I am glad I only spent a day in Venice.
That is how I would sum my feelings up, but let’s rewind a bit.
Over this trip I have had quite a few moments of supreme contentment. I don’t want to say happiness, because that conveys a certain glee or excitement that I wouldn’t say I had. The feeling is more a feeling that I am exactly where I ought to be. Or a feeling that I am where I need to be. Or where I should be. This feeling has come while crossing the Thames on my way to Victoria Station in London, while seeing La Segrada Familia for the first time, while walking through “the tunnel” in Monaco, while first laying eyes on the Colosseum and other times throughout my trip. I suppose you could say it is a mixture of a knowledge of the historical importance of these places, or a recognition of their iconic nature. Whatever this feeling is, I certainly had plenty of it in Venice.
Crossing the bridge from mainland Italy to the islands of Venice certainly elicited that feeling. As we began to slow down for the station someone asked me if this was the last stop. I oh-so wittily replied “If we go any further we will be in the ocean”. I meant it nicely, but I think it was mistaken for an insult. Oops. I dropped my bag off at the train station, which by the way, is not cheap at 5 euros for the first 5 hours and then a euro an hour after. Exiting the train station I crossed a bridge over the grand canal. Again, that same feeling. Venice is just such an iconic city. Wandering around you constantly get the feeling that you just couldn’t be anywhere else.
I didn’t have a guide-book, nor did I really do any planning so at first I just wandered. I had a guide app on my phone which I used mostly as a map to get me to the Pallazo Ducale. This former home/prison of the Doce and the seat of the administration of the city was remarkable. After waiting in line for a 20 or so minutes I paid 8 euros (student discount) to enter. It was probably the best museum of this trip so far. The palace is not only ornate, but also interesting. The museum is a mixture of art and history, deftly blending the architecture and decoration of the palace into a narrative of the actual use of the palace.
Unlike the Uffizi or the Vatican Museum you are presented with equal helpings of art and history. The Vatican treads lightly on history, probably largely because their history isn’t all that good, and the Uffizi shows little trace of anything beyond art history. Here, you see the brilliant decoration of a room and learn about its use in the Venetian government. One example of this is a room used for hosting the Senate (I believe) which consisted of thousands of aristocratic families. Ornately decorated and absolutely massive, you can really picture lively debate occurring in this room. There were also the dungeons which you reach by crossing the “bridge of sighs”, named due to the bridge being the last time many of the prisoners would see the outside world and hence provoking sighs.
After leaving the Pallazo Ducale I wondered around soaking in the sights and seeing if anything stood out as something I needed to do. I walked into a bookstore claiming to be “The most beautiful bookstore in the world”. It was quaint and I’m glad I walked in, but most beautiful… Probably not. I quickly realized that there just wasn’t anything else I really wanted to see. Due to my lack of research ahead of time I may have missed an awesome museum or something, but all the cathedrals and art museums I passed just did not seem appealing. By 4 or so I just wanted to sit down, out of the sun, and read. Which brings me to a brief rant.
Italy sucks when it comes to public spaces. At least public spaces where one can sit down quietly and read. Rome, Florence and Venice all have woefully few benches and parks. When they do have parks, they tend not to have too many places to sit, especially shady places. The cynic in me thinks it may have something to do with the fact that almost all public squares are lined with chairs, they are just for restaurants and cafes. I have a feeling local governments may be influenced to not put up free places to sit so as to make people more likely to stop at a restaurant or cafe. Otherwise I can’t really think of good reasons why the many vast public squares wouldn’t have more benches. In Spain it was usually easy to find a small park with many shady benches. Madrid was stuffed with them. Barcelona had plenty. Nice had quite a few as well, not to mention a huge beach area. London in my short time there had plenty of room in its parks and the Queen’s jubilee was on so they were probably considerably more full than normal. But for some reason Italy does not want me to sit. In Venice, there were a bunch of people who seem to be paid for the sole purpose of telling people they can’t sit on anything in the square, despite people being allowed to walk on these same things. They allowed children to climb all over statues but apparently I can’t sit.
After way too much walking, I finally found a place to eat and had a pretty good dinner of seafood risotto and a cold seafood salad. My feet were, and still are, hurting from all the standing and walking. Venice was one of the highlights of my trip from 10am until about 3pm. But from 3pm until getting on a train at 9pm it was a low-point. I’m not sure what I would do in this city if I stayed for longer than a day. I suppose there are other islands that I never went to, and maybe a museum or two that might be interesting, but I am glad I only spent a day in Venice.