Venice left a lasting impression on my sense of Italian arts, culture, food, history, and music. It also left an impressive change to my wallet and inner ear balance.
I stayed in Venice October 25th - 28th. To get my advice out of the way first, be prepared to spend more than you budget on food, transportation, and any museum entrance fees. Also, if you have seasickness or inner-ear issues, bring medication with you. Even waiting on the platform for the boat to take you somewhere is quite the ride.
I heard it was expensive, but I was still really excited to go. Especially since I had booked a cabin on a boat as my accommodation through AirBnb. I thought there could be no more authentic way to experience Venice then to also be staying in a boat. Most of Venice is a collection of islands that you can only reach by boat and my home for the next 3 days was located in a marina on the separate island of Certosa. Private boat on a private island for 30 euro a night, I could barely contain my excitement.
In order to get to my island, I had booked online a full transportation pass for 3 days for Venice. Although it said ‘boat transportation’ I really didn’t quite fathom the network of boats and floating stops the city has. Unless you walk and stay on the main island exclusively, you will end up experiencing a boat... and these aren’t your cute little two seater passenger boats with guys rowing you. These are large passenger boats that have a soft, lightly nauseating rock to them. There are other sized boats, such as the ones shipping goods around the islands. Yes, DHL has a boat. Yes, I saw everything from couches to mattresses to large art sculptures being delivered to a dock by boat... then loaded up on a sort of wagon that could be pulled into the city (since there are no roads.) I wonder what shipping a refrigerator costs.
The transportation pass is minimum 20 euro a day for unlimited boat transportation. I had a youth pass (barely made that cut-off at 29) that allowed for a few of the other islands and discounts for the same price. With rough winds and rain, I had quite the ride from the main train station to my separate island wondering if this was actually something my head and stomach could handle.
Arriving to Certosa, I followed the map the host sent to me and thought I found the boat. Saying hello and introducing myself, the owner of the boat said “Oh, I’m someone else... who are you looking for?” Feeling rather sheepish, the host of my boat was nowhere to be found and no other boats had lights on. I had to borrow his phone to call my host to come meet me, and in the meantime this stranger let me onto his boat out of the rain to wait. Turns out this nice older gentleman from Sweden had been living on this boat for the last 6 months with his wife and is semi-retired. They wanted to live in Venice, liked boating, and this seemed like a reasonable option. I thought that it was a pretty cool retirement idea.
After about 15 minutes, a younger guy from the marina came and opened the boat and showed me how to turn on the lights, said someone else would be around in a couple of hours, and then left. So there I was, alone on a boat, cold and wet, and wondering what I got myself into. There were cobwebs, the floor was dirty, the winter blanket smelled of mould, I snooped around to find the wifi password and how to work it, popped a bottle of wine, and settled in with a book. A few hours later when nature called, I found the instructions for the bathroom on board. If you look closely, the bottom line says “If you leave the green lever on the left there is a risk to sink!”
Wait. What? Which one is the green lever?
I opted to get off the boat and use the portable bathrooms just off the docks instead.
Around 10:30PM, an Italian guy who is studying architecture and living in the other cabin on the boat arrived. He is also paying to live there, even though my host said he would explain everything to me. Regardless, we had a fun 3 nights chatting together, making food, and even helping out other Airbnb guests who were lost when they showed up and our host was nowhere to be found. Truthfully, it was nice knowing there was another person around in case I left the elusive green lever to the left and started to sink the boat.
It was fairly cold, drizzly, with off-and-on sun the two days I visited Venice and two other islands Murano and Burano. The great part about touring in the rain is that you are usually the only one crazy enough to do this. The crowds were minimal and I truly was awed by just how quiet Venice became. Since there are no cars or motorized vehicles of any kind, and if you wandered deep into the city, eventually the only sound you hear is the rain on the stone walkways.
I found the city and surrounding islands fascinatingly full of mystery and beauty. When wandering lost through the labyrinth of narrow streets and canals, each turn brought something new and unexpected. You could end up at an exhibition about Vivaldi, an old salon used by Casanova, a beautiful building tucked in a courtyard, a window to peek in to see someone blowing glass, or a full cafeteria serving merenda (mid-morning wine and/or coffee and sandwich break time.) Within the 3 days, I walked about 40km of which probably half was in circles.
The Swedish couple told me that even after 6 months of living in Venice, they had yet to discover it all. I had doubted him at first, but after walking and floating and boating for 3 days, I feel like I barely scratched the surface of what Venice has to offer. I thought of the city often for many days after I had left, and not just because it felt like the ground was moving. If you have the time, money, and are good with constant movement, I highly recommend making the trip.