After the three hour drive from Tuscany, we returned our Fiat Punto to the Venice Airport rental car lot, and joined the line of new arrivals walking under a white awning towards the ferry bus terminal. After consulting the map and discovering that the stop we were supposed to go to, Academia, is not serviced by the airport boats, we decided to go to Ca’ Rezzonico insetad. I called our host while on the boat to tell him. He seemed confused, but said that he would meet us there.
As we stepped off the boat we passed a young man that appeared to be waiting for someone. When he looked at us curiously, I asked him if he was Carlos, and he said yes. He half-heartedly stepped towards my bag offering to carry it. I told him I could handle it, and he easily stepped away. Without another word, he started walking and we followed.
He took us through narrow passages, over bridges, along the sides of plazas, and as we walked I realized that he never mentioned my name. I hoped that we had not just started following a crazy man. Meanwhile he and Nik were chatting up ahead. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but they both seemed to enjoy the conversation, so I figured we were okay. After our 10th turn, I gave up on trying to remember where we had come from and trusted he knew the way.
We arrived at a door in a narrow alleyway, our guide made a call, walked around a corner, and came back perplexed. He made another call to no avail. He seemed frazzled and told us that he did not have the key. His mother, Carla, had the key, and she was not home. I waited for him to offer a solution. He started to say, “Could you come back later?”, but he stopped mid sentence. I assume it is because he read my mind and realized that we both had luggage and that no, we could not leave and come back later. He called his mom again, and said that she would come over right away if we wouldn’t mind waiting for 15-20 minutes. It was a beautiful day, we had snacks leftover from the drive, and there was a small plaza 20 feet away, so we waited there and told him he didn’t need to wait with us. As he left, I said, “Thanks for meeting us Marco, and I apologize for calling you Carlos earlier.” He said, “No problem, ciao.”
A few minutes later, a frazzled woman and a younger girl came rushing towards the door apologizing over and over in Italian. She let us in and we mimed back and forth as she showed us how to open the windows & shutters, how to lock the doors, and how to turn the heaters on. After she left, we settled in a little before I sent a message to the owner of the property to tell her we had made it in. It was only then that I realized that the young man’s name was Riccardo.
On our first evening, we set out before sunset to orient ourselves and to take in the beauty of this City of Water. We watched couples glide by on boats directed by the gondoliers, we watched delivery men drive power boats under bridges, and we saw the light of the sky fade and the lights of the city illuminate. Venice is undeniably one of the most romantic and perfect cities we had been to yet.
On our second day, we leisurely had breakfast at the apartment and left around 10 to purchase 24-hour boat tickets. Once we had our tickets in hand, we took the ferry to Lido Island, then Burano Island, then Murano Island, and finally back to the main island near San Marco Square. From there we planned to walk back to the apartment, but got turned around and hopped on another ferry instead.
On our third day, we took the ferry from Academia to arrive at Rialto Market at 7:30am as the produce and fish vendors were setting up. I expected to see locals up and about early to avoid the rush of tourists, but there weren’t many which leads me to believe that the market really is for tourists. Regardless, it was great to hear the vendors joking around and singing to one another. It was also great to walk back to the apartment from the market because very few tourists were out. Everyone we passed on the streets knew where they were going, and we were the ones getting in their way.
That afternoon, I explored on my own while Nik rested at the apartment. I didn’t carry my camera and had no destination in mind. I wandered and wandered, and probably went in circles. I didn’t care. It was beautiful. I was even asked for directions, which is the ultimate indicator that I looked like I belonged here.
For our fourth day, we did our best to see areas of Venice that typical tourists didn’t see. We searched for the mundane, and found it after ploughing through the tourist mecca of San Marco’s Square. It was on the far eastern edge of the connected island in the park along Viale IV Novembre. At it’s edges, we saw empty apartment blocks, vacant play areas, stray cats, and no tourists. We enjoyed the respite and then dove back in by walking along the Grand Canal as far as we could, which involved going through San Marco’s Square one more time!
By this time of day, the lines to the Doge’s Palace, the Clock Tower and San Marco’s Bascilica were stretched around the plaza, but there were also dozens of pigeons flocking towards the central area where kids held up their arms with the hope/trepidation that the birds would land on their arms while their parents took photos. It was a hilarious sight, and Nik even managed to have one land on his head, but I wasn’t fast enough to capture it with a photo.
Today, Easter Sunday, is our final day here. We have relaxed in our apartment all day and plan to do so through the evening because even though we are traveling in amazing places, sometimes we just need a day at home.