You can lead an Italian to Venice, can’t you?
by Dave Underwood
"Remember, don’t get off the train. You have to cross the water, Venice is an island."
"David, he’s not an idiot!" said Karen. "It’s his country!"
The phone card expired, cutting off Jimy’s reply. Karen was excited. We had met Jimy and Maria last week in a Florence bar, where Maria worked to pay her way through university. We had a lot of fun together and they were taking a day off to visit us in Venice before we left Italy.
Neither of them had been to Venice and I hoped the two train stations wouldn’t confuse them. There’s a mainland station at Mestre, then a bridge across the water to the island station at Santa Lucia. They’d know that, it’s their country. Of course they would.
We bought four day passes for the boats, planning to visit the main sights, then take Jimy and Maria to the lagoon islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello. By nine o’clock we were waiting at the train station. At nine-thirty we were still waiting.
I rang our pensione, doing battle in broken English with Manuel the Desk Clerk. Jimy had called wanting to know where we were, they were apparently waiting for us at the station. Apparently not. Then the obvious conclusion emerged.
Did they really get off at the wrong station? I left a message with Manuel, asking him to give directions if Jimy rang again.
By ten-thirty an embarrassed Jimy and a giggling Maria made it across the water to the island of Venice, arriving to applause from two Australian tourists. You can lead an Italian to Venice, it just might take a bit longer.
The thrill of exploring
The absence of traffic. The sound of water and its moody reflections. The romance of the light. Venice is breathtaking. But I really like the boats. The combination of walking and boating is fun and the ideal way to explore Venice. Single and multi-day boat passes represent great value and avoid the need to queue for individual tickets.
It’s also a small city, taking barely an hour to walk across if you don’t get lost. But you will. That’s why the combination of walking and boating works so well. Even when all is lost and your feet are sore, you’re never far away from Venice’s most beautiful street, the Grand Canal, and a vaporetti stop.
So grab a boat pass, your day pack and a camera, and let’s walk – you’ll discover memories to last a lifetime in the historic canals and lanes of the world’s most beautiful city.
The walking tours in this journal (and illustrated on the map from the Overview) provide a good introduction to Venice. They explore much of the main island, from the bustling tourism epicentre of St Marks to the farthest back streets, or should I say canals, of uncrowded Cannaregio, Dorsoduro and Castello.
They’re based on a philosophy that worked for us; a balanced view of the island and its people through a blend of popular sights and more cultural pursuits. And I can tell you, we got lost many times doing the research. But hey, that's half the fun.
Settle back, map in hand, and let the magic of Venice weave its spell...