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Venice – an icon that lives up to its hype

There are people who take the train and then there are just plain annoying “train people”. On our way to Venice from Florence I go to the bar car where a lot of people are lined up waiting for food. A fairly large, middle aged woman (presumably from Minnesota) is holding up the line trying to find the Italian word for Mayonnaise because she doesn’t understand that a ham and cheese in Italy doesn’t come with condiments. Everyone in the car is yelling, finally she leaves. She gets back to her seat and hands her husband the sandwich. He asks for the Mayo and she explains that she didn’t get any. The husband is visibly disappointed, the wife defeated. Train people.

One step out of the train station and you are bombarded by first the amount of tourists, and second, the beauty. Yes, the canals of Venice are really that amazing. Who would have known? The first question I was hit with (while staring at a bridge that goes over the Grand Canal) was how are we going to get to our hotel with our 130lb of luggage? There is no way I was going to spend the next couple hours trying to navigate Venice after failing in both Rome and Florence. Luckily we found a water taxi and he took us to our front (or is it back door) of our hotel, San Cassiano, located on the Grand Canal.

The San Cassiano did us well, hooking us up with a Grand Canal view suite complete with sitting area, day bed, and chandelier. After a few moments taking it all in from our windows above the water we headed out, toward the Rialto Bridge. I don’t believe I have ever traveled 100 feet and been lost. I felt lost around every corner in Venice it was impressive to say the least. Armed with 4 maps and an iPhone with GPS was no help. Eventually we found enough signs pointing to The Rialto to get us to the bridge. Souvenirs, tourists, gelato, tourists, more gelato, and even more tourists sums up this bridge over the Grand Canal, lined with restaurants, shopping, and gondola guys wanting to take you out for a spin through the canals. Cross the bridge and in no time you will find yourself headed to San Marco Piazza, the center of Venice with restaurants, drinking, live music, and many pigeons waiting to be fed and fly up into your arms and onto your shoulders. We drink Prosecco and listen to music than walk around and find Harry’s bar, the creator of the Bellini, but I am not allowed in because I am wearing shorts so we have a Spritz at a bar that contains awful tasting liquor named Aperol and then we are back near the Rialto where we have another sub-par dinner of pasta and pizza.

Venice doesn’t have that one thing. There is no Coliseum, no David, no leaning tower. The city itself, the canals and narrow streets is the thing. Walking and getting lost (every couple steps) and looking down each street it feels like an adventure waits. The adventure isn’t necessarily spooky, in fact, often it’s just a small gelato stand. Take the adventure. We walk and get lost, very lost this time. Walking through streets that we don’t know if we’ve seen before and circling around is more the norm than the exception here. If you are lucky enough to have a clear day with only a few white clouds in the air, it looks like the Las Vegas Venetian, that is to say it looks so perfect, it looks fake.

With all 4 maps out we worked our way back to our hotel from the Rialto area. Two blocks still on the map and then all of a sudden you are doing circles in the street. Lost. Keep walking and eventually you find your way, usually with little help from your accompanying maps.

The night desk manager, who looked like he was about to kill himself and was aptly nicknamed Mr. Personality, was also the bartender. So the several requests for more Prosecco brought many deep sighs and grunting as he got out of his chair to go to the bar area so we could enjoy a drink on the terrace overlooking the Canal as the Venice night passed us by.

The next morning we had breakfast outside, on the second floor terrace. It was probably the best breakfast we had had in Italy, which is to say good, not great. We weren’t raving about the pears so that was a good thing. Headed to Murano Island, the glass blowing capital of the world, we are accompanied by another couple (also staying at our hotel), from Philadelphia. As the taxi docks we are immediately greeted and directed to sit down and watch a demonstration of the glass blowers. The “tour guides” have split the groups. Beth and I are with the Philly couple and a guide that looks like an Italian Rodney Dangerfield, complete with the cheese ball jokes and the “I get no respect” wobble. After the demonstration we go through a gallery where the pieces start around five thousand Euro to no limit. Three floors, not sure if there is an exit we find an escape route, leaving the Philly couple behind. Last we heard they were still not accounted for. After the great escape we have a Cappuccino, walk around, buy some glass and then head back to Venice in a water bus where we are dropped off near San Marco, the Piazza that really does pull you back in. We have another Cappuccino at Florian, the world’s most expensive place to buy coffee and then (wearing pants) we go to Harry’s and have a Bellini. No pictures are allowed in Harry’s so the fake-out iPhone pics are taken. The Hard Rock is next to get a pin and then we decide to eat chicken and have a drink and then one more lap around San Marco to ensure everyone has gotten their souvenirs accounted for.

Ensured that we have enough David penis aprons and funny Venice hats to bring back home we take our Gondola ride through the side canals and even onto the Grand Canal for a moment and then back near San Marco where we break the Gelato curse and actually enjoy a cup of chocolate. Dinner is had on the not-so-touristy side of The Rialto, we get lost heading back to the hotel, find our hotel, and then have Mr. Personality get us a Prosecco where we join a group of Norwegians at the hotel terrace and they begin singing “Take It Easy” and “New York, New York” and talking politics and then it is time to go to sleep. The next morning brings a numbing feeling as we pack and arrange for a water taxi to take us to the airport. In the breakfast room the Norwegians are still there. They are smiling. They are smiling because they have another day to spend in Venice.

David S. Grant is the author of several books including Corporate Porn, The Last Breakfast, and Happy Hour. His new novel, BLOOD: The New Red will be available in the fall. David lives and works in New York City. For more information go to Follow David on Twitter: @david_s_grant.

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