I have been to a lot of places, and after a while all the cities seem to fall into a familiar routine of tall buildings and crowded sidewalks, rarely distinguishable from each other save for the odd famous structure or skyline. Venice, a city of 118 islands connected by 400 bridges, stood out from the pack immediately and held its own to the extreme. Its unique character and history definitely set it apart from every other city I have seen. First of all, the complete lack of vehicles and traffic sounds in the heart of old Venice is an unfamiliar comfort that is all too often not experienced.
Like so many European cities, the pathways crisscross in all directions, some narrower the further you walk; others come suddenly to an end. A map is definitely essential even for the most basic commute. Many of the squares look identical and the bridges are replicated so many times that getting turned around is inevitable. Tourists are everywhere, providing an excellent venue for people watching and elbow dodging.
Throughout our three days we managed our way just fine, taking in the excitement of getting lost and enjoying what the city has to offer. Among the cobble-stoned paths are charming little local cafés, bakeries, and restaurants aplenty offering delicious treats. One night as we dined on the terrace of an Italian restaurant across from Venetian mask vendors, an accordion player serenaded us with classic Italian tunes. It was a magical moment for me that I expected to classify as cliché but I found it just as romantic as the city itself.
The majority of our time in Venice we spent walking, not always with a final destination in mind. We did make it to Piazza San Marco, the iconic location of various film scenes and postcard shots. From the top of the St. Mark’s Campanile, now equipped with a modern elevator (thank God!), we could see the entire island in all of its beautiful red-roofed glory – every tower, every dome, every direction.
On our final night of freedom before joining the ship we took a relaxing gondola ride through the canals, passing the homes of explorer, Marco Polo and composer, Antonio Vivaldi. History is at every turn in this ancient yet bustling city. For such a small island, it holds great fascination. This is definitely a returnable destination in my mind.