My First day in Venice by Julia Harden
Best Memories of Venice
After Stephen Killick shared his Best Memories of Venice, many people have sent me their own impressions on Venice: everyone wants to share their love and the emotions which my lovely city arises in people’s heart!
Here is how Julia Harden, on her First Day in Venice, a few years ago!
And if you too want to share your Best Memories of Venice, feel free to send me a short story and I will be happy to publish it!
My First day in Venice
Venice is renowned for being one of the most romantic places to visit, but it is hard to feel the romance, when zipped into a hooded fleece, getting wet, but dodging the hawkers, determined to save us from the rain, with an overpriced umbrella.
Unfortunately, I had chosen this holiday to pack light and expecting only sunny weather in June; I had packed nothing for “what if”. Bedraggled and disappointed, I was nevertheless determined to make the best of it, but this was not how I imagined my first day in Venice would be.
We had decided, when planning our trip, that it would be easier to stay on the mainland, as we had a hire car to leave somewhere. I totally regretted that decision, and, in hindsight, it would have been much better to stay in Venice.
After driving up from Rimini, our plans went awry and we missed the boat from Fusina and, being eager to get there quickly, we drove instead, and parked on the multistorey car park in Piazzale Roma. At last we walked over our first bridge towards the Grand Canal and I can still remember the pleasure and excitement I felt: I was finally there.
The Grand Canal was quite choppy and at every stop the vaporetto bounced ferociously against the landing stage like bumper cars at a fairground. From now on this would be our mode of transport, unless we walked, and it was then I realized how unique this place actually is.
I found it hard to describe my first view of the canal, my head swivelled from side to side trying not to miss anything; it was like another world, a glorious, grand, fabulous world, full of history and of long gone aristocracy and faded glamour, crumbling walls and paintwork and it left me speechless.
Normal life goes on here though and when trying to ignore the rise and fall of the boat, I started to watch a lady negotiate her way around an extremely large puddle outside a building; she was determined not to get her feet wet and once she reached the door, she produced a plank of wood to use to bring her shopping trolley across the water.
We got off at Accademia and began to explore, and came across one of the bridges I had read about: Il ponte dei Pugni, the story to this bridge brings to life how it once was in Venice.
We’d arrived on a Sunday which was quiet most likely due to the weather, but ideal for wandering around. I was fascinated by the mask shops, fabulous creations ranging from plain cat masks to beautifully ornate masterpieces and some creepy ones. I love that there are speciality shops in Venice: a pen shop that sold quills, one that sold aprons and bibs and one that seemed to stock only watch straps. We strolled around and despite the rain we enjoyed wandering and watching the gondoliers navigate up and down the canals.
St Marks Square was covered in massive puddles and it was dark by this time and the lights and reflections in the water were mesmerizing. There were only a few people around and all the cafes were empty, which seemed a great shame, but no doubt the staff were glad of a quiet night for once, and busied themselves mopping up the wet floors.
I had read so much about St Marks Square both by day and night, I’d not expected mops and buckets, but it just goes to show everyone’s experience is different and you don’t know which side of Venice you will see. There were still some musicians around though and as we walked away from the square, they started to play a song: I recognized,Quando Quando Quando, and it seemed just perfect to me.
Another day in Venice
Our second day dawned much the same as the first, wet and grey.
We caught the waterbus this time and headed out from Fusina.
When dreaming of Venice I thought this would be the best and most picturesque way to arrive, sailing through the sparkling lagoon with blue skies above and Venice on the horizon, but it wasn’t quite the same with the low rain clouds and bad visibility.
It took about 25 minutes to cross and we landed at Zattere for a full day of sightseeing.
It was a lot busier despite the rain, and crowded in some parts, the streets and passageways can be very narrow and at times claustrophobic, and I found that some people’s umbrellas were wielded more like weapons than shields.
I had meticulously compiled a “to see list”, but in the time we had, it wasn’t enough to do more than scratch the surface. We didn’t go in any art galleries or churches and we only admired the splendour of the basilica from the outside. I felt quite bad about this, had we let Venice down by not seeing the best of what she has to offer. We did see some of every day Venice, fruit and veg sold from a boat on a canal, kids coming home from school, lines of washing hanging out, people out and about with their dogs, police boats and boats of all sizes moored up and down as if every house has one.
After seeing as much as we could and hopping on and off vaporettos, we had a leisurely meal and started walking back to catch the boat; we thought we were going the right way, but it only takes one wrong turn and suddenly we were lost; as we were walking, it went from dusk to dark and lo and behold we found ourselves back outside the restaurant we had set off from.
It had become quite misty on the back street canals and there seemed to be a greenish tinge to the mist; it was eerie, but not in a scary way, just delightfully different, an atmosphere belonging solely to Venice. Finally after more wrong turns we got back on familiar ground, and as we walked through Campo Santa Margherita, the air changed to being quite balmy and the square was a busy and vibrant place to be, just how I’d imagined.
I have been back since and stayed in Venice as I vowed I would after this trip. It will always be a place I love and I intend to carry on returning to make new memories, but the memories from the first time will always have a special place in my heart.
Thank you Julia for your lovely story and we hope to see you back in Venice soon! Possibly in the sun!
Did you like Julia’s story? Want to share your love for Venice? Send me a short story of your best memory of Venice and I will be happy to publish it!
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