Venice is one of those cities that everyone has seen before they actually visit. The famous bridges and green canals; the warm and complaisant coloured palazzo with the narrow alleyways; the breath-taking openness of Piazza San Marco and the arched prow of a gondola – they have all been seen from classic Canaletto’s paintings to modern, mainstream Facebook photos. But nothing can compare to really being there, to being fully present in a city that seems to miraculously float on water and hold all the secrets to love and romance.
From the moment the day’s first sunbeam hits the Grand Canal, everything in Venice is sparkling: water, wine, wits and the beautiful golden mosaics of Basilica di San Marco. As the morning mists lift from the lagoon, you can hear the merchants singing as they open their shops in the 500-year-old Rialto markets, and fishermen celebrating the day’s catch with a glass of Prosecco.
There are no cars in Venice, so the only way around the city is by boat, gondola, vaporetto (waterbus), or water taxi. When we land in Marco Polo Airport we arrange for a water taxi to pick us up and drop us off at the nearest alley to our hotel. When I say “we”, I mean my parents, my boyfriend Gerry, my sister Amber and her boyfriend, Darrel.
We’re staying in Hotel Scandinavia, a charmingly ornate hotel in an 18th-century residence set on the lively Santa Maria Formosa square. It’s only a 6-minute walk from Piazza San Marco, which is one thing to be grateful for since Venice is one of the easiest cities to get lost in. Signs point directly toward Piazza San Marco: these are best to be ignored. Instead, my dad and Gerry ponder over their map, two men in full agreement that the best way to find where to go is through using traditional measures.
After some exploring, we stop for dinner we choosing a cosy little restaurant just around the corner from Piazza San Marco. One thing to say about the food in Italy: it doesn’t disappoint. We savour the taste of delicious Italian food in Italy, indulging on pastas and pizzas with sweet white wine and vodka.
It’s dark by the time we’re finished and the stars come out to lighten up Venice’s night sky, and we stop to see Piazza San Marco beautifully lit up in the dark. At night, the golden mosaics give the building a soft deeper gold hue, and square is alive with lights, people and a kaleidoscope of colours.
Basilica di San Marco is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, but it’s not only the religious center of a great city, but also an expression of the political, intellectual, and economic aspiration and accomplishments of a city that, for centuries, was at the forefront of European culture. It is a monument not just to the glory of God, but also to the glory of Venice.
The next day we carry on our adventure by crossing some of Venice’s famous bridges, including the Rialto Bridge, Ponte della Paglia and Ponte dei Pugni. There’s a small spit of rain, so we stop for some food until it passes, then continue by shopping some more then stopping for drinks before heading back to get ready for dinner.
On our last day, Amber, Darrel, Gerry and I decide to go to the beach, so from San Marco it’s a vaporetto hop to Lido di Venezia, to spend the day bathing in the scorching sun, splashing in the warm sea and drinking ice cold cocktails.
The one thing I knew I wanted to do in Venice before I even set foot in the city was go on a trip on the famous gondola. Venice gondola rides are without doubt the number one must-do experience in Venice, and ranks high on the romantic bucket list, so Gerry and I decided to make the best of our last day by going on a gondola before dinner.
Gliding through serene waters, while serenaded by our gondolier, Valentino, against the stunning backdrop of Baroque buildings is an experience I don’t think either of us will soon forget. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done. If I could have frozen that moment to live in it forever, I would have in a heartbeat, and doing it with the right person only made it even more special.
Near the end of our gondola ride, Valentino sang beautiful Italian songs for us before taking us out to Grand Canal to watch the sun set. Unsurprisingly, Venice always saves its best acts for last. Fire meets water at sunset in San Marco, and it felt as though we were the only people left in the whole world on our gondola in the middle of the water.
We round off the night with some drinks with my family in the heart of Piazza San Marco, listening to the orchestras bring the square to life with their passion and music.
Venice is both a well-preserved monument and a living, breathing, floating city, full of contemporary art, traditional crafts and high culture. And listening to what feels like our own personal concert, the six of us toast to this amazing and beautiful city beyond imagination.
This is an edited article from Paige Beresford’s website. For the full article, click here.