Going to Venice is quite an experience. There are a lot of beautiful places in this world, but how many of them can boast about being a half-sunken city filled with majestic Gothic and Baroque palazzos and criss-crossed by water roads?
Venice is unique. And that is made clear before you even arrive, when the train runs along the only road crossing from the mainland to the island where the main train station, Santa Lucia, is located. And then you forget for a minute, because the busy train station looks just like a thousand others, with time tables, people running around, shops, and a long line for the restroom.
But then you step out of the station, and you see the expanse of the Gran Canale, and right in front of you, on the opposite side, is San Simeone Piccolo.
Chances are, you will need a moment to recover. I certainly did. And then I quickly made my way to the Scalzi Bridge (Ponte degli Scalzi) to cross to the other side.
“Where are we going?” inquired my husband, who has been traveling with me long enough to know that I tend to have an itinerary that took weeks to hone down to perfection.
“We” I said smirking “are going to get lost in Venice”, and started walking, ignoring his incredulous “What? What do you mean, ‘lost’? We have maps!”
Getting lost is most tourists’ worst nightmare. But sometimes the only way to really experience the place you are visiting is to let go of all sense of direction and all lists, and just go where you feet take you.
In Venice that’s especially tricky, because often you will find yourself at a dead end (albeit a pretty one)
and will have to backtrack and take another way. It’s like the most enchanting maze.
And then sometimes the dead end involves a road. Except in Venice, roads are made of water. And you cannot just cross over, so you admire the beautiful palazzo from the opposite side.
It’s kind of surreal, but lovely.
Basically, Venice captures you and decides where you can and cannot go.
Sometimes you are trapped in an endless maze of little streets and have no idea where you are going.
(“Look up! Maybe we can tell our direction based on the position of the sun!”)
Other times… whoops, water again. Go back (do not pass GO, do not collect 200.)
But as much as I might enjoy being lost in a sea of loveliness, I do appreciate having some clue that I haven’t spent the past 4 hours walking in circles. Thank goodness for the signs pointing the way to San Marco, placed everywhere (feels slightly better, knowing that everyone else is just as lost as you are).
Though nothing can really prepare you for what welcomes you once you get to Piazza San Marco.
And that’s when that “I don’t ever, ever want to leave!” feeling might come over you. Because it’s such a feat of astoundingly beautiful architecture, that you might go slack-jawed. Or get totally hyper. Or get teary-eyed. Or, how my usually-stoic husband put it, “Wow, now even I am impressed!”
Unfortunately the time comes when you have to start walking in the general direction of the station, unless you want to be stuck on the island(s). Luckily the way home is just as pretty as the way there.
It was only one day. It somehow seemed so much longer, because we walked and saw so much – and yet it also went by in a heartbeat, and I want to be there again, right now.
Soon, Venice. Soon.