Published on February 13th, 2010 | by Ann Rickard0
Getting lost in Venice
IT could be said Venice is the true star of The Tourist, Angelina Jolie’s latest movie. The watery streets, the handsome palaces and the inky midnight skies all match Angelina’s glamour. And even though the film has received bad reviews, what does that matter when you have two such luscious ladies to look at on the big screen?
We’ve visited Venice many times and although nothing can capture the heart-stopping moment of a first sighting of Venice, we’ve fallen more and more in love with the city (and each other, a bonus!) on every visit. It’s impossible not to feel smoochy in Venice. Romance exudes from every stone in the beautiful homes and cobbled laneways. It’s there in the rails on the Rialto Bridge, and it’s heard throughout the city in the gentle splash of the gondolier’s oar.
Venice just gets better and better as you get to know it more. Unfortunately, it gets more expensive, but we’ve always found it best not to fret about money: deal with that later. There’s just too much glamour at every turn. Once you’ve overdosed on the richness of St Mark’s Basilica, toured the lavish halls of Doge’s Palace where once all of Venice’s power was held, and taken at least a dozen photos of yourself surrounded by flapping pigeons in the Piazza di San Marco, get away from the bustle of the main icons and into the labyrinth of back streets. Within minutes, you will be lost.
And that is the point. Getting lost in Venice is mandatory. Don’t worry about maps or asking directions. Just amble quietly, looking around corners for half-hidden churches, crossing elegant bridges over serene canals, looking up to Venetian chimneys and intriguing windows. If you stumble upon a mask shop/ studio, go in and lose yourselves once again among the beautiful carnivale masks, glorious works of art, handmade in small workshops in the back streets. You’ll find an hour or more has slipped by as you try on masks that glitter with gold, sparkle with silver and dazzle with pearls. Hotels range from the luxurious to the basic; we love staying at the Hotel Londra Palace on Riva degli Schiavoni, just a few steps from St Mark’s Square and the Doge’s Palace with views of St Mark’s basin. If you ask for room 106, you’ll be staying in the same room Tchaikovsky occupied in 1877 when he composed the first three movements of Symphony No. 4. But composing probably won’t be on your mind as you sit on your balcony sipping a glass of Prosecco, Italian sparkling wine, watching the gondolas.
Use the vaporetti (water buses). They’re inexpensive and will take you all over the canals of Venice. Cruise the Grand Canal, several times admiring the famous buildings including the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and the Ca’Pesaro Modern Art Museum. If you must take a gondola ride (molto expensive), then enjoy every romantic moment of it and forget about the cost.
Visit Harry’s Bar on St Mark’s waterfront. It’s expensive and over-rated, but hey … it’s Harry’s Bar. Ernest Hemingway was a regular and set Harry’s Bar scenes in his novel Across the River and Into the Trees. Take a seat at the bar and watch the barman’s rapid movements as he makes row upon row of Bellinis – a blend of white peach and Prosecco.
BEYOND COMPARE: Water taxis are relatively cheap and will ferry you all over Venice, whether it is to marvel at St Mark’s Basilica, above right, or to dream among the beautiful carnivale masks. Getting lost in Venice Ann Rickard sees a movie and reflects on her many visits to the city of romance.
THERE are some things you should not do in Venice, such as dine in the tourist restaurants. The prettier the venue, the bigger the bill. Find hidden trattorias and cafes in the back streets where the prices are more realistic and the cuisine is authentic.
Never bop, jig or even shimmy your shoulders if a couple of roving musicians stop to play at your table. If you show you love their music, they will demand a big tip.
Don’t get impatient with the crowds, even if you become gridlocked in a people jam on a bridge. There is nothing you can do about it. And don’t sit down at Cafe Florian, the famous 18th Century bar in St Mark’s Square, when the orchestra is playing. You’ll pay an orchestra tax on top of the already overpriced fare.
Cram in as much as you can because Venice will make your heart beat faster than Angelina Jolie might if she approached you on a train.