Venice - Grand Canal

Venice is an outstanding city built in the water, it has to be visited at least once in your lifetime. Its beauty, it’s architecture with the water create such a big point of difference from any other city in the world. It is a UNESCO world heritage city and for me, one of the most photogenic cities in the world. There are twenty seven Churches worthy of visiting [not that I did more than 10], twenty one museums and eight key attractions, including the Rialto
Bridge and numerous squares.

For me Venice is a tale of two cities. One is like a Disney theme park, far too many people, where you queue for  everything including getting into churches, a water front of stalls selling cheap T-shirts, souvenirs and tat. With 60,000 people visiting on many days, over 650 cruise ships a year, some with 5000 tourists on board, parts of Venice are not so inviting. Alongside the art, you have the top fashion and accessory brands fighting for the Asian tourist, many in tour groups of forty or more. Don’t visit the city on a Sunday, the centre is so packed it’s tough to get across all the little bridges. Avoid restaurants in key waterfront locations, a few have words like “some of our food is frozen” in their menus, this doesn’t mean ice cream or just heated tasteless pasta. Some restaurants will double their prices for gullible foreigners, best to avoid dining in the main commercial areas.

The other side of this city, away from the maddening crowd is the joy of strolling through the squares and the alley ways, amongst the not so famous church and square of the St. Marks area. This is the west side of Saint Mark and the Grand Canal, with its privately owned shops and small cafes rolling on to the pavement, while maintaining the great architecture and canals that make Venice great. These areas tend to be less populated and better value for dining and shopping .The concept of the two cities /locations also applies to hotels, best to be out of the ‘buzzy’ areas and be able to relax by a pool away from the great unwashed. Two places to visit for amazing views of the whole city is the Hilton Molina Stucky, the dominating waterside building is over a hundred years old and is said to have the only roof top bar in Venice, and San Giorgio Maggiore where you can take an elevator up the tower over the church. The view includes two waterways, St. Marks and many Churches.

In two restaurants, we were very impressed with the Italian cuisine so I ask to meet the Chef, to my surprise in both cases they were Sri Lankan, as were the kitchen workers. I met Malaysians and Indians, all now Italian citizens with stories to tell. You may be wondering how the locals put up with these two cities, well 100,000 have left in the last generation and only about 60,000 are left. To compound matters it’s the younger ones that leave.

When arriving at the station, a very friendly porter of Malaysian decent helped us find the route / transport to our hotel, which is a daunting affair when you arrive in the city as a tourist, especially as most hotels do not provide pick up boats for you [take note Hilton group]. He asked for a few euro and I gave him five. On returning to the railway station we took a private water taxi at about 65 euros for a ten minute ride from our hotel, where a porter assisted us from the jetty to our station platform, 300 yards away. He promptly told me, as he wrote out a receipt , that the cost was twenty euros. I have had more examples of con artists in Italy than I’ve experienced in my travels in Africa, India and other Asian countries.

Loving Venice to Death

  • The local government is in disarray, being investigated for corruption, as millions were
    awarded to them to find solutions to the fact that Venice is sinking. In 80 years there
    will be no streets, only streets of water.
  • They continue letting growing numbers of visitors walk the narrow streets, there are
    more day trippers than overnight visitors and locals added together.
  • Will the cruise ships be even more prolific?
  • Can they keep the city clean and tidy? The rubbish in the street is a turn off.
  • Get rid of all the tat or put in a market on the north side of the island away from the
    historic sites.
  • Put a tax on the Super Brands who attract hordes of tourists and need to share more in
    the clean up and protection of this wonderful city.
  • Charge the cruise ships more for every polluting tug boat assisted trip down the canal
    di Giudecca.