So the next day after we hiked Mount Pilatus in Switzerland and I got fried by the sun, we were at the station super early to catch our train to Italy. We were told here that we need to book seats for the Italian trains, which would cost about 10 Euro per train. With our Euro rail passes in hand, we were convinced that we already had tickets and thus did not need to book seats. Psssh…these people were wanting to con us into spending unnecessary money on tickets we already bought…pshhh. We weren’t falling for that!
We boarded the train and took our seat. The train hadn’t even left the station yet when someone tapped me on my shoulder to tell me that I was sitting in their spot and asked if I could please move. Which we did, to the next open seat. Soon after the same thing happened. Two stops into the journey and we came to realise why the tannie at the train station suggested we book seats! We sat the rest of the 6 hour ride in the passage and hall ways of the cabins. Every time the train stopped, we would have to stand up and get out the way so that people could get on or off at the station. Being preposterously sunburnt and tired, this was not such a fun exercise. At one point when I was scrumpled up in a corner under 3 bicycles with two other humanoids, clinging to my camera bag and trying to keep my scarf over my sunburnt limbs so that the harsh Italian sun would not scorch me any more, I really wished we had booked seats! Although not so pleasant or comfortable- it was certainly an interesting and memorable trip!
We eventually arrived in Venice at midday and discovered that the Italians are as loud and passionate as they are depicted in the movies and that their hands are constantly moving while they speak! We bought tickets for a 3 day boat pass (Student “Roll in Venice” at 22 Euros each) and set out to find our accommodation. But not before we got scowled at by some angry boat conductor lady for our bag being too big and that we could hurt somebody with it. She promptly told us we were on the wrong boat too, but gave us no indication as to which one was the right one to take. So at the next stop we were off, fleeing from the conductor lady, but after reading the signs we realised we needed to get back on the same boat to get back to the correct boat station. It was whilst getting back onto the jetty that someone would be hurt by our big bag. That someone being my dear friend Kim! Her foot slipped and she fell with our 18kg backpack bag and got squashed underneath it. Although it was a serious moment it was ridiculously funny to see her sprawling around like a retarded turtle under the weight of this oversized bag with the South African flag sticking out. I can’t remember if I composed myself and helped her up without smiling, but I was laughing very hard inside!
Once we docked at what was apparently the right stop, we tried to follow Mr Xie’s (our Airbnb host) rather pathetic directions. We walked up and down that flippen waterfront several times, asking directions and getting different responses each time that would send us in the opposite direction we were heading in. Hot, bothered, sunburnt and tired we sat down in the shade of a magazine stand where we coincidently met Hylton, Hayley and little Ella,(Friends of ours) who were also staying with us at Mr Xie’s place. We eventually got found by our host, who spoke very little English, if any at all- and we showed our accommodations. It wasn’t the best flat but it had all the necessary stuff including Wifi!
Up until this point- we did not have a very good experience of Italy and to be honest we were a little disappointed, because Italy was the one place we had great expectations for! When we arrived we were met by nothing more that heat and tourist rashed and irritated Italian officials, who were understandably rude because of the flood of silly tourists clogging up the narrow streets and asking dumb questions…of which we were one of!
However the true magic of Venice comes out in the early mornings, late afternoons and evenings- when the city is flooded in soft, warm and romantic light and void of the relentless heat and millions and gazillions of tourists. My heart was slowly won over to the romanticism of Venice and I finally understood what everyone was on about when they said that Venice was the city of love! I wandered around the streets of this gorgeous place and snapped away at the interesting sights I got to experience! I even got to do a family shoot there with Hylton and Hayley – which was so much fun! (To view click here.)
When Kim and I took a stroll though the streets on the main island we stumbled across this little gem. Intrigued by the rather confident sign scribbled in blue crayon, we entered the book store and found the sign to be spot on right! Heaps and heaps of books, stunning posters, post cards and all sorts of interesting finds! If you are ever in Venice, try find this little book shop. The owner is an retired Catholic priest who has a lot of cats, but also a very good sense of humour! :)
The accommodation for our second night stay was on the island Giudecca, which is a much quieter part of Venice. Here I had the best strawberry yoghurt and chocolate gelato of my life! And it was bought at a normal grocery store at a very affordable price! #bonus!
The next morning we were off very early (before sunrise) to be in time for the first boat to take us to the train station. We were a bit too early but this gave us time to watch the most beautiful sunrise and for Kim to get her first Italian expresso…which she preceeded to knock over and spill before even taking a sip!
Travel Tips for Venice:
1. Get comfy shoes because you will walk your feet off!!
2. Head out really early in the morning, view as much as you possibly can while its cool and the streets are free from hoards of tourists, then take a siesta from about 11:00 -16:00. Thereafter the heat starts getting more tolerable again and you can enjoy the romantic feel you get when you walk past street cafes and you hear some Italian man playing the “la Donna e Mobile” on the accordion. It’s amazing!
3. Get lost and wander through the streets. It’s the best way to explore this beautiful city.
4. Book your seat on an Italian train! You won’t regret it!!!
5. Learn some basic conversational Italian. Will help greatly I think.
6. Take millions and millions of pictures!
7. Take me with! :)