Monday, 29 November 2010

Italy by Road- Last leg (Venice)

Final Stop- Venice (Venezia)

The last stop on our trip, and without a doubt the best one, was Venice. It’s around 500 kms from Pisa. Venice, over the years, has been described by many names- The City of Canals, The City of Masks, The City of Bridges. But nothing befits it more than the ‘Queen of Adriatic’.  Our stay there definitely made us feel so.
Our hotel, Hotel Delfino was in Mestre, a 20 min ride from the main city of Venice. There’s a bus stop right in front of the hotel, which made travel to the city convenient. So we left our car at the hotel parking and took the bus no. 4 to Venice
The buses were surprisingly crowded considering the Italian standards. Of course, coming from India where hanging from the footboards of buses is the norm, it was no biggie. Bus no.4 took us to Piazza Le Roma. Here Mom, Dad and I split from Shereef and Bilal. This time everyone was armed with a map and all contact numbers. Bilal insisted on carrying two copies of everything (just in case, according to him). We decided to walk from the Piazza, till San Marco square and take the ferry back to the piazza.

Venice was much more crowded than Florence and Pisa. Maybe it seemed so because of the narrow streets. The streets are lined with small shops, mostly selling Venetian masks, and Gondola knick-knacks. Venetian masks are exotic masks used during the annual ‘Carnevale’ (Carnival of Venice). In earlier days these masks were used by the public while voting. Supposedly, it guarantees a fair voting. 

The other thing that sells like hot cakes in Venice is Murano Glass. Murano is a Venetian island and has been manufacturing this kind of glass since the 9th century. You can see shops displaying Murano glass crystals, figurines and trinkets. They are bright and beautiful. My parents were almost tempted to buy a crystal to take back home, but at our place nothing breakable can survive for more than a few days (what with my two brothers constantly at each others’ throats.) They had learnt from experience (and innumerable broken vases) not to buy such stuff anymore.

If Florence has to be seen riding bicycles and Rome through it’s metro, Venice should be covered on foot and by boat. Then of course there are the Gondolas, the main attraction of Venice.
 The gondoliers wear a standard uniform of black and white striped shirts and, sometimes, a straw hat. A gondola ride will take you through the waterways crisscrossing the city and the gondolier will explain the main spots en route. Walking through the city you’ll have to cross mini bridges which take you over the narrow canals and almost always you’ll find a Gondolier gracefully gliding his Gondola through these canals. Now as a teenage girl I’ve always had these romantic notions of riding on Gondolas. They were shattered when my dad said that this is just a ‘thoni’ (a decorated one) back home in Kerala. And more so when, after seeing the ticket rates, my Mom exclaimed that with this money we can buy a naadan gondola back home. *Sigh* Parents….

It’s impossible to get lost in Venice. There are directions at every other street. After an hour’s walk we finally reached Piazza San Marco. The Basilica here ( Basilia San Marco)  is famed to be extraordinary. It is unique because the interiors are gilded. It’s grand, the ceiling, with intricate carvings on gold. Unfortunately, photography is not permitted inside.

Outside, in the square, there is another attraction- Pigeons, hundreds of them. Stretch your arms and stand midst them and in seconds you’ll have pigeons on your arms and your head. Of course, you have to be careful that you don’t get pecked!

As planned we took the ferry to get back. Line 1 is exclusively for tourists, it goes much slower than the normal boats. The ride to Piazza le Roma was wonderful. The Grand Canal is flanked on both sides by houses, cafes, offices, some with their personal piers. Why, we even saw a church by the water and people getting down at its pier. There were even apartments with parking lots for boats! Imagine going home on your private boat and entering your porch by water…

Once in the room we were relieved to find that Bilal hadn’t managed to lose himself in the city. Instead he had invested his allowance on coke (I told you, he is an addict).

We decided to see Venice by the night.
If witnessing Venice by the day is beautiful, Venice at night is an altogether different experience. The streets come alive with makeshift food stalls selling roasted chestnuts (the smell of which is irresistible) and hawkers trying to sell fake Rolex watches and Gucci bags. On some of the wider streets there are markets selling fresh fruits and vegetables (frutta e verdura). I was recording all these scenes on my handy cam when I saw some paintings on sale. I was looking at them through the lens when a hand blocks my lens and pushes the camera away. I was about to begin a fight thinking it was one of my brothers when I saw that it was some strange old man. After pushing me he rushed to his paintings and covered it. I was stunned for a while. I guess he didn’t want his signature pieces to be recorded.  Of course, my dearest brothers didn’t lose this opportunity to pull my leg. This was fodder for them to tease me for the rest of the stay there.

Dinner was at a fabulous Chinese restaurant. Great service and delicious food. Icing on the cake was the dessert-‘fried ice cream’ recommended by our Chinese waitress, a sweet lady who conversed in minimal English but spoke Italian like Italians do- incomprehensibly (to us).

The next day we set out earlier than the previous day. We boarded a ferry from Piazza Le Roma which took us to Lido, the last stop. We had planned to come back walking. What we didn’t know was that Lido is an island (one of the 117 in Venice). It is connected to the mainland only by boat. So we walked around Lido, which doesn’t look like Venice, with its broad streets and few people about. (My dad says it’s like nammude Fort Kochi). After an hour of wandering through this island we took the speed boat back. Once in Piazza Le Roma we went about souvenir shopping, buying plaques and mini Venetian masks.

Back in the room our luggage was all packed. It was 3 pm and we set our GPS Navigator back to Brindisi. The return to Brindisi was a 1000 km drive along the Adriatic coastline, with stops at Ancona and Bari, both sea side towns We spent Saturday night at Ancona,  after driving around 400 Kms from Venice. The last leg was another 550 Kms with an hour long break at Bari. We were back home by evening. That was the end of our 10 day tour. 

Writing this travelogue/ diary was very enjoyable- Relating experiences at different places, smiling when particular incidents came to mind and laughing at some private joke. I rewound and relived each moment of those wonderful 10 days. I hope you enjoyed the glimpses into our tour and maybe even motivated to travel to this part of the world! J


  1. Yes really enjoyed your writing. U can take travelogue as a profession, a good excuse to travel round the world!!

  2. Oh yes! I would love to be paid to travel and tell people about the places I visited :)