Venice was somehow never a trip that I wanted to take – I thought that it could not be too different from the rest of the Adriatic coastline that I knew well and which was under Venetian Republic for a while. Besides I’ve read the news of how Venice was experiencing over-tourism and how it might disappear in the future when the sea level rises, so I wanted to avoid this overcrowded place. There were many other places on this planet that I wished to see first.
Biennale 2022 finally persuaded me to give Venice a try. I booked us three days thinking that this would be more than enough to see the city of canals and bridges. Oh boy, was I wrong! Venice turned out to be the most amazing experience. At the beginning of November, we were blessed with sunny skies, pleasantly warm air and many hidden pockets of calm.
I felt my heart swell with excitement bridge after bride, monumental building after building, corner after corner as we crisscrossed narrow web of streets and canals. I was struck by the sheer number of bridges, each offering its own unique perspectives of the waterways and its surroundings. We wondered if locals needed to use a map on a daily basis in order to get to the other side of the city or if they knew their ways around every single corner. We made it a goal to see as much as possible and cross as many bridges as we could during the stay.
San Marco Square and nearby Giardini Real depict city’s essence through its rich architectural and cultural heritage. Despite being one of the most popular tourist destinations in Venice, the square is still a must-visit for its beauty and history. We passed it several times and every time it left a huge impression on me, my mind drifting to the beginnings of the square’s history. Our favourite coffee spot ended up being nearby terrace of Ombra del Leone where we immersed the views of the stunning Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute on the other side of the canal and enjoyed the view of passing gondolas.
In our quest to discover as much as possible and experience local life, beyond the famous Rialto Bridge and San Marco Square, we ventured into a historic neighbourhood of Cannaregio, one of the six districts of Venice. It is the best known for its Jewish Quarter. It is an area filled with traditional taverns, shops, and markets that offer a glimpse into everyday Venetian life, as well as a hint of the past. We felt a sense of peace as we explored this quiet corner of Venice because its narrow, winding streets and colourful buildings were a stark contrast to the more touristy areas that we wanted to avoid.
We were in awe of locals, who dressed their best to frequent a nearby cafe bars and bakeries for a quick sip of an espresso or a spritz and who notoriously stood at the bar chatting away with the cafe staff. So, throughout the day we acted the same – stopping in random corner cafes for a refreshing spritz, a strong espresso, or a little bite to eat.
As the sun was setting, we were making our way through the winding streets, eager to experience the city’s famous late-night cicchetti scene that we heard about. We found a small bar, Osteria al Ponte, to sample the delicious bite-sized treats filled with different types of fish and cheeses. The bar was bustling with locals and tourists alike, and we felt a sense of excitement as we waited in line to order a selection of cicchettis. Since there were no free tables inside, we found a perfect spot along the water’s edge on a nearby bridge. Each cicchetti was more delicious than the last one, as we washed them down with a glass of spritz. We observed passing boats under the soft glow of the streetlights with kids playing football on a nearby square, while listening to the sounds of laughter and conversations. All of this made for a truly enjoyable setting, and we found ourself returning to this place every single night wishing we could stay in Venice forever.
Of course, one of the highlights of our trip was the 59th Venice Biennale. During our stay, we were able to immerse ourselves in the world of contemporary art enjoying art exhibitions and installations in different venues around the Castello neighbourhood. Venice Biennale is an international art exhibition featuring diverse array of artists, curators, and art lovers from around the world. It is held every two years and it is not just for art aficionados and experts; it also offers an excellent experience to art amateurs to explore and enjoy contemporary art through various exhibitions.
When we were about to head to Milano after three days of exploring Venice, we felt a sense of great sadness at the thought of leaving this magical city. There was so much more to Venice than just its famous canals and bridges, and we felt that during this trip we just scraped the surface of the city. I left Venice with a new appreciation for its art, its history, and its hidden gems, and I am sure that this will not be my last visit.