Some trips can be best described as unplanned.
The one that I am about to write about in this article is can be best described as ‘the destined trip’.
We spent much time to plan our impending winter trip to Europe. Initially, it was supposed to be a Christmas special trip, to cover the famed Christmas markets. This obviously signaled that Italy was most unlikely to make it on our itinerary. A few delays later, the idea a Christmas trip had gone for a complete toss. Our trip got delayed by exactly 2 months. And we were all set to explore European winters in the new year.
It was surprising to many, considering the popularity of the City of Canals amongst the many tourists over the years.
Truth be told, the only thing that had us all riled up about Venice was the expense of a 2 days stay in the city. I’d like to presume that Venice, was never on our bucket list. So even our research on the city was as scarce as one could imagine.
Why we went to Venice?
The key reason why we traveled to Venice was to enter Italy via an overnight train from Vienna, Austria. Considering majority European trains are high-speed trains with a journey not spanning over 6 hours, this journey was an exception. We got on to the night train from Vienna and reached Venice the next morning.
This was we saved a travel day and a night’s accommodation expense as well.
What we didn’t know about Venice?
Honestly, there was a lot that we didn’t know about Venice.
Venice to us has always been that postcard perfect destination, used as a backdrop in some of the top Bollywood songs.
Of course, we were also aware that Venice was heavily crowded by tourists and was one of the top destinations to suffer from ‘over-tourism’.
It would be right to say that we were barely aware of what to do, what to see, the best time to visit Venice, the cultural norms, etc.
Everything that we learned about this city was all the exploration in the span of just 2 days.
What did we do in Venice?
The Venezian Surprise took time to unfold. After reaching Venice we went straight to our little apartment to take freshen up. With the view of the canal from the window, there could’ve been no better start to our Venetian experience. For our first day, we took a water taxi to the Rialto Bridge and for the next hour or so, we took full advantage of our water taxi card and took a complete overview of Venice.
We had one more day and there was something amiss about our experience in Venice.
We had the pizzas, took water taxi rides, visited the famous Rialto Bridge and also went shopping to the supermarket and grabbed some wine.
The next day, we started early and decided to skip the trip to the villages of Murano and Burrano.
That was the beginning of the adventure, today we took a different road. Little did we know that this was the very path that connected the little colonies to the city center. We walked around the narrow lanes to discover Venice.
This was a city with homes built around the narrow canals, making the impossible look like a piece of art.
Discovering the Magic of Venice
A man stood by the stairs, all dressed up as if for a fancy-dress competition. This was just the beginning.
The magic called Venice had just begun to unravel itself.
As we walked further, what we saw was more people. Some selling fresh grocery, some disappearing into the narrow lanes. Venice had no regal feels, but the grunge came with a romantic vibe. Colorful windows had flowers blooming in contrasting colors.
These were just small things, but as gorgeous as they were it was hard to not notice. Venice had a sense of mysterious charm even with all those crowds.
Every few meters there was a new discovery.
First of all, the gondolas. It was like a painting. Men dressed in striped t-shirts of black and white with hats on their heads rode a couple/family in the tiny gondolas across the narrow canals.
It was like a good life commercial where everyone only looked happy.
Then there were the little shops that came our way. These shops were alluring to all senses with a variety of Italian and coastal desserts being displayed. Candies, donuts, gelatos, fritelles in all colors and mostly lots of chocolate called out to the crowds of many passing by.
Like all things Italian, what came next was something obvious- statues. Statues of kings, artists, merchants and sailors kept appearing out of nowhere. I particularly recall Goldoni’s statue looking all pepped up with the pigeons flocking around. And then, there were souvenir shops. I’ve seen some of the most precious and prettiest souvenirs in Venice including the feathered pens and leather diaries.
In the meanwhile, we saw more people dressed up in gorgeous costumes walking around.
Seriously, what was this place?
Venice Carnival, 2018
As we continued walking around, wanting more of this place, we came across many stores that sold masks. We also spotted many people wearing these masks. Of course, the masks were not new to us. But a sense of curiosity took over and we found ourselves walking into one big store full of a variety of masks.
The starting price of the most basic mask was 25 euros. (That’s like 4 pizzas) Each mask was handmade, made with precision for every face type and size. Each mask depicted something important in the Venetian culture.
There were also many charming collectibles like wall pieces, diaries, pens, wind chimes, etc.
What was incredible was there many such stores in Venice and thanks to the boom of tourists, these families survived on the mask making business.
While we were still trying to grasp the information, we were told of the on-going Venice Carnival. This was pure coincidence, the good one!
St. Mark’s Square
Unprepared for what was to overwhelm us, we entered the St. Mark’s Basilica square. It was like walking straight into a movie!
People were dressed in a variety of costumes, wearing masks and special makeup to complement their character. For as far as the eyes could see, there were colors. Colorful costumes, crowds of people, dressed up and enthusiastic. Each one stopping by, posing for pictures for those in their way.
There were programs lined up at various venues around Venice across the day.
The timing of our trip was pure coincidence. And we were still trying to make sense of what was around us!
To say the least, we walked, we clicked and we stayed awestruck!
This was truly a destined experience.