15 April 2016
I’ve deliberately left my itinerary for the morning quite bare, every book of Venice I can find advises to wander aimlessly for a few hours. After waving the gulet at Sant Elena goodbye, I board a vaporetto to Ferrovia to drop my backpack off at the train station left luggage office.
After using vaporetti with purpose over the last few days, I decide to use one to simply cruise up and down the Grand Canal and soak up views. I advise any tourist to do the same. My tip is to avoid the No. 1 route. It stops more frequently, is always crowded and seems to be used more often by locals who, let’s face it, only tolerate tourists. Wait for a No.2. Fewer lengthy stops and a greater chance of finding an empty seat with a good view.
Photos in no particular order:
After my little voyage it was time to wander, crossing countless little bridges over the little canals.
With my massive backpack safe at the train station left luggage office, I can happily stroll into the Basilica San Marco.
Photos aren’t allowed inside, so you should JUMP ON A PLANE AND SEE FOR YOURSELF. The Basilica is incredible.
In 828 AD Stauracius and Theodorus some Greek monks of Alexandria were worried that their most treasured relic, the body of St Mark, would be damaged by Saracens. The monks approached Venetian merchants named Tribunus and Rusticus, asking them to transport the body to safety. The Venetians smuggled the dead Saint (covered with slabs of pork so that the Muslim guards would be unable to thoroughly search the cargo,) and took him to Venice. The delighted Doge set about creating a church attached to his Palace to inter the Saint in and the first version of the Basilica was consecrated a mere 3 years later.
The church was razed in the 97os during a riot and so the new Basilica was started in 1063 and finished some 3 decades later. Following the Venetian sack of Consantinople during the Fourth Crusade the Basilica was adorned with loot. It became tradition for the Venetians seafarers to return from distant ports with statues, columns, mosaics, gold, friezes and marble; all of which went onto and into the Basilica. The result is a dizzying hotchpotch of spoils, almost too elaborate to be elegant. Almost…
It’s almost always busy inside but if you resist the insistent flow of fellow visitors it’s possible to hang back slightly and just relish your time in a beautiful place, which is good advice for the entire trip to Venice.
Nearly everyone will have seen the articles and opinion pieces on the negative aspects of tourism in Venice and it was enough to make me feel slightly guilty about visiting. Tourists are slowly but surely murdering the city.
I saw myself the ‘small’ (but still bloody large) cruise ships moored by the Riva and the thousands of people disembarking. I watched as they swarmed the Piazza. Only about 1 in 10 ever got further into Venice than that, apart from to bob up and down the Grand Canal or clig up the Rialto bridge. I ate lunch in empty restaurants as these people tucked into their cruise ship-prepared packed lunches and suddenly the ban on eating your own food in the public squares made sense. Mountains of rubbish are left behind and local businesses (that aren’t the Café Florian!) have empty table after empty table. Cruise passengers aren’t even providing hotels with business. The little money they bring into the city must barely cover the upkeep of the city structure that large ships are proven to damage.
My advice? Go to Venice. You have to, it’s bewitching. But visit responsibly. Fly in or get a train from the mainland. Stay somewhere that’s preferably independantly owned, my stay on the Freedom Caicco proves that this can be inexpensive. Eat is cute little restaurants (as far away from the Piazza as possible!) and buy snacks in bakeries and at the market. Be as courteous and self aware as possible when travelling by vaperetto and try not to clog up the narrow streets. Don’t be the knob who tries to go for a swim or tries to visit a church wearing little more than underwear. Venice isn’t a theme park designed for your entertainment, it is the home of thousands of long suffering people. Few Venetians want to ban all foreigners. Just the idiots. Don’t be an idiot!
It’s a wrench to leave Venice and I have a heavy heart and reluctant pace as I head back to Ferrovia to pick up my backpack and hop on a train to Ferrara. I’ll be back one day, just not on a bloody cruise liner.