If you’ve seen The Wizard of Oz, you probably well know the scene where Dorothy walks out of her sepia-tone Kansas farmhouse and witnesses the technicolor vibrancy of Oz. It’s completely unlike anything she’s ever seen and she’s overwhelmed with awe. This was Venice for me last weekend. Truth be told, I’ve never had much interest in Italy, let alone Venice. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m missing the romance gene, so gondola rides with my sweetheart…I gag even writing it. Stepping out of the Venezia San Lucia train station, though, was akin to Dorothy stepping into Oz. The color, the architecture, the buzz of watercraft and people, the surreal blue sky…words just can’t describe it.
Focused so much on getting a map, Eddie was literally head-down, walking with determination and purpose to the ticket and information kiosk. The saying “you can’t see the forest for the trees” was applicable here. “Eddie. EDDIE. You’re missing it. Look.” He nor the girls felt the same way I did, but once we got that damn map, he was ready to see what was in front of him.
Because Venice is an easy day trip from Vicenza–our home base for the next three years–we didn’t bother planning the day. Our goal was to make it to the Piazza San Marco simply because that was as good a goal as any. For future trips, we’ll read up on the history and plan a bit just to know what we’re seeing. In hindsight, it was very relaxing to just see the city organically, to navigate the tiny alleyways and just genuinely feel surprised by what we encountered around each corner. Sometimes, it was a major tourist destination (the Rialto bridge in the second photo below), other times it was just a really cool square or bridge. Still other times, it was a great little pastry place or cafe.
In terms of the Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square), it was grander than anything I had imagined. It was hard to choose one focal point. It’s busy and full of kamikaze pigeons (seriously, they’ll flap you in the face totally without provocation), but it’s simply amazing. To think that these buildings have been standing since the late 1400s and 1500s (the youngest being 400 years old), is simply…at the risk of overusing the phrase…awe-inspiring.
With just an hour until our return train trip, we chose to take a ferry back to the station. This was a great way to see Venice from the water. Truly the highlight of my time on the water was watching the gondoliers blow air kisses at Harper. They were completely and utterly stoic–focused, even–until they passed our ferry. At that point, the whole gondola could’ve sunk. Screw the paid passengers, there’s an adorable baby on that ferry. Italians love kids and they seem to really, really adore Harper.
I won’t lie: getting there was much harder than I’d imagined. There are three Venezia (Venice) train stops (if you ever plan to go, it’s Venezia S. Lucia that you want). Also, on the way back to Vicenza, your train will be the Venezia to Verona line (nowhere will it say Vicenza). Venice can also be expensive. Take plenty of Euros or be prepared to find an ATM. We didn’t find many and none of the Italians we encountered could understand “ATM.” Luckily there were some no-fee types just over the Rialto bridge. There’s too much to adequately see in a day, but luckily, we have all the time we need.