Ever since I saw the movie ‘Summertime’ I have wanted to go to Venice, Italy. I dreamed of riding the train into the city across the water. I dreamed of throwing open the windows of my hotel room to the Grand Canal below. I dreamed of sitting on the balcony of the hotel with other visitors chatting and comparing notes of our trip. I dreamed of sipping whatever cocktail it was that Italians drank, despite my not being old enough to drink, nor had I ever had a cocktail! I dreamed of walking along the canals admiring the locals going about their every day chores. I dreamed of sitting in St. Mark’s Square having an espresso, again, something I’d never had nor really knew what it was; and a dashing Italian stopping at my table and we of course, fall in love. Ah yes, dreams of a young girl. As I got older, most of those dreams faded away into reality, but the one constant was my going to Venice. Little did I know how long it would take. Nor did I know how intense my emotions would become for this place that I had never been.
We got an early start leaving Florence. Richard took on the chore of contacting a cab to pick us up. He kept getting disconnected or told they were busy, to call back later. While we sat in Piazza della Passera wondering if we would ever actually get through to the cab company, we met a young couple who were having the same problem. They decided to start walking in an attempt to find a Taxi Stand. I don’t even know how many calls Richard ended up making, it was quite a few I know that. Persistence prevailed and a cab eventually picked us up and we quickly knew for a fact that the initial cab ride was way longer than it should have been, one way streets or no one way streets. This cab used a very direct route to Santa Maria Novella station. I had also discovered in my walks around Florence how close the station was to where we were staying.
Once on the platform we were not quite sure which end of the car we should get on since we didn’t know which end would have the luggage rack and would be closer to our seats. Turns out where we were initially standing was the right end, unfortunately we decided to get on the opposite end. It was a very crowded train, we were pretty far back in the line to board the train. I was still in between cars when the train left the station and it took about 15 minutes for us to get to our seats and figure out what to do with our luggage. There really is very little room for suitcases unless you have one small enough to put on the rack above the seats. Yet another reason to bring a carryon size suitcase when traveling. Depending on the size of your suitcase you may be able to wedge it in between the rows of seats and that is what Richard and I were able to do. People were getting angry with those of us trying to find a place to put our suitcases and telling people to sit down. Of course, we would all have loved to be able to do just that but standing in the aisle with no place to go until the person(s) in front of you moved, this wasn’t an option until you could actually get to your seat!
Once we got to our seats I called our Venice contact Irene and told her we were on our way and she was kind enough to tell me to text from that point on so it wouldn’t cost me so much in phone calls. She told me to contact her again once we had arrived at the station and she would give me instructions from there. The ride to Venice was uneventful but I was facing the wrong way to be able to see Venice come into view. Dennie meanwhile was busy snapping photos the whole way seeing as he was next to the window facing the right way.
Once we arrived at the Santa Lucia Train station, I sent a text to Irene and she told me that Giamba would meet us at the Ca Rezzonico stop. There was some confusion on exactly where to get our Vaporetto passes validated to begin using them and which Vaporetto stop to board from. Richard and I figured it out after asking enough people and reading signs on the different stops. The Ferrovia Landing Station has 5 stops and you need to know which one to board. We would learn that just like the bus route, the Vaporetti travel both ways along the Grand Canal and you must be mindful of which direction you are heading as well as, where each Vaporetto line stops. With passes in hand we stood in line to wait for the next Vaporetto. While waiting we struck up a conversation with a mother and daughter from Australia and they like us were also a little unsure as to what stop was correct. We all decided that we were in the right line. In short order we boarded our first Vaporetto!! How exciting!!!! Dennie and I were lucky enough to be able to stand near the side to be able to take photos the entire way, although I know Dennie took at least 10 times as many as I did, he is forever hidden behind his camera – LOL
WOW….I know I had a huge grin on my face as we made our way down the Grand Canal. I will say this time and again; you see it in pictures, you see it in movies, but there really is no comparison to seeing it all in person. All the water traffic of Gondola’s, Vaporetti, Water Taxi’s, private motor boats, delivery boats, Hotels and cafes, it is a sight to behold. And I am living it! I am experiencing it first hand. It is real! I am finally here! I am ecstatic!
We got off at our stop and after about 15 minutes Giamba came ambling down the Calle’ Lunga San Barnaba, our ‘street’. Another handsome young Italian to meet us 🙂 It was a straight walk to our apartment from here, across Campo San Barnaba with no bridge to cross, about a 5 minute walk. The lobby of the building was beautiful and now to climb the 3 flights of stairs as there was no elevator. We had that luxury in both Rome and Florence and yes, it is a luxury. Many of the buildings in Italy do not have elevators because of their historical significance and quite simply, the age of the buildings. If you do have an elevator where you are going, that’s great, but don’t expect it.
Once inside, I ran into the corner bedroom that I’d been so looking forward to and gazed down on the canal below. Ah…….this is what I’d been waiting to do! And as if to say, ‘Welcome to Venezia Rae!!’, there was a gondola going by below. What could be more perfect?!?
There were 3 bedrooms, 2 of them were listed as doubles, but there were 2 singles instead. I asked Giamba if they could make up the other large room into a double for The Boys. Within 5 minutes 2 gals came to do just that as we took care of paying the balance of our rent and getting instructions on the apartment. With the exception of the bedroom confusion, the apartment was exactly as shown on the web site. How fortunate were we that each apartment was exactly what it was advertised to be and there were no surprises along the way. I breathed a sigh of relief because since I’d never rented before, I really wasn’t sure if it would be how it would work out after reading some horror stories on the web. Richard and I got instructions from one of the gals on how to use the wash machine and we had 2 clotheslines outside the kitchen windows – this side of the apartment wasn’t over the canal. I had every intention of using the clothesline at some point because well, it was part of the experience right? We stayed in the Dosoduro Sestieri (neighborhood) and like our apartment in Florence, was away from the crowded tourist area.
After Giamba left the Boys left while I waited for the girls to finish making up their room, then I too was on my way to explore the area. I walked along the Zattere along the Guidecca Canal. Guess what? I was hungry so I stopped for my first Cicchetti from El Chioschetto and while I was eating, Giamba stopped for an espresso. When he saw me he said that I’d made an excellent choice for my 1st taste in Venice.
As I passed a mask shop I lingered in the doorway and the man working at his desk said, ‘Come in, come in’. He was putting gilded gold on a mask, talking to me the entire time about his craft and what masks mean to Venetians. I was too timid to take any other photos other than this one that I asked his permission to do so.
I continued down the Zattere, bought a few postcards and stamps. As I walked along the Zattere stepping slowly through the water in some spots, I was reminded of Acqua Alta that plagues Venice. It was almost 5:00 and I wondered if there had been much more water earlier in the day. I saw the stacked ‘passarelle’, (wooden planks on iron supports – they resemble tables) lined up along the ‘fondamenta’ (sidewalks). I wandered down a few Calli as I made my way down the Zattere and back to the apartment.
The sun was getting lower as I walk back towards the apartment. I feel a smile creep across my face. I feel a rush of emotion, not in the form of (happy) tears as when arriving in Rome last week. Oh no, it is a soothing, calming, peaceful warmth that spreads throughout my body. I feel a sense of being at home, literally. That connection that I have been unable to explain for so long, becomes even stronger now that I am here. I sigh to myself and am grateful. So grateful that I am actually here, in Venezia, in Italy, in this country that I inexplicably feel such an intense bond with. It is an overwhelming feeling and yet as I say, one of such harmony, one that is just so right, it is as if there is no other way to feel.
This is only my first day, I will be posting more soon. I have many more days to wander around and I so hope that you’ll wander right along beside me. Ciao, A Presto –