An (un)successful visit to Venice

It was a field trip that went wrong on so many levels.

For us who live in Rijeka, Venice has always been a great and very convenient destination for one-day field trips by car. Hence, ever since I was a child, whenever my family had the wish to experience a dose of Italian culture, we would simply sit in our car and drive the 200 km to La Serenissima.

 Piazza San Marco and the symbols of Venice

One weekend this February, we decided to visit Venice once again since my mom has never been there during the period of the Carnivale before and she really wanted to see the Venetian carnival costumes and masks. Armed with high spirits, Italian music and traveling tips from my friend who often organizes tours in Venice, we embarked on the short, but sweet journey.

 The Tower

Unfortunately, very soon we realised that not everything will go as we planned.

Firstly, we missed the intended point of vaporetto departure to the islands of the Laguna. Instead of at Punta Sabbioni, the location which was closer and where parking is cheaper, we decided to ignore our GPS, circle the islands and leave our car at Tronchetto. Why we ignored the directions provided by our GPS, we will never know, but the time we lost trying to decide what to do and whether to go back dampened our spirits a bit.

Because of our parking faux pas, we had to change our plans and give up from visiting the adorable island of Burano, since we were at the wrong side of the island and taking the vaporetto to the island would be too time-consuming and not very practical.

When we finally reached the island of Venice, and started to search for the couples in Venetian costumes in the crowd… we saw none. We looked around Venice in vain trying to locate them, but to no avail. The only photo of a (live) masked couple we managed to take was in one of the small side street while they were on a cigarette break. It turned out that the first weekend of the Carnival is really not the best time to visit Venice if you are looking to find a bunch of people showing off the grace and beauty of Venetian carnival masks, because you might end up not finding them at all.

 The masked coupleVenetian masks_2Venetian masks_1

So, it was a trip during which we managed to do practically everything wrong. However, despite of all the mishaps, it also turned out to be a trip full of firsts.

It was the first time we managed to escape the crowds on Riva degli Schiavoni and across the Ponte dei Sospiri and come to the island from a different, definitely not less beautiful side of the Laguna. It allowed us to see the Venetian vistas without crossing paths with large groups of tourists and enjoy some new experiences.

Venetian carnival masks for sale

We took a ride down the most beautiful Venetian “street”. Thanks to an Italian tourist we met while waiting to buy the vaporetto tickets, we decided to take an hour long ride through the Canal Grande and enjoyed its beautiful architecture, details and the loud, buzzing life.

Canal GrandeThe gondolasPonte di Rialto

We had a drink in what seemed to be the coolest place in Venice: a tiny place offering a variety of wines and small sandwiches, close to Mercato di Rialto. Instead of sitting at the table (there are none, and no chairs), you take your glass and occupy one part of the small piazzeta, enjoying the wine of your choice or the authentic, and so very tasty, aperol spritz.

We decided to wander around Venice without a map and got the chance to see sidesand secrets of the town that were never before a part of our touristic itineraries.

 Venice, a detail

Is there a conclusion to this story? Well, I hope so: because regardless of all the mishaps and plans that went awry, the field trip we took was exciting, beautiful and new on so many levels. It proved to us, once again, that there is really no such thing as “visiting a place too many times”, because every trip you take to the same place will bring you something new, something you didn’t see or know before. And as for my mom’s wish to see the carnival masks? Well, that really isn’t a problem that cannot be solved – we’ll simply have to visit Venice again next winter.

Venice, a detailCanal Grande, again

Hidden Venetian gems

How exciting is to find hidden gems close to your home that feel like being from another world! Although I’ve been to Venice several times, I’ve almost always followed the same touristic footsteps: Piazza San Marco, Doge’s Palace, Rialto Bridge… A bit of people watching, a lot of thronging with gazillions of tourists, waving to gondolas passing by, buying some souvenirs… and that’s it. That’s Venice! Or is it?

Venice in bluePosing
A few weeks ago I’ve been to Venice again, with a dear friend who is absolutely in love with that island. We wandered around without stress and pressure, staying off the tourist paths as much as possible, without plans and city maps. We kept getting lost in the small streets and squares, getting surprised by majestic facades and cupolas of churches and palaces, stumbling upon small, private and very intimate campos and back yards. It was Venice seen in a completely different light.

Venice pigeonsVeniceVenice, the viewGondolas... waiting Gondolas, details
The biggest surprise of the trip was the visit to the island of Burano. Less-known than its neighbour Murano famous for glass production, I got the impression that it sometimes gets neglected by the tourists visiting the Laguna. And that just might be the best thing for the small island – because without the lines of tourists, you can experience the specific relaxed and casual atmosphere of the magical place. Burano is the closest thing to Wonderland that I have ever seen, with its small streets and bridges spanning the canals, and the fantastically colourful facades of houses. Pink, red, green, blue… Every single house on the island is of a different colour or tone. It’s no wonder that Burano is popular with the artists, because it is so adorable and inspiring and different that you feel like you got lost in a fairytale and you don’t ever want to leave.

Burano coloursBurano, colourful houses
Legend says that women started to paint houses in different, specific and very visible colours so that their husbands could find their way coming home from fishing in the misty, dark Laguna mornings (there is also the version saying that the husbands were slightly mischievous, getting lost in other women’s beds, and that that might be the reason for the strong colours). Whatever the reason, colourful houses became a trademark of Burano, and if someone wants to repaint their home, they have to send a special request to the Italian government who then responds by making notice of the certain colours permitted for that specific lot.

Apart from the colourful houses, Burano is also known for its lace production, and you can buy beautiful fragile lace products everywhere you look. There are also some beautiful shops selling local food products such as pasta, biscuits or specific drinks. Burano is very small, and you can see everything in an hour, but the size certainly doesn’t affect the enjoyment factor! You have enough time for wandering around, taking photos and sitting down in one of the cute island cafes where you can enjoy a glass of Bellini, the traditional (and quite delicious) drink made with Prosecco and peach purée. What a great way to finish off the beautifully authentic Venetian experience!

Burano coloursBurano, a momentGreetings from Burano with Aperol Spritz and a Bellini!