When you hear the word Venice, what automatically comes to mind?
Wait, let me guess…a gondola?
That used to be the first word that came to my mind too. But now, I’ve been there. So, what do I associate Venice with now? Crazed crowds of people. Unfortunately, that’s the impression I’ve been left with.
Venice is unique and beautiful. It’s a place everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. Just not in mid July or midday or anytime between the hours of say 8am and 5pm. Yes, I am strongly suggesting you stay inside (wherever inside may be for you) for most of the day and only go out in the early morning and evenings. Why? To put it bluntly, Venice is a cruise ship dumping ground. Literally.
Cruise ships pull in, dock, and drop thousands upon thousands of people into Venice. While this is great for Venice’s economy, its terrible for esthetics. Streets become so crowded that it’s almost impossible to walk without getting elbowed or pushed. And, let’s be honest, manners are not often valued or used these days. So not only will you be elbowed or pushed by the “I gotta see all of Venice in one day-ers”, you’ll also get a whole lot of attitude if you get in their way.
Cruise ships usually load up and chug out about 5pm. I think this is a safe and reasonable time to see Venice. Although you might have a few ships that stay later or, in the worst case scenario, overnight (YIKES!), it will be a little less crowded. Just remember, an invasion of millions of people in one day creates tons of garbage. Be prepared for your image of Venice to now be cluttered with trash. Like I said, it’s literally a dumping ground for cruise ships.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-cruise ship or anything. I’ve got one of those big guys booked for December to whisk us away to warmer places than NJ. It’s just that, unfortunately, I saw firsthand, in Venice, what a place can transform into once cruise ships arrive.
Getting to Venice was quite interesting. When we arrived at the train station in Florence, we learned that a train station in Rome had burned down. This created a huge train delay which meant we were stuck in the train station for a few hours. A pickpocket’s dream. When our train finally did arrive, it was bombarded with people whose earlier trains to Venice had been canceled. They were told to just board our train despite our first class tickets and reserved seats. Once we boarded the train, we had to maneuver our luggage through crowded aisles and demand that people get out of our seats. During this whole process I had a little old lady yelling at me in Italian and putting her suitcase on top of mine in the aisle. I think she thought she was going to pass me or something and the more I looked at her, the more loud and obnoxious her Italian became. I would have just kindly moved and let her through if only I had a place to move to. I was completely surrounded by people. Once in our seats, people who did not have seats sat on the floor of the aisles. All I kept thinking is, please don’t derail or crash or catch on fire because we will never make it out alive.
We did eventually arrive safely in Venice many hours later than expected.
Out of the three hotels we stayed at, Venice took third place. I love Japanese food, but I did not expect our Italian hotel to have a Japanese restaurant in it. It totally killed that Italian ambience I was hoping for. Our room smelled of smoke, but we felt we couldn’t complain because our special request of a double room and a triple room was honored. The mothers had a balcony this time. You had to climb out the window to get to it and it didn’t look out onto anything but the roof of the building next to us, but they enjoyed it. Their room did not smell like smoke, so they hit the jackpot for sure.
We only spent two nights in Venice and I was thankful for that. I couldn’t take much more of our smoky room or the crowds.
We did see some amazing things in Venice. Like the pigeons in Piazza San Marco and the back alley ways that only Paul and I would venture into. We even saw a begging cat! One day while eating at Vesuvio’s restaurant (and no, it wasn’t like the place in Belmar) we spotted a cat lying in his cat bed beneath an apartment window. We observed many people walk up, speak to the cat, and drop some change in his bed. The following night we went to the same restaurant for dinner. The cat remained in the bed with tourists continuing to walk by and drop money. Then, we watched as the owner came home. He petted the cat, picked up the money, and took “Fluffy” inside. Ten minutes later, the owner came back out, put the cat back into position, and left. Genius!
We did have one excellent meal in Venice. This restaurant, La Caravella, was at the hotel that Paul had stayed at during his previous visit to Venice. We had a delicious lunch out in a beautiful garden. We received spectacular service and even met some entertaining people who were seated next to us. During this meal, I couldn’t help but think how amazing traveling can be. We were literally tens of thousands of miles away from home and were laughing and chatting with people from Scotland, who we would probably never see again, but made our trip to Venice all the more worthwhile.
Gondola rides are expensive and overrated so we passed on that famous tourist experience. We did ride the Vaporetto a few times to get around the island. That was also expensive. To be honest, everything is quite pricey in Venice.
My favorite memory of Venice will always be our trip to the airport. Our flight back to Amsterdam was early in the morning and we were picked up by boat at 3:30 in the morning. Yes, we had to stand by ourselves at the side of a canal at 3:30 in the morning waiting for our water taxi. Getting in the taxi was quite an ordeal and although we all made it in without falling into the canal, Amanda dove into the boat practically head first. We thought she was going to go straight through the boat and out the other side. It wasn’t graceful, to say the least. We couldn’t help but laugh at her. We headed out to the airport slowly, through little side canals and then hit the open water. This is where we started to hit wakes and my mother-in-law started to look green. She hates little boats as much as I hate airplanes. The boat pulled up and dropped us off and we all had a good laugh again trying to get out of the boat safely.
This three-part blog of our trip to Italy has now come to a close. If there is anything I can say to sum up this trip, it’s this. I am blessed to have so many things: a husband who loves his mothers, a mother who will go anywhere and do anything as long as she’s with me (and as long as she has a copy of the Coast Star), a mother-in-law that gives a whole new meaning to being 78 years of age, and a niece who enjoys spending time with her aunt and uncle (being an only child, I never thought I’d have a niece). Although we all came home exhausted, we survived four flights, two train rides, and three cities. Where shall we go next?
Let’s see…we’ve got the Bahamas, Aruba, and Curacao booked for December.
Oh and did I mention we are living Paris next summer?