Sunday 18 August 2013

Venezia come, Venezia go

After leaving Antibes, we headed east along the coast of the Mediterranean towards Italy. Our first stop was the relatively small town of Verona, made most famous as the setting of 'Romeo and Juliet'. After seeing Juliet's balcony, reciting some Shakespeare, groping a statue for good luck and trying my first (but not last) legitimate Italian gelato, there was not much else to do in Verona so we piled back into the bus and headed towards Venice.

The campsite in Venice (actually about 20 minute drive outside of Venice) was incredible. We were essentially camping on the lawn of a luxury resort so we were free to use all the amenities, stores, bars and (most importantly) pools. In the constant heat over the last weeks, getting to swim in a pool was incredible. The nightlife in the campground bar was also great and the first night proved to be a very late one. The next morning, we packed our day packs and headed into Venezia.

Venice is somewhere I always wanted to go and I was looking forward to most on the trip. Unfortunately, when you build up a place in your head (particularly one so romanticised like Venice) it can be quite disappointing when you finally see it. Fortunately, Venice was nothing like that. Venice was everything I expected and more. Venice is built on 118 small islands in the Adriatic Sea (why anyone decided to build it there, I don't know) and is subsequently full of channels running between buildings. There are over 400 bridges in Venice, although there are only 5 running across the Grande Canal through the centre of the city. The obvious draw cards are St Marks Basilica and St Marks Square (both of which were incredible) but literally the whole city is beautiful (although with all the water, it does smell a bit). The locals say to truly explore Venice, you need to get properly lost. Fortunately, Venice is a very easy city to get lost in and I feel much richer for the experience.

The best things about Venice, however, were what the city was lacking. Firstly, there is very little vehicle traffic. There are no cars, trucks or motorbikes and the boats with on board motors generally have to stick to the larger canals so the entire city is free from the constant background noise of automobiles. I'm so used to the noise that I don't even notice it, but being in Venice away from it all was incredible quaint and peaceful. Secondly, there are barely any people in Venice. Venice is slowly sinking into the ocean because of the erosion of the island the city is built on so it minimize the impact, the Italian government has been slowly driving residents out of Venice and condemning unsafe buildings. As a result, there are a large number of uninhabited buildings in Venice (although you can't tell from the outside). Only about 60,000 people live in Venice these days which for a major European city is hardly anything. Obviously there were swathes of tourists in the main areas around St Marks, but if you got off the tourist path then the narrow streets and canals are very quiet and tranquil.


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