The very name Venice conjures up images of romantic gondola rides, swanky al fresco dining, and – like Paris and Tokyo – the name alone is almost reason enough to make the trip.
When I saw how strikingly beautiful Venice is from the movies Italian Job and The Tourist, I prayed the same way I did when I needed provisions for a trip to Sagada back in 2006. That trip nearly a decade ago kicked off my solo backpacking journey. The culprit then? Piolo and Juday’s insanely delightful on-screen chemistry in the Mountain Province-shot movie, Don’t Give Up On Us. Ang tindi! To put things into perspective, Venice was like my new Sagada. At admittedly, fan pala ako ni Esperanza. Hehehe!
After 3 ½ hours of high-speed train ride aboard the Frecciaargento (and a couple of cartwheels in between) from Rome, my brother and I found ourselves in the middle of one of Europe’s most hyped destinations. True to its description, Venice is indeed a majestic piece of floating artwork. And what better way to appreciate its grandeur than to navigate its weave of waterways on a vaporetto, a canal boat used for public transportation. A word of caution though, a ride in this water bus, from a backpacker’s perspective, is by no means cheap. At 7.50 euros per trip, we really considered just going on foot to our hotel. We would’ve actually done that had it not been for the heavy luggage we decided to bring. Yes, backpackers with wheeled luggage. Shame!
The exciting part of this leg of the trip commenced when we received the directions on how to reach our hotel, and eventually, our assigned accommodation. Ganun ka-specific! While the general directions to the property were pretty straightforward, the instructions to gain access to our room took us quite a while to figure out. To get to our room, we had to find a numbered key under the mat (which opens the main door) and another one tucked between loose bricks (for our actual room). Ang saya! The entire place, given its dimensional limitations, was surprisingly homey. And in true Princess Sarah Crewe fashion, we spent the night in a lovely attic. Haha! The rooftop, which we also had exclusive access to, was perfect with a gorgeous veranda that provides a commanding view of the Venetian sunset and the docks nearby. The name of the place is Ca’ dei Fuseri.
If you don’t venture far into the outlying islands, a trip to Venice can be completed in a day. And we were determined to do just that. Relying solely on our navigational skills, we braved the maze of alleys hoping to end up in Piazza San Marco, where majority of the action is. During high tide, water spills over from the lagoon submerging a great portion of this square. Luckily, it was as dry as my armpits when we visited.
On the piazza’s far end lies one of Venice’s most iconic structures, the imposing Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco or the Saint Mark’s Basilica. Connected to it is the Gothic architectural marvel that is the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), once a residence to Venice’s revered leaders and is now a museum housing important pieces of art. The best part of the palace, as many of those who have actually been in its interior claim, is the creepy, windowless dungeons where they used to keep prisoners.
A walk further deep into the alleys brought us to one of the oldest bridges in Venice, the famed Rialto bridge. From there, one can embark on a gondola ride cruising Venice’s labyrynthine waterways. If you’re lucky, your gondolier may even offer a serenade. But as the sun began its descent in the horizon, we just opted to head back to the hotel.
And that’s when it got complicated.
In this part of the world, getting lost is almost mandatory. After all, the convoluted alleys were originally designed to confuse pirates. On our way back, one wrong turn lead to another. Dead ends. Non-existing landmarks. Seedy back alleys. The experience was a bit frightening… and every bit exciting. Rather than figuring out exactly where to go, we just enjoyed the momentary sense of disorder. And when you’re faced with the same dilemma, you’ll take whatever sort of comfort you can possibly get. In this case, we seized the one of gastronomic kind. Lost and confused, the gelatterias and pizzerias were undeniably a godsend! After filling up our stomachs, we eventually got our bearings and made it to our hotel before sunrise. OA?! Hahaha! And we couldn’t have been happier at the sight of our beds in the attic. It was probably the same feeling Sarah must have felt when she found her doll Emily. LOL.
Venice goes by a lot of names: City of Canals, Queen of the Adriatic, City of Bridges, to name a few. But my favorite would have to be “The Floating City.” And as a curious traveller, I can’t help but wonder, “Where does all the poop go?” Hahaha!