Venice has been on my bucket list since before I knew what a bucket list was. It’s one of those places that you see on TV and in movies and just know that one day you have to visit.
Having spent a couple of days exploring this romantic, absorbing and evocative city, I can tell you that it’s everything and much, much more than you might have imagined.
Thankfully, Venice is the alternate starting point (along with Rome) for the new ‘Italian Sojourn’ itinerary aboard Viking Orion, so my visit started in consummate style. A complimentary shuttle boat plopped us right in the heart of the city and a short walk over the famous Bridge of Sighs had me in St Mark’s Square long before the crowds (TIP: It’s best to get here early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the masses).
To be brutally honest, I was a little underwhelmed by the square, imagining it to be much bigger and grander than it appeared to be. Extensive renovation works didn’t help the overall ambiance, so once I’d taken the obligatory tourist snapshots, I exited under the famous clock tower on the north side.
This is when I began to fall in love with Venice.
The hinterland of narrow streets, canals and bridges was just a joy to explore. I felt like one of those laboratory mice running around a giant maze looking for an elusive piece of cheese. It was everything travel should be: authentic, immersive and spellbinding.
The shop windows provide a panoply of colours with glorious haute couture, jewellery, glassware and handbags. There are plenty of bars, coffee shops and restaurants dotted around for those who either need a rest from credit card abuse, or who just want to watch the world go by over a delicious cannelloni, gelato and exceptional coffee.
Everywhere you look there is something to see, from the ubiquitous canals that dissect the city to the splendid Gothic architecture. I’m also delighted to report that, contrary to some reports, Venice doesn’t smell. It’s also very clean and not as expensive as you might expect: you can get a pizza for €10 (approx. $15) and the aforementioned coffee for about €3 (approx. $470).
I could happily have stayed much longer and explored even deeper into the interior but Orion was about to set sail on our eight-day adventure.
Beg, borrow or steal the money to get to Venice, but get there you must.