Postcard from Venice

By | Category: Travel destinations

some visitors wore wellingtons!

Venice, in late September/early October is still crowded with visitors. They certainly weren’t attracted by the weather as it was cold, wet and miserable for a couple of days but Venice, for visitors at least, is weather immune.

 

You don’t go there for the climate although Italians favour the beaches in large numbers at the weekends on the Lido. Not this Sunday and in this weather. The only accents I heard apart from British ones were American, Australian, French, Russian, German and Chinese. In fact – just as it has been for centuries – this is a place where different countries meet, a sort of United Nations with just as much indecision about what to do and where to go.

One of the busiest places is the Rialto and, after a couple of years, it was good to see that the authorities had removed the graffiti and repainted the wooden shutters either sight of the bridge. Not that it ever stopped visitors from having their photographs taken and blocking the bridge for those working and pulling their carts across the steps. Sometimes it is forgotten that the market is just beyond the bridge and boatloads of fruit and vegetables come early every day to be sold.

grafitti-free and the hoarding behind has no advertising on it

On a similar theme it was noticeable this time that there were more blank coverings on the buildings that were being refurbished unlike earlier times when watch and car adverts made some places look quite tacky. The Bridge of Sighs had no such hoardings this year so my moans were a little less than usual!

As you head down the Grand Canal from the Rialto the next bridge is at Accademia. This newish wooden bridge used to be a haunt of counterfeit bag sellers from North Africa – as was much of the main tourist areas – but I saw less of them this trip than on previous visits. (Never buy bags from these people as you will be heavily fined if you buy a bag that isn’t genuine.) Maybe they think the “season” is over and move to warmer climes. Now the craze is to buy small padlocks, write the name of you and your loved one, date it and attach it to the metal struts that support the handrails. The authorities take them away from time to time but I saw locks going back to June with dozens attached to each strut.

locks, locks and more locks

But there are dozens of empty ones still to be used and there was one of the North Africans selling locks to anyone he could persuade to pause as they crossed the bridge. In the evening I suspect he is one of those who turn from locks and wander the open-air restaurants cajoling men to buy their partners a single red rose.

With the heavy rain recently the boards were out, raised above the pavement areas, in St Mark’s Square. The queue to get in the Basilica was forming on the planks of wood as there was a couple of inches of water there and in the entrance. Two days later the waters had receded and all was dry again. One of the attractions of visiting Venice in the winter is that you suddenly see a different Venice all wooden planks leading you around the city and reminding you how precariously structured Venice is.

I listened for nothing unlike those seated!

In the square and around there are three café’s – the most famous being Florian’s – which have small orchestras for the enjoyment of those who take a table. Each of the orchestras is good but they play an array of international music rather than Italian or even Venetian music as you might expect. Sit down though at your peril because apart from the high prices – €6 for a cup of coffee – you not only pay a cover charge but a charge for listening to the music. Since you can listen at no cost by just loitering and watching the pigeons being fed, (yes, this still happens despite attempts to ban it) my tightly closed wallet wonders why guests put up with these extra charges.

 

The Biennale – that largely free art salute from different countries is still on until almost the end of November which might explain why hotel prices are still a little higher than I might expect from this time of year. So I stayed on the Lido which is only fifteen minutes from St Mark’s but where hotel prices are a lot cheaper. They are even cheaper on the mainland in Mestre and Quarto d’Altino or by the airport but you can spend a bit of time getting into Venice if that is where you plan to spend most of your time.

Venice is almost a “must” stop for any cruise ship in the Mediterranean. In the three days that I was there, I saw five but there might have been more. Travelling in the vaporettto (water bus) as it calmly cuts across the prow of a twelve storey floating hotel with all the insousiance of a little kid who says you may be bigger but I’m smarter than you made some visitors wonder whether the captain was completely sane but that’s what Venice is like. You wonder why there aren’t more accidents in the canals as gondolas jockey with delivery boats, vaporettos, water taxis and ambulances.

straight under the bow we went; luckily there was little wash

As I said earlier, Venice seems busy whenever I go there and I suppose there must be a quiet time but when that is I don’t know. You really notice it in Murano (the island of glass art and jewellery) and Burano. (finely-worked lace and brilliantly coloured houses.) When a boat tour from the cruise ships docks, dozens are disgorged on to the quaysides, cameras all flashing, enthusiasm for souvenirs high and a hurriedness to get as much into their hour or two ashore as they possibly can. They overwhelm the shops, cram the cafes and restaurants and Venetians love the money they spend.

Me, I retire to a distance with a beer and watch the world and the water go by as I wonder why I keep coming back. After another dozen trips may be I’ll have worked that out.

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