What could I possibly say about Venice that hasn’t already been said? Let me start by saying how much I like being there. The crowds around Piazza St. Marcos are terrible, many of the shops that line the streets from there to the Rialto Bridge are tacky as hell, and the whole gondola thing seems a little hokey. But walk away from these areas and you’ll find yourself alone and hopelessly lost in an exotic labyrinth of 15th century radiance. If that’s your idea of fun (as it is mine), come to Venice.
Don’t bother buying a map… just wonder aimlessly. I must confess that I did actually buy a map one day when I couldn’t find the Palazzetto Bru Zane, where we had tickets to a string quartet concerto one night. As I was paying for the map, I asked the shopkeeper if he could tell me where the concert hall was. He smiled and gave me turn-by-turn directions to the place – which was about 100 feet from the shop, hidden down a seemingly deserted alley. Never did use the map. And it helps if you’re with someone like Kelly, who has an uncanny sense of direction – even in such a place where she had never been. It was as though she was channeling some medieval Venetian when we needed to navigate our way back to the hotel.
Besides wandering aimlessly, the only other way to get around is by water taxi. The Vaperetti take passengers along the countless canals of the city to virtually every part of Venice and beyond. A full-day Vaperetto pass can provide you with enough entertainment to make the whole trip to Italy worthwhile.
On our first morning in Venice, I dragged myself out of bed as early as possible and took the first Vaporetto to Piazza St. Marco. I was lucky - the city was socked in by fog, and I arrived at St. Marco’s before anyone else was out. For me, the eeriness of being alone in this grand piazza at dawn was worth missing breakfast back at the hotel.
From Piazza St. Marco, I wandered the deserted canals over to the famous Rialto fish market, where vendors were hosing down their stalls and cleaning/gutting a mind-boggling assortment of sea creatures that I never knew existed – preparing for the hundreds (thousands?) of people who would descend on them later that morning. By then, I would be long gone.