I woke up early yesterday and hoofed it to the Trieste Centrale train station, where I had a great big croissant and a tiny little latte while I waited for my train to Venice. Once I arrived, I needed to grab a vaporetto (equivalent of a city bus, but it’s a boat) to my hotel.
I haven’t been to Venice in 43 years. Not much about the facades of the buildings and the layout of the city has changed, but oh my…the place is nonstop crawling with tourists. And I don’t mean lots of people leisurely strolling, taking in the sights and snapping pictures. Rather, I mean yelling, rude, selfish, inconsiderate, and obnoxious tourists — and believe me, not nearly half of them were Americans.
The biggest contributors to Venice’s overcrowding problem (besides the fact that it’s an island, and can hold only so many inhabitants) are the discount airfare businesses who make it possible for folks who aren’t rich to travel internationally, the cruise lines, and the organized tour industry. Enormous cruise ships (I saw three while at the docks this morning) tie up outside the city, and disgorge thousands of people at once — literally thousands — into Piazza San Marco. Tour groups of 60-70 walk the slim alleyways and rent multiple boats on the canals. When I saw it all yesterday, I was stunned into frozen silence. I just stood there like a dork, gawking at it. I refused to take a photo of any of it. I found myself — a tourist, absolutely — getting honked off.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to my arrival.
I got in line to buy a vaporetto ticket, paid my 7 euro, and went to the holding area. That’s where the ugliness began.
People started pushing to get to the front of the dock, where the next boat would pick up passengers. I was bounced around like a pinball. I started to make motions to calm people down, and it worked for about half a second. The more people pushed in front of me, the more disgusted I became.
So, like a champion salmon, I started pushing upstream — outta there. I decided I’d rather walk to my hotel than deal with these idiots for the next hour, so I burned that 7 euro and took off walking, with Google Maps as my only guide.
Off I went, on what Maps said would be a 29-minute walk. Wellll yeah, not so fast. haha I’d forgotten how easy it is to get lost in Venice, as the narrow streets (and by “narrow,” I mean they measure about 6 people across) look the same, and some aren’t labeled very well, or at all.
Ninety minutes later, after schlepping 20 lbs. of gear in the 90-degree heat, I dragged into my hotel, whereupon I was told my room wasn’t ready yet. Yay! So I left my backpack behind the front desk, went to the lobby rest room and washed my face and drank a gallon of water directly from the sink, and set out to find lunch and rest — which I did. The pasta carbonara was great, as was the air-conditioned restaurant. I returned an hour later, checked into my room, got a shower and clean clothes and a bit of a nap, and felt a ton better.
By that time, it was getting to be late afternoon, and I was still dragged out. The only thing I did last night was venture out after the sun went down to find a pharmacy (left my clippers, tweezers and Tylenol on my desk at home), so I had a nice stroll. But I still hated the crowds.
So what do you do when you want to get a nice photo, but hate the pressing crowds? Wake up early, before the three cruise ships parked just outside St. Mark’s get their breakfasts over with and barf everyone down the gangway.
It was a beautiful experience, watching the sun come up. Behold, the city at 5:55 a.m….
A back canal with no traffic (yet)
Basilica di San Marco, with the sun rising behind it
Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace)
I saw four different couples having their wedding pictures taken.
Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge) — the most famous in Venice, built in the late 1580s. (And usually crammed with a thousand writhing bodies, but not at 6:30 a.m.)
Beautiful and serene; the calm before the hurricane.
I went to the market and watched them set up for the day’s business. Everything looked delicious!
Hey, what say we have some of these slimy, gelatinous things for dinner tonight? *hORk*
So I beat the tourists after all, at least for one hour. Today, Kay and Bob arrive in the city — looking forward to sitting over a long meal and catching up. I’ll report on our wanderings later — thanks for checking in! Hope you enjoyed the photos.