Trip to Italy, Part 3
Our final stop in Italy was Venice. We had a bit of a long train ride up to the city built on the water. Of course, once we arrived at the train station, we had to figure out how to buy passes for the “bus.” Of course, this bus is a boat. When they say that the only way to get around Venice is on the water, they aren’t joking. Once we finally arrive on the side of the island where our hotel is located, we set off into the most confusing maze of streets and bridges and canal passageways I could ever imagine.
There are no cars at all in Venice. There would be no room for them in the streets, since many of them are able the size of a hallway in your home. Plus, there’s a bridge with stairs you have to climb about every 200 feet. The locals get things around town on these carts that they have to take up and down the stairs constantly.
The city itself is a little sad. It doesn’t have the same bustle and life that Rome and Florence had, even though it’s just as crowded. However, nearly every person I saw who wasn’t working in a store or restaurant was not Italian. It’s literally a city of tourists. I had heard people say this before, but I didn’t quite understand until we were there. We actually had a tour to take just a couple of hours after we arrived. I thought it would be nice to hear more about the city and how it came to be. Unfortunately, we were really disappointed in the tour. We took a quick gondola ride, which was fun, but the waterways were so crowded with other boats at that time of day. And the walking tour merely showed us a couple of sites around town and didn’t get into much about the history of the city. I would have been happy skipping this tour.
Another thing we had heard about Venice is that, since it is such a tourist town, there are basically no authentic restaurants. They all have converted to catering to the tourist crowd with inauthentic, often overpriced meals. One of my main goals of this trip was the make it through without getting caught into any tourist trap restaurants and to find truly authentic food. So we heard that in Venice, the locals do a sort of “bar crawl” and stop at a couple of different restaurants and get small dishes and small glasses of wine at each, and make their way through a couple of different places. So we decided to give it a whirl… it didn’t work out so well. The first place we stopped at, well, let’s just say that neither of us have any idea what we ate. The server spoke no English and the food was some weird spongy/jelly consistency and honestly, I don’t think I want to know what it was. So we moved on to the next place and here we found really good paninis. So we stayed there, where we knew the food was good.
We did not do a whole lot of sightseeing in Venice, other than that initial tour. We only had two days there and by this time, we were both pretty tired from the constant walking every day. We decided to take it easy and to do some shopping. We made the plan to not try to get anywhere in particular, so that way, you can’t get lost if you don’t have somewhere you’re going. It made Venice much more enjoyable.
To sum it all up, it was a wonderful, potentially once in a lifetime (even though I hope not!) experience and I am so glad that we went. I loved having this opportunity to get away together before… we have other responsibilities that will likely make it more difficult to do so. I also feel that I learned some things on this trip. The Italians, I feel, have a better view of life than those of us in America do. They don’t spend so much of their time and don’t find so much of their identity in work. The start late and take a large break in the middle of the day, they spend time enjoying their food. They are a very “stop and smell the roses” kind of people. I wish I knew how to do that. But I am doing my best to learn how. I want to take more time for enjoying each day and not rushing through it all. In Eat, Pray, Love, she talks about the Italian ideal of “il bel far niente” which means “the beauty of doing nothing.” Basically, this come down to working hard and enjoying the time that you aren’t working and not having to constantly be doing something in order to feel validated. I think there is beauty in doing nothing. And I don’t mean in a lazy way, but in a savoring and accomplished way. That is the one souvenir I hope I brought home with me.