As a kid I had this memory game card set that I loved very much. They had different photos representing each city. For instance, New Delhi had a snake charmer (yeah! :/), London had Big Ben, San Francisco had The Golden Gate Bridge and so on… The card for Venice had the picture of a three tier Gondola with the canal in the background. The idea of a city on water with canals instead of roads seemed very exotic to me. Ever since I have been obsessed with it and over the years my obsession with Venice had become my obsession with Italy. And guess what? I got to tick Venice off my bucket list in April!!
People say that you either love Venice or hate it – there is no way you can be indifferent to the city. And after dreaming of what it would be like for the better part of my life, I was prepared to be disappointed once I landed because I didn’t think reality could beat my imagination. So after checking in at our hotel and a refreshing bath, we soon headed to Pizza San Marco. At first glance, the city seemed and felt like a typical tourist trap. Restaurants, Murano Glass Shops, Souvenir Shops and a lot of tourist attraction points rammed into one square. There are attractions peppered all over the different islands, but Piazza San Marco is the center of all the hubdub. It is a city with a lot of art and culture to offer to its visitors. At the same time, it is also a city that can deliver gastronomic pleasures with its usual flair. It can also be a shopper’s paradise.
But it wasn’t until I had a look around and ended up sitting down on the bank at the Piazzetta for a break that I really took notice of the rustic charm of the place. We ended up skipping a lot of “spots” that we had planned to visit and walked around the town instead. We switched off our Google Maps, and made it a game to see how long we could walk without having to cross a canal. Sounds childish perhaps, but it was fun discovering small cafes, churches and different piazzas on our own. We may have missed out on some of the “must see” places that makes lists look good, but we also got to avoid the crowd and see the side of Venice that perfectly planned trips do not cover. The beautiful bridges that connects the city, the modern touch ups on really old buildings, the really small alleyways (the last two things did make me think of Banaras/Varanasi for a second), lovers locks at random bridges, the gondoliers trying to convince you to take a ride with them and the chefs insisting that you don’t have to pay unless you absolutely love their food – things that you do not seem to take much notice of at the beginning turn out to be the things that you take away from the city. To enjoy this city, you have to forget your plans and just follow where your heart takes you.
Venice did not knock me off my feet nor did it Wow me. It kind of grew on me and captured my heart. The really old buildings with crumbling plasters, the cheery Gondolas, the narrow alleys and the small pizza parlours – all it took was 3 days – to fall in LOVE.