary.
Perfect weather to get into the city to explore?
Well we hadn’t the luxury of time, so despite my best efforts which saw us standing on the wrong side of the road, we were soon back on board a bus, back to the city we’d left the previous evening.
Despite the drizzle, it wasn’t long before I was getting my first good look at the iconic canals that are Venice… that is assuming we don’t include the Venetian canals in Las Vegas!
They say every cloud has a silver lining, and although ours possessed more of a dull grey colour, the benefit of the weather in a place such as this, was that the usual throngs of tourists were for the most part absent.
Warily eyeing off the waters which were by now spilling over the canals edges (yes, the place was flooding), we took to exploring the narrow laneways and alleys with gusto.
Very apparent was the inadequacy of my footwear, as it was no time at all before my feet were sodden, a chance to get out of the rain and explore the Chiesa San Rocco (the Church of Saint Roch) proving most welcome.
Within, it was a little dark, but we took the time for a look around, shook off our rain jackets and continued on our way.
We did mention it was wet didn’t we?
I do recall reading that the city has been sinking since the fifth century, although a more recent google suggested that things were going downhill faster than scientists originally thought!
That said, flooding is not a recent concern, and seemingly adds to the experience… just a shame I was still sporting the wrong footwear (a situation we were trying to change, scouring the stores for a reasonably priced pair of rubber boots… gumboots, wellingtons)!
We continued to allow ourselves to get lost, weaving our way from dead end to dead end, either face to face with a brick wall, another section of canal, or a submerged section of street.
If we were in a hurry to be anywhere, we may have found it frustrating, but we weren’t and it proved a most lovely introduction to the ‘Queen of the Adriatic’.
Despite the dull day, to our surprise the water that filled the canals (and often the streets) was an incredible blue, immediately having me wondering how lovely it might look under slightly sunnier conditions!
Eventually we found ourselves closer to the tourist haunts, an eventuality impossible to avoid should you want to see the most famous of the sites.
No lack of forethought could be claimed here, as the city is obviously well drilled in how to manage the tourist hordes when the city floods, a series of elevated walkways snaking their way across plazas and along streets keeping ours and others feet dry.
What it also meant, was that suddenly things had slowed to a real crawl, as only so many people could shuffle along these boardwalks at any given time.
Our wanderings took us across bridges, saw us follow all manner of canals (both grand and narrow) before we took a little time out in a quirky gallery.
It was an interesting place, apparently an amalgamation of Italian and Guatemalan interpretations on death…
It wasn’t uncommon to find ourselves in areas that seemed bereft of life, eventually the high walled structures, which normally only conceded to the waters, gave way to this.
At first we thought somebody had transplanted a Swiss mountain lodge onto this speck of land perched in the Adriatic, but further inspection revealed it to be a place of restoration for the city’s famed gondolas!
We eventually grew tired of walking and dodging puddles, although my situation was greatly improved by the purchase of some rubber boots.
That’s when we called time on our day, and caught a bus back to our campground outside of Venice (we whiled away the hours sharing a bit of wine with our new Australian friend Matt and chatting with a couple of travelling Argentines).
A new day, a fresh start, the same shit weather.
Still, it was the last day we planned on being here, so back into town we went to make the best of it.
At first, despite the fact it was no longer raining, things weren’t looking all that promising…
It was not long however, before the cracks began to appear… not in our resolve however, but thankfully in the cloud above.
Before the clock had hit double figures, we had blue skies and the promise of a beautiful day.
Today was our day to hit the big tourist sights and of course, a little wine and pasta didn’t sound a bad idea as well!
The column skirted plaza that fronts the Basilica di San Marco and shares with it the same name was more pond than public space, the cluttered boardwalks and long queues inspiring us to return a little later to inspect the church, rather than huddle in calf or knee deep water.
Instead, just around the corner sat the Palazzo Ducale, the famous Doge’s Palace (loosely translated, this would be the Duke’s Palace) and it was to here we instead ventured, un-fortuitously arriving at the same time as a posse of school children.
Still, with just two of us we were quickly able to purchase our tickets and scoot on ahead of the school group, something for which we were very thankful.
Now a museum (in fact the entrance ticket grants entry into four museums scattered all around the Piazza San Marco), there was no hiding the opulence and grandeur of the place, an expensive reminder of the city’s rich mercantile past.
We had managed to sneak in a plate of pasta, some glasses of red and a crusty pizza before our entrance, so we were well fueled to explore the warren like system of halls and passages that showcased both the grim (prison cells and dungeons) and the ridiculous (gold covered reception and banquet halls).
What can be written in paragraphs here, actually took us several hours, as we followed this up by venturing into the other museums, chock full of history and one completely random, out of place plaque detailing operations during the 1991 Gulf War, operation Desert Storm!
As fascinating as all this proved, it did lead to one glaring omission from our day…
Finally done with the museums, it was time to get back to the basilica to check it out before its 5pm closing time.
Only during this time of year, that closing time was in fact 4pm and we had already crossed that hour…
Still, in this beautiful city, a disappointment like that can’t keep you down for long!
* Our bus from Milan to Venice cost us €9.00 each.
* A ride on the ‘People Mover’ from the cruise ship wharf to Piazale Roma costs €1.50 per person, in one direction.
* A local bus between Venice and Camping Serenissima cost us €1.50 per person, each way.
* Our tickets for the Doge’s Palace (it also includes access to the Museo Correr, Museo Archeologico Nazionale and Sale Monumentali della Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana) cost us €16.50 each.