This is not here – Venice

2nd June 2006

We came down with a large bump onto the tarmac at Treviso airport near Venice, we got off and I had never seen such a small airport in all my life. It was even smaller than Coolangatta Airport on the Gold Coast in Australia. There was one conveyer belt, and you went through and they barely even looked at your passport, they stamped mine, but not Mum’s. We got out into the main area which was no bigger than my old bosses office and we did not have any Euros, we assumed that there would be an ATM machine at the Airport, guess again, Mum had to withdraw money from her credit card so that we could get the bus to our hotel.

We got on the pink Terravision bus that stopped at Venice Mestre (a town before you cross the causeway over the Adriatic to the lagoon), it was a long ride and because the flight had been delayed, we had now arrived in the middle of rush hour. The Italian scenery was lovely, it was as green as England and all the houses were very colourful, with red rooves. We drove through an industrial area, and I spotted a factory with a big sign on the front of it that said Fart, well that was it for me, I was in fits for the rest of the trip, fart obviously means something different in Italian. We stopped at Venice Mestre and dropped off a few passengers and then we headed for Venice itself. We crossed the Adriatic Sea via this massive bridge (causeway) and that was it, we were there. We got off the bus at Piazzale Roma Bus Station and asked for some directions from one of the natives who managed to point us in the right direction. I had heard stories about how dirty Venice was and from this area I guessed the stories were true, it looked like a dirty industrial area.

Mum must have guessed what I was thinking because she said, “Don’t worry this is not what we’ve come to see”. We walked around the other side of the station and there we were, smack bang in front of the Grand Canal, just like that. I can safely say that this was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. I just stared for a bit at the beautiful blue green water that was the main street of Venice with water buses, taxis and of course Gondolas going up and down, it seemed like I was in a kind of fantasy wonderland, I could not believe that something like this was part of this world and here in front of me.

Masks performers Venice
Masked performers in Venice

We lugged the suitcase around for a while trying to find our hotel, over plenty of bridges and were exhausted by the end of it. We finally came to our hotel on Lista de Spagna, which was actually an alley, which I refused to believe at first. We looked down the alley and there seemed to be a load of people congregating around the hotel door. Mum said, “let’s just wait out in the open until those people dissipate, they look like shady looking characters”, they did not dissipate and I really wanted to get up to our room so I insisted we be brave and walk to the hotel. Upon reaching the hotel we soon learnt that these people were the other guests and that we were all locked out! I gave Mum a cheeky smile and she looked sheepishly back at me; we had a good laugh about the shady looking characters later.

Finally, the proprietor arrived, a friendly man named Giuseppe, to let us into the hotel the Allogi la Gondola. We lugged our suitcase up three steep flights of stairs in the hotel which apparently used to be an old Venetian Palace. We soon learnt to my horror that we couldn’t pay with a credit card, so Mum handed over the last of her remaining cash. We went up to our room, which was also a laugh, it was clean but very basic. It just had a double bed in the middle and a sink and an old wardrobe. It was painted blue and had a panoramic picture of a tropical oasis on the wall that was perched on four nails and looked like someone had thrown up on it. The windows had wooden shutters over them, with flimsy see through blue curtains and overlooked another rather dirty alley. We were sharing a bathroom with the other guests and the bathroom was quite clean, albeit I was disgusted by the very idea of a bidet.

Mum and I got changed and then went in search of food and the sights. We walked through the twists and turns of the Venetian streets, including over a bridge which the water had been drained from the canal below, it smelled awful, and we nicknamed it Stinky Bridge. We went alongside the old buildings and as I walked, I caught a fleeting glimpse of the Rialto Bridge. We eventually came to a clearing in the buildings, and we were in full view of the Rialto Bridge (Per Rialto). It was spectacular, it had little shops all over it and looked lovely in white marble over the beautiful blue green canal. Along the canal were restaurants with red and white tablecloths and many gondolas tied up to gnarled wooden poles poking out of the water.

We walked all around Venice, and I had never seen so many masks of all different colours. There were Carnivale masks in all the famous characters, Scaramouche, Casanova, with his tri-corner hat and the Doctor, there were masks on sticks with beautiful feathers sticking out of them. There were cats, always labelled as Gatti, Jesters and Jokers of all kinds. There were also many animal masks including pigs, dogs and even the odd dragon or two.

We went to St Mark’s Square (San Marco) and when I saw St. Marks Basilica, I thought that it was the most beautiful sight that I had ever seen. The mosaics on the building were brightly coloured and the top of the building had bronze horses crowning it. Next to it was a single pillar with the Venetian Winged Lion on top and to the left of the Basilica was the clock tower with two Lions either side of its bell. Throughout the square there were people selling things and hundreds of pigeons, just like they used to have in Trafalgar Square.

Mum then led me along the coastline and across a couple of bridges, when we got to the last bridge she covered my eyes and said I have a surprise for you. She guided me up to the top of the bridge and turned me inwards to face the canal. She let me open my eyes and for a while I didn’t know what I was looking at, but I soon figured it out. It was the famous Bridge of Sighs so named because the traitors of old had been taken through it back to the prison sighing after their horrific tortures.

We finally managed to get to an ATM called Bancomat in Italy and get some cash. Annoyingly also, I had managed to bring the wrong power adapter and had to get my hands on one of those as well, which thank God, I managed. I was not going to let Venice sail past the photo record.

We went back to our hotel, and I put my camera on charge and freshened up a little and had a bit of a rest. We then got up and decided to go to San Marco at night, Mum said that it was truly a sight to behold. We walked through the dark and rather windy streets of Venice and arrived in the square. What I was seeing actually brought tears to my eyes, the scene was so beautiful. Either side of the square all the buildings were set up with identical lights almost making a vanishing point as you approached the basilica. The restaurants were all open and surprisingly not too crowded, one of them had an orchestra playing My Way by Frank Sinatra and I could hear the gentle lapping of the water in the distance. It was pitch black everywhere else, but here the world seemed to dance just for me. It was one of those amazing things that I just sat and stared at and could never imagine leaving and I stayed there for the longest time.

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