In the midst of an unproductive summer, I took a family trip to Venice last year with my mother and grandparents. Having finally caught up with documenting my travels in Asia (and then some), the gloriously sunny weather in the UK right now has got me reminiscing about my time there. A flick through my travel journal leaves my memories brilliantly refreshed and is something I’d recommend for all travellers to do! Whether it’s bullet points on your phone or a quickly scribbled summary, a journal helps to preserve the intimate details of your day for future embarrassment entertainment.
We stayed at We_Crociferi, a former monastery turned hostel/apartments/student accommodation. It’s a beautifully restored building with modern facilities and complimentary breakfast – our only complaint being the temperamental Wi-Fi (#millennials, jk). Rooms were light and airy, with huge windows overlooking a quiet canal and USB plug sockets for when we realised the adapter had been left at home (…). As one of the nicest hostels I’ve stayed in, We_Crociferi was a lovely introduction to hostel life for my mum and grandparents! Location wise, there are vaporetto (water bus) ports 2 minutes away that can take you to/from the airport or the neighbouring islands of Burano and Murano. You’ll find main sights a comfortable walk away – make sure to download maps.me for help locating the all-important bridges!
Venice, in the summer, is purported to smell. As a city divided by water, it’s a logical assumption to make and personal accounts from visitors have only served to strengthen this belief. I was both relieved and surprised during my mid-August visit, to be greeted with a gentle sea breeze. With all its canals and streets thronging with people, Venice smelled fine to me? Perhaps my sense of smell has been dulled by living in Hong Kong for a year, but don’t be dissuaded from visiting Venice in the summer!
Encountering Rialto Bridge, we found it half under restoration and half remaining open to the public. Crowds were swarming and with everyone jostling for a photograph, it was hard to appreciate the magnificent view of the Grand Canal, let alone take in that you’re standing on Venice’s most famous landmark. Walking a little further along, the crowds become quieter and you can relax for a moment before an attempt to hustle you into a nearby restaurant interrupts your dreamy haze. (Heed the advice of many others before us and seek out restaurants away from this area for cheaper and more authentic dishes.)
We walked through a series of narrow alleyways before finally stepping out onto Piazza San Marco. After the claustrophobic confines of Venice’s packed streets, Piazza San Marco’s expansiveness is ridiculously impressive and refreshing to see. There’s a variety of things to do here, from museum visits to panoramic views, but be aware that entrance fees do add up. For €8, San Marco Campanile offers a tremendous view of Venice. You may be relieved to see the campanile comes nicely equipped with a lift to transport tourists up and down (but if climbing 91m can be done, what’s a few more?). As if to remind of its main function, the sudden ringing of the bells pulled us back from becoming too engrossed in the views and provided us with a new interest. It’s deafening, yes, but I quite enjoyed the brief show of bells from atop the tower – bells ring every hour if you’re interested!
Entrance to Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) came at the very hefty price tag of €19. For all its beauty and history, I’m not sure it was really worth the price – think of all the gelato you could eat instead! Nevertheless, I did enjoy walking through the lavishly decorated rooms and museum exhibitions. While the Chamber of the Great Council was especially beautiful, my favourite part was exploring the prisons and walking the Bridge of Sighs. A common belief derives its name from the sighs of prisoners glimpsing freedom before being condemned to life sentences/executions. But however morbidly poetic this may be, there are sources that point out the bridge’s historical timeline is inconsistent with the operational period of this law. So from strange smells to controversial theories, there’s a surprising mystery to Venice waiting to be unpacked.
Part 2 up next week!