Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Venice, the most romantic city in the world

Google informed me today that on this day 25 March in 421, at noon, the city of Venice, my favourite place in the whole world, was founded.  So, I decided to celebrate Venice's birthday today by sharing a travel log with you which I wrote in 2010 during the Donaldsons Sailing Year.

I hope you enjoy my personal discovery of Venice and maybe add this beautiful city to your list of places to visit.

Here it goes...

Pizza, pasta, mandolina... Apparently these are the three things one needs to be happy (according to a Venetian Wine and Confectionery merchant)! Well, when we sailed our yacht into Laguna Veneta we were deliriously happy – happy that we’ve made it with a huge sense of accomplishment, happy that the summer weather finally arrived in Europe, happy with anticipation of the three days we were planning to spend in this City of Bridges and Canals.

It takes close to an hour depending on the traffic to get from the entrance of the harbour to St Mark’s Square (about 6 nautical miles). We only realised it on the way back, such was our excitement that we did not notice the time lapsed from the moment we sailed passed the conspicuous black and white chequerboard structure marking the starboard side of the harbour entrance till the moment we berthed at the Marina on St Giorgio Maggiore Island.
Entrance into Laguna Veneta
We did not have a definite plan as to where we were going to stay or what we were going to do apart from bits and pieces of information given to us by friends and fellow cruisers in Croatia. We did not even have any large scale charts of the Laguna.

On the way we unsuccessfully tried to reach the Marina on the radio and the phone. The radio call was not answered at all and the person on the other end of the phone did not speak English and we did not have enough Italian between the two of us to explain that we wanted a berth at the Marina. So, we just drifted amidst heavy traffic in front of the entrance to the Grand Canal trying to figure out what to do next. Luckily the Marina’s captain (we labelled him Captain because we didn’t see anyone else around the Marina for the next three days) noticed us and came out from his Tower – office and directed us to Berth 87 which was in the inside row of about 40 vessels, which is the Marina’s capacity.
Pave berthed at St Giorgio Marina

I honestly think it was the best spot to be in – right across from St Mark’s and 3 minutes on a vaporetto from St Giorgio Island to St Zaccaria station (Piazza St Marco). And the best imaginable view from the boat!

As we only had limited time but the amount of tourists and hence the queues were enormous, we decided to give the crowds a miss. For the next two and a half days we just wandered through the narrow streets, crossed several dozens of bridges of all sizes and designs, rode a vaporetto along the canals in all directions, got lost several times and just enjoyed being in Venice!

It’s hard to pin-point the highlights of our stay as everything was very special. But a couple of things stand out – eating home-made pasta in the little back street Trattoria near the Rialto Bridge is one of them. The chef, covered in flour, walks past you to the kitchen with a tray of just made gnocchi.

"What news on the Rialto?"
Or drinking Proseco in Cafe Florian (open since 1720) in Piazza St Marco, listening to a group of performing musicians and the bells on St Mark’s Campanile.
Russian musicians found their home in Piazza St Marco
Or visiting the Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo which is considered the Pantheon of Venice and boasts numerous important works of art. It is one of the most impressive medieval religious buildings in Venice and we both agreed that all the other Churches we visited after just did not compare.
“… and Christ Jesus himself is the cornerstone."

We also visited a glass blowing demonstration on Murano Island and bought ourselves a figurine of Bassotto (dachshund).
Murano glass
We had picnics in the beautiful parks of St Elena and Murano Islands. We bought some red wine from the barrel into a plastic bottle.
Simple life

And we spoke with the local Venetians – gondoliers, merchants, chefs, waiters, bus drivers.
Lucky gondolier
I have to admit a couple of sins we committed while staying in Venice – having pizza in Burger King (hoping to get access to Internet, but it did not work out) and having our last night dinner in the Chinese Restaurant (because it was our only opportunity to have something spicy as Croatia does not have oriental food!) But have you ever come across a Chinese lady speaking Italian, French, German and English as well as her native language?

Venice is enchanting! I spent quite some time crying because it was so overwhelming at times that I could not contain emotions and had to let go. And then we had bursts of laughter when you can’t stop and end up in tears. It was really bizarre – I forgot when was the last time I’ve been so emotional!

A pink heart - a sign that a baby-girl is born
We left Venice after 3 nights at 5 o’clock in the morning with a beautiful sunrise and took our farewell sail past (and a little bit into, naughty-naughty!) the Grand Canal. The dream is fulfilled – we sailed into Venice on our yacht!
Arrivederci, Venice, until we meet again...