Venice. I’m not sure how to describe this city in a way that hasn’t already been poetically scripted or laced with romantic clichés. Still, I can say that it is unlike anything you have ever experienced or imagined. The whole time I was there I felt like I was standing on a Hollywood movie set, where the buildings were just paintings held up by wooden stilts, capable of falling over at any moment to reveal an empty studio. Sure I had seen photos in school, but actually seeing it in person, I couldn’t believe that somewhere so beautifully unique actually existed.
As soon as you step out of the station, you are transported to a new world, greeted by the scent of seawater and sounds of boats navigating through the canal and shoes scraping against ancient cobblestone streets. The buildings embody detailed Venetian gothic-style architecture, and fit together like vibrant puzzle pieces. There isn’t a single car or bus or motorcycle in sight.
Now, what should you do once you’re there? My biggest piece of advice is to wander. Walk wherever your eyes take you, even if that is away from the foot traffic, down side streets and across bridges. Get hopelessly lost. You will find the most striking and surreal locations off the beaten path- clotheslines draped with laundry blowing gently in the breeze, entire buildings blanketed in ivy, and balcony gardens that smell of sweet jasmine.
I really recommend spending most of your time away from the highly congested tourist areas. You’re going to get the most authentic experience this way. You will however, want to visit Piazza San Marco, the most popular and iconic square in Venice. Here you will find St. Mark’s Basilica, a stunning representation of Byzantine and Gothic architecture in the form of a church and its bell tower Campanile, one of the most recognizable symbols of the city. A map will be very helpful here, but you can ask around for general directions to make sure you are heading the right way.
Travel Tip: Piazza San Marco is crowded with visitors and street vendors desperately trying to sell things to you. Keep an eye on your belongings and don’t accept anything that is handed to you. After you handle a flower or small souvenir, vendors will expect you to pay for it.
I recommend dining in the square itself. These restaurants are slightly pricey but worth the vibe. Pick somewhere with fewer tourists that features local seafood dishes.
Venice completely transforms after dusk. Lots of shops and restaurants close before midnight and many of the day-trippers find their way back home, leaving the streets of the city quiet and illuminated with lights. It really is beautiful and much more peaceful.
Travel Tip: If you have your heart set on a gondola ride, go for it. A boat ride is a must in Venice if you really want to see the city in all its glory. A great way to see the sites and also get from point A to point B when your feet are tired is the water taxi.
Venice is one of those places you have to see to believe. It is a remarkable and incomparable city, rich in culture and history. I would urge anyone to add “get lost in Venice” to their bucket list.