1 June, 2015
So, after finding our amazingly dodgy hostel and checking in, Anna and I were ready to hit the town, explore the streets, investigate the city of canals. We left the dark alleyway in which we were lodging and emerged into the glaring Venetian sun. Within about two minutes we could already feel ourselves burning and were getting sweaty – and it was only the first of June, for goodness’ sake!
We crossed the piazza and decided to walk towards the Grand Canal (basically the highway of canals) by first following a small canal near our hostel. Which was great. Until the pathway stopped and we had to cross a bridge to the other side of the canal. And then that pathway turned, and then we had to cross again, and very quickly we had lost the direction of the Grand Canal. Alas, we underestimated the windiness and twistiness and general confusion of the Venetian canal system, which is basically a series of mismatched bridges, dead ends (in terms of the footpaths, at least) and crazy small streets which somehow in some round-about way seem to link the crazy and colourful patchwork which is the main island of Venice.
In short, we got slightly lost.
But not to fear! With the help of GPS we were able to navigate the Venetian backstreets and set ourselves back on course, onwards towards the Grand Canal!
When we arrived, emerging onto the bustling highway of various boats and watercraft, flanked by grand churches and fancy restaurants, we headed straight to the ticket kiosk for the vaporetto (a.k.a. the water taxi) and grabbed ourselves a day pass before running to grab the just-about-to-depart vaporetto for Lido, a small island which forms part of Venice, known principally as a beach/party island for youth.
The trip down the Grand Canal was magnificent, and my memory card was about to explode with the amount of photos and videos I took. What strikes me about Venice, and the Grand Canal in particular, is that every building is completely different. Whether in terms of colour or design or patterns, there is something unique about each one – just like a patchwork quilt. We passed grand marble museums, bright red houses, yellow offices, and even a couple of buildings which were covered in golden mosaics. I didn’t know where to look! It was stunning.
Though we caught what was definitely one of the best views just as we moved out of the Grand Canal and hit open water. The sun aligned perfectly, casting a great shadow along the water and gondole flocked in and out of the wide funnel opening of the canal. It was the perfect postcard moment:
Arriving at Lido, we walked around slightly lost for a moment or two before hitting the main street and stumbling upon one of the best gelato bars ever. Which is saying a lot considering that we had been in Italy for four months at this stage! It was the perfect balance of creaminess and freshness, a welcome reprieve after a long train ride and hot afternoon.
The main street – which was basically a collective of shops, bars and restaurants – led straight from the vaporetto station to what was the main ‘attraction’ on Lido: the beach. Walking towards it, I was struck with the intense urge to laugh. “Spiaggia Libera” (“Free Beach”) was proudly displayed in large letters – for those who aren’t aware, Italy (like other European countries) has a policy whereby the beach may be owned by restaurants/cafes/establishments and there is a fee in order to enter the beach. Yes, fellow indignant Australians, such madness exists in the world.
Luckily for us though, the Lido beach was happily free of charge. We walked through the entrance (yup, to actually reach the beach, you have to walk through the concrete entrance, past the pizza bar and the restaurant) and emerged onto the grey sand. As far as the eye could see, umbrellas dotted the sand and children and adults alike enjoyed the sunshine. Anna headed straight for the water to dip her feet in while I marvelled at the fact that there were several trollies/carts selling beer and other alcoholic beverages, manned by suave young Italian males wearing sunglasses, while the lifeguard post was painfully lonely and abandoned.
Case in point:
After I recovered from my shock at the incredibly reality of how Italian beaches function, we enjoyed a lovely stroll on the – I need to emphasise once more – GREY sand, and then back down the main road. And yes, we are girls on holiday, so yes, some shopping was accomplished. Then it was back on the vaporetto, this time stopping at Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark’s Square). Sunset was slowly approaching and the piazza was absolutely gorgeous in the dimming light. We walked around, taking snaps of the Doge’s Palace and the Basilica – which was still impressive regardless of the fact that half of it was obscured by scaffolding (a trend with many European monuments, I had realised).
By this stage, the heat of the day had been sucked away and without the direct sunlight hitting our shoulders, it was getting quite chilly. So we headed off to find dinner and rest up, vowing to return in the morning to explore further (and hopefully do so without getting lost again!).