No trip to Italy is really complete without visiting the gorgeous city of Venice. All the books and photos in the world can not describe the absolute uniqueness of being in a city with canals instead of roads; bridges on every corner, serenading gondoliers and a certain suave population who take luxury boats to work, instead of a FIAT 500.
After an intense first week of study, we boarded the train bound for Venice at Centrale station in Milan. The trip was only about 3 hours (which is like a Canberra to Sydney trip for those playing at home) and stepped off the train at Stazione Santa Lucia – on the Grand Canal in Venice. Taking in the sights, sounds and smells of Venice – we soon boarded a river bus to get to our hotel.
About half an hour later, we disembarked our packed boat (with many other excited travellers) and begun walking the winding alleys of old Venice to find our hotel. After a couple of wrong turns and dead ends, we found our hotel and checked in, surprised at the plush opulence of the décor inside.
We sadly only had one night in this wonderful city but were determined to make the most of it. It was superbly hot in Venice, which was lovely, only it makes the city very humid – a weather circumstance that does my hair and skin no favours.
We navigated our way through the touristic areas including the high end shopping streets and Rialto. We witnessed an unfortunate bride and groom who, melting from the heat, were trying to pose and smile on the Rialto bridge as clueless tourists stepped on the bride’s dress and pigeons flew in to ruin the background shot. The bride at one stage produced a grimace of pure distain before quickly brushing away a fly-away hair and smiling prettily for the camera to disguise her discomfort.
We continued along the canal, avoiding the busy and expensive tourist restaurants to take some meandering turns through the narrow alleys of Venice. We found ourselves at a popular but tiny bar full of locals. We popped inside to check it out and managed to find a small table with two seats just outside. The waitress brought us an Aperol Sprtiz and Prosecco (classic Venetian and Italian tipples) and some chips. The place got progressively more crowded with locals and still the one waitress popped between tables to take orders and clear glasses. We had a great time here, but sadly I doubt if I could ever navigate myself there again.
After our apertivo, we went in search of dinner. A friend from Milan had recommended a restaurant in Venice that was slightly off the beaten track with a great reputation. Well, off the beaten track it was… I searched on google for a vague reference and went round in circles about three times before asking someone for directions… It was behind a piazza and down an alley … of course!
The setting was gorgeous, tables were set up in the small piazza in front of the restaurant. We took table inside and were greeted warmly by friendly waiters. We overheard the waitress who took our order speak English with us, German with another table and Spanish with another – quite impressive! I ordered a very enjoyable veal scaloppine – and Eldad ordered the Baccala Mantecato – a highly recommended fish dish. The scaloppine was fantastic, the baccala however was quite surprising and unfortunately unpleasant for Eldad… Dessert provided redemption however and we stumbled our way home satisfied.
The next morning, we were up early to make the most of our time. Our train back to Milan was not until the late evening so we had the day to spend. We headed straight to the Palazzo Ducale – a lovely palace in Venice where Cassnova spent time in prison. We crossed the ‘Bridge of Sighs’ and understood the lament the prisoners must have felt as they crossed this bridge taking their last look at Venice before being condemned to the dungeons.
After emerging from the fantastic opulence of the palace, we found ourselves in the packed Piazza San Marco. We wandered towards the canal where Eldad saw an excellent photo opportunity. He knelt by the canal and took a picture as I wandered ahead. It wasn’t long before I realised Eldad was no longer following me… I turned back and could not see him through the crowd. Nervously I walked back to the area I had last seen him and found him looking forlornly at the ground – pacing from side to side.
“What happened?” I asked … “My glasses have gone..” Eldad replied. That’s not so bad you might think – but Eldad is practically blind without his glasses. Eldad has prescription sunglasses which he had changed to in the sun, placing his normal glasses in his pocket. As he leant down to take a picture by the canal, he suddenly realised the glasses were no longer in his pocket. We re-traced our steps in a vain effort to find the glasses but without success.
Ever the optimist, Eldad insisted we continue sightseeing and not let this get us down – but we both laughed at the prospect ahead. Eldad would need to wear his sunglasses to see, all day… and all night, until we returned to Milan where we had a spare pair.
We took every opportunity to stop in at optical shops to see if Eldad could find a new pair (or a similar pair) that he liked. One shop owner kept giving Eldad brightly coloured and interestingly shaped glasses – very remarkable but not really to the conservative tastes of Eldad. I looked behind the counter and saw a picture of the owner and Elton John… “Has Elton John been here?” I asked… “Been here?” he replied… “He buys all his glasses from me, he has a house in Venice”… Well that explained the flamboyant styles in stock!
We continued our sight seeing in Venice before it was time to catch our train home. We arrived at the ferry terminal and lined up at a machine to purchase our tickets. A large man dressed in black stood by the machine claiming to be an official ticket seller – he took 14 Euros from us, claiming it was a double ticket, but when we looked at the ticket – it was a single (for 7 Euros) with a hand written “x 2) on it. Eldad went back to argue with him, asking for our money back to by a more official ticket, but the man insisted he was legit… We took our chance and boarded the ferry. We arrived without incident (apart from me falling asleep) but were sure we had been victims of a schiester, we were just lucky we weren’t caught with his dodgy ticket.
By the time we were boarding the train, the sun was on its way to setting… Eldad was still in sunglasses. Aboard the evening train, Eldad’s sunglass wearing was beginning to stand out and attract attention… It was time to take them off, but that meant I became his eyes. Fortunately, this did not require much, until we arrived in Milan. It was well and truly night time by now so even with his sunglasses, Eldad would have difficulty seeing. I guided him to the best of my abilities up and down escalators, onto the metro and up the stairs until we reached the apartment … Actually Eldad managed it pretty much on his own, but I was an active helper when it came to warning of steps and broken pavers in front of him.
Venice had been a wonderful trip, but Eldad lost an incredibly nice pair of glasses on the way… Who knows what incredible journey they might be having now…