We arrived in Venice during high tide. Approaching the city on a slow moving boat felt almost magical. As the city crept closer through the fog, I remember imagining what it must have been like for those arriving here hundreds of years before me. I knew we were going to experience something amazing. Something our eyes had never seen. I will never forget the anticipation.
On our first full day we booked a walking and boat tour from an experienced guide who had lived here his entire life. His love for Venice and passion for it's history was infectious and we found ourselves relishing every newfound detail he shared. Especially the story (or most probable explanation) of how the body of the apostle Mark came to rest at Saint Mark's Basilica. Mystery has it, that under the cloak of night there was an exchange of gold between Venice merchants and Greek monks leading to the abduction of the body and relics to be brought to the Basilica.
Another interesting element of Venice is that they allow no cars or bicycles on the island. You arrive by boat and then walk, everywhere. We loved this because walking gives you a more intimate experience of a city. You're not whizzing by everything and you're able to pop in and out of shops, snap your 1,898th photo, eat gelato, grab a cappuccino, stand on a bridge and watch the gondolas float by, stroll the markets...in other words live like a local.
Cafe Florian - Words cannot express how much I adored this place. Maybe it was heightened by the fact that our first visit was on a drizzly rainy morning when we tucked in one of their jewel box rooms to wait for the brief storm to pass. We sipped delicious overpriced coffee, nibbled on decadent pastries served by waiters in impeccable white jackets and listened to the live orchestra playing concertos outside our window. I remember telling my husband that if we lived here we would soon be penniless because I would want to come here every. single. day.
Once the rain subsided we headed to the top of the Bell Tower to take in the panoramic views. The sky was still grey and ominous but it didn't hinder the spectacular scenery. There was a riot of color below us from the centuries old buildings and terracotta roof tiles. We ended up staying here until the sun started to peek through and the clouds began to disappear.
I've had many conversations with Europeans about why Americans are in love with their cities and it always seems to drift to architecture and history. The allure of walking through buildings dating back thousands of years is like a magnetic force and they will always astonish me. Even a simple walk under the porticos is inspiring and memorable.
In Venice, high tide happens about twice a year, usually in the winter. In the morning you can witness the water begin to flood the entire square. It lasts until around noon when the water levels start to subside and before you know it, the streets are dry. You can see from the two photos below how quickly it comes and goes. I'm actually glad we were able to experience it and wade through the water in our 20 euro orange plastic galoshes.
I took more photos during our walks than on any other vacation. It's literally the most photogenic city I've ever visited. The mix of crumbing facades, bright and muted colors, romantic canals, narrow secret pathways, it's a paradise for those of us who love photography.
We spent a morning at the Rialto Market (I'll share in a future post) and enjoyed picking up a few things to stock our apartment from the smaller stands located throughout the city. I thought they were so charming with their stacked wooden crates and green awnings.
In 1978 my grandparents spent several months traveling throughout Europe and one of their photos was of the Bridge of Sighs. A hand written note on the back said "Last walk and view for prisoners." I tried to recreate the photo in memory of their grand adventure together and have plans to frame it and tuck their original photo in the corner.
During our travels to Amsterdam and throughout Italy we stayed in a combination of hotels and Airbnbs. And while we liked the location of our Venice apartment (right above Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton, haha!) we didn't care for the owners or lack of cleanliness. But truthfully, exploring the city from sunrise to sundown was more important anyway.
I did enjoy watching the pigeons stoop on the buildings right outside our apartment window and it became a game for me to try and capture one perched just so.
If Venice is not on your bucket list it needs to be. I would recommend going in the spring or fall to avoid the crowds and sweltering temps. And stay at least 3 days. It is such a fascinating city with marvelous gravity defying architecture, a history of allure and intrigue and is filled with romantic storybook scenes around every corner. In other words, magical.