In the entrance hall of my parent’s home, there was a dark oil painting depicting a flotilla of gondolas tied up at the canal side in Venice. It used to fascinate me and I loved sitting on the stairs looking over the gondolas imaging one day travelling to that far off mythical place where they had boats not cars, canals not streets.
It’s a good thing I found that picture fascinating, because when I was naughty my mother would send me off to my bedroom as a punishment, and I would sneak back down, venturing as far as the third from bottom stair where I would spend my disgrace, ( on the naughty step) listening to 1970 TV theme tune greats like Starsky and Hutch and of course studying every detail of that painting. I can almost still recall it now; the dark murky blue waters, the boats laden with goods from far off lands, and the gondolas painted black and trimmed with gold.
I saw a great deal of that picture of Venice.
Yes, I was that naughty!
But maybe that’s also why I was so excited when the opportunity arose for me to head over to Italy for a week and to spend three nights in Venice with Groupon Getaways. For well over two years now I’ve been getting the Groupon Getaways email filled to the brim with enticing travel offers and it always gets my click.
Travel is like a drug for me. I love travelling almost as much as I love having a base which I can call home.
So I was delighted to rustle up my Englishman and fly from Stansted to Venice Treviso at sparrow fart last Sunday, arriving at the Piazzale de Roma in Venice just before lunch, spilling out of the airport bus and onto the main drag, a curious halfway place. On the one side of the terminal a world full of cars, buses, fumes and trains; on the other – canals, gondoli, vaporetto (public waterway transport) and tourists.
Our hotel, the Hotel Amadeus was not far from the station area, in the less touristy area of Canaregio, but even its street (Lista de Spagna) was lined with stalls selling cheap fake handbags, Carnival Masks and Murano glass trinkets. The whole area was already pumping with tourists when we arrived before lunch and that was without a major cruise ship in port.
Before the heat really started to get to us (going from 6 deg C to 30 deg C is a jump!) we stumbled into the hotel reception, all marble floors and cut glass chandeliers. It looked decidedly posh, and I anxiously went over the contents of my pack in my mind. Not a pretty dress or LBD contained therein.
I needn’t have worried too much.
As is often typical with Italian hotels the fascia is impressive, the interior not so much, but still comfortable and what a great position! After a short ride in the smallest lift in the world (seriously it only fits 2.5 people, and I’m talking regular not XL) we arrived at our room which was really quite nice, except for one thing….
WHY do the Europeans do it?
Is it an overdeveloped sense of modesty? Are they concerned about noise levels? Or is it simply a means of making the most of space?
Our room came with the typical twin bed setup.
I guess you can’t have everything. We were in Venice, at least… one of the most romantic cities in the world…and there would be no need for me to revisit my childhood spent on the proverbial naughty step. Perhaps I’d spend the three and a half days exploring my religious side instead?
Not such a silly thought, as in Venice there is a magical church around every corner. So much so we almost became blasé about it. Oh look another magnificent marble structure, adorned with gold and decorated with exquisitely carved figures depicting a curious mixture of Christian and Roman myths! Another humungous dome? Another awe-inspiring Basilica with horses carved out of bronze and intricately painted, carved and gilded ceilings that surely must represent a lifetime of chiropractic therapy for the painter?
There are magical sights in Venice, everywhere. Around every corner and every canal. I think our cameras almost died of heat stroke.
One of our favourite religious places in Venice was St Mark’s Basilica in the Piazza San Marco, a huge impressive Byzantine building that dominates the Piazza San Marco.
Tips for visiting Basilica di San Marco
1/Women will not be admitted with uncovered shoulders or short skirts or shorts. If you turn up unsuitably dressed you will be required to take one of their sack cloth styled ‘shawls’ and drape it around your waist or shoulders. I’m guessing the fabric is the punishment. Better to take your own pretty shawl or sarong, even if the temps are soaring.
2/You are not supposed to photograph inside the Basilica and will be told off roundly by the
guard attendant in a manner quite reminiscent of being bawled out in front of the school at assembly. Wait until you have gone upstairs to see the Terrace and then you’ll be able to sneak in a few decent shots of the magnificent painted Dome ceiling – not to mention the horses carved out of bronze that Napoleon nicked and took to France, and the breath taking view over the Piazza.
3/Don’t split up so that one can mind the place in the queue whilst the other takes photos, as your other half will get lost in the Piazza heaving with tourists and tour guides waving closed umbrellas and flagged antenna with efficacious intent. I speak from grumpy experience, after which I required a gelato mood enhancer from the little store down the alley on the right hand side of the Piazza. (Mine was lemone.Yum!)
4/Do pay the €5 to climb the steep stairs to the Terrace, the views are amazing and it’s remarkably peaceful up there with the sounds of jazz wafting up from the Piazza.
5/Take your own picnic along and avoid the exorbitant prices of food and drink in the glitzy cafes surrounding the Piazza, but DON’T try and eat it in the Piazza as picnics are strictly forbidden. We ate our little picnic of salami, bread and cheese in the corridors of the Doge’s Palace and felt quite smug at enjoying a cheap fresh lunch in such magnificent surroundings.
Later we stumbled back to the hotel on a beautiful balmy evening. And here’s the funny thing – after all that architectural beauty, you’d be surprised at how romantic it is, twin beds or not!
Disclaimer: We spent three nights in Venice and flights to Venice and back from Rome as guests of Groupon Getaways. All opinions are my own.