Stepping out of the Venezia Santa Lucia railway station, the first thing you see is the amazing Grand Canal–boats docked and people gazing at the peaceful water. ‘The Floating City’ is beyond imagination. A known fact, there are no vehicles in the old city of Venice, but walking around without dodging cars and buses is luxury like you’ve never known. Water taxis, vaporetti (the public ‘bus’ ferries), ambulance speedboats, police boats, garbage scows... waterways are the lifeline of the city.
We walk through the narrow lanes of Venice, whose cobbled walkways, endless canals and bridges at every corner have a fairytale charm. Sailor hats, striped T-shirts worn by gondoliers, Venice bags and masquerade masks, characteristic of the city, are up for sale. Fridge magnet masks, which are more practical to carry home than the full-sized Venetian masks, make excellent souvenirs for friends and family.
With a pizza roll from one the many take-away kiosks, I make myself comfortable on the banks of a canal. Boats sail past, each at their own pace. A cool breeze plays through my hair. This could easily be a scene in a movie. I wonder if the passersby see it that way.
The next day, more tranquility awaits us on the quaint islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello. Murano is known worldwide for its glass, made using the lampworking technique. There’s magic in the workshop as glass maestros bring miniature towns to life. There are vases of all sizes and shapes, abstract glass sculptures, animals, tea sets, chandeliers, pendants, bottle stoppers, lamps and more in myriad colours. The darker the colour, the more expensive the artwork.
The island of Burano, in the northern part of the Venetian Lagoon, is different from Murano. The historic centre’s uniqueness lies in its homes, each brightly painted in a different colour–green, blue, lavender, orange, yellow, pink...Docked at the harbour are colourful boats that match the houses. Like fishing, lacemaking is also a traditional occupation in Burano. Although lace is now made with machines, older women still diligently sew beautiful lace patterns.
Once the largest and most important settlement of Venice, Torcello is now almost abandoned, except for me and a few other curious tourists. Only the Cathedral with its magnificent mosaic and the Church of Santa Fosca bear testimony to its former glory. It’s so quiet, you can almost hear your selfbreathe. The all-pervasive peacefulness makes 30 minutes in Torcello seem almost surreal.
Back in the touristy parts of the city, we visit St. Mark’s Square, one of the largest in the city and the only one called ‘Piazza’. We laze in the Square, warming ourselves in the afternoon sun as we admire the breathtaking architecture of St. Mark’s Basilica, gorge on delicious gelato and observe travellers hustle and bustle past.
We save the best for last. A gondola ride through quaint canals offers glimpses of cobbled streets, souvenir shops selling masks, petite bridges, friends enjoying coffee by the waterfront, magnificent architecture... Other gondolas pass us by, as our holiday to Venice ends on a perfect note.
Getting around Italy is easy if train tickets for intercity journeys are booked in advance.
The queues at the tourist information counter outside Venice station are very long. A quicker way to get information is from a small shop which sells maps and other curios, next to the tourist information counter
A ramp, which we missed spotting on the left as you exit the station, is a better option than dragging your bags down the steps to the road.
At the factory store in Murano, you can buy glass for almost half the price they quote
Do not carry back packs or big bags when visiting the Basilica at St. Mark's Square. They are not allowed inside the Church and the queue for depositing bags is endless.