30.11.2014

VENICE: IN A FAIRY TALE

VENICE: IN A FAIRY TALE, Meltem Bozkurt Kaya | 30.11.2014

If you want to feel like you are living in a fairy tale, run away from reality for a day or two, or turn into the protagonist of a novel, you should absolutely go to Venice, the city of canals, bridges, islands, gondolas, and historic and a romantic ambiance.

Due to the weekend vacation I had planned for my mum and dad I got the opportunity to visit again the city I had once been to on an organized tour. This time we created our own tour program and rediscovered Venice. People often opt to go to Venice via a tour agency. They organize a hasty tour of the city, and after a short half hour gondola ride they give you a little free time before you return to your country. Generally the hotels that the tour agencies have deals with are outside the city. You think you have seen the city, had a taste of it, but when I mingled in the city, and spent time just the way I wanted, I could really see the difference.

Venice, is very convenient for a weekend visit. Turkish Airlines have flights on Saturdays at 07:55 am to Venice and your return ticket is on Sunday at 07:00 pm, so you have two full days which is enough to do some sightseeing and discover the city. (If you want to visit all the museums and a night at the opera, then you need 5 days, that's a different type of visit.) 

After, buying the tickets, I made a reservation for a night at Hotel San Zulian, considering comments on the booking.com it seemed the best option, cost-benefit balance and the location. The most favorable part of the hotel is that it's located at a spot, just between Rialto Bridge and San Marco Square, it's on the main route and it's within walking distance of the two most important districts of the city.

The easiest and cheapest way to go to the city from the airport is the ‘5D’ bus, from the ACTV bus company. A one way ride to the city is 5€, and the bus is waiting for you at the airport exit. It takes just under half an hour. You get off the bus at the last stop, Piazzale Roma. It's the furthest point that the vehicles can go in Venice. From there you can enter the city either on foot or by canal buses. The most fun way to go from A to B in Venice is on foot. The distance between sights isn’t always short but it’s easy going, and the surroundings are so enjoyable that you don’t really notice how far you have walked. If you prefer not to walk, you can use the public transportation of ACTV, the ‘vaporetto's’.

If you spare one of your days in Venice, as a whole, to the islands and the Grand Canal Tour, you can buy a ticket valid for 12 hours for 16 Euro from any of the piers, and enjoy all the islands and the Grand Canal. There are options like 24 hours, 36 hours, 72 hours, but, since at night, till the morning there are no cruises, it seemed like the most suitable for us was 12 hours. We got on line 1 with these tickets and got off at Rialto. First we found our hotel, and then without losing any time, we started our tour.

First we got on a vaporetto again from Rialto Bridge and made a Grand Tour. Grand Canal is the biggest, liveliest and the most beautiful boulevard of Venice. It is 3,800 m long, 30–90 m wide, with an average depth of five meters. A lot of secondary canals open to the main canal. There are four bridges on the Grand Canal. The most famous and crowded of them all is the Rialto Bridge which is always packed with tourists. Before the construction of Scalzi and Accademia Bridges, Rialto Bridge was the only one on the canal. The fourth bridge has a more recent construction date. You should keep that in mind when going on foot from A to B, you can only use these four spots on the Grand Canal to cross.

Rialto Market appealed to my mum very much. The market selling fresh fruit and many different kinds of products, resembles very mush one of our own. Despite it being November, the weather was very nice and bright. We sat outside on the vaperotto to breath in all the beauty of the city and got some very nice shots of the scenery.

Getting off at St. Mark's Square we found ourselves in the most engaging district of the city. This was a square full of pigeons and people feeding and taking photos of them. You should keep biscuits or something like that to feed the pigeons who will land on your palm to eat them. The Church of St Mark's, Clock Tower, and The Doge's Palace are located here too.

Afterwards for an island tour we got back on the vaporetto 4.1 from Zaccaria Pier. You can tell one of the officers where you want to go and they will all help you. It takes around 45 minutes to Murano Island, which is famous for its glass making, but you can also get off at one of the neighboring islands and get on the next vaporetto. On this cute little island, there were dozens of stores selling souvenirs, accessories, watches etc. We came across a Turkish tourist group here. They were laughing out loud and joking, everybody seemed happy. We ate ice cream and pancakes with chocolate. After staying for an hour on the island, we returned to our hotel.

After resting a little in our hotel room, I said, “the show must go on,” and took my parents to Rialto again. It wasn't as crowded as during the day. Instead of having dinner on a canal as I dreamed we ate doner kebab, but I didn't care because it was delicious and satisfying. The pastas and pizzas of Italy are very famous but I don't know why, I don't like them, our cuisine seems better to me. Besides, to eat seafood or risotto, you have to pay 30€ per person; it's very expensive.

After dinner we joined the flood of tourists and walked to Nova Street which is parallel to the Grand Canal. They serve the Spanish drink sangria hot. It's sweet but warmed me up. Especially the pieces of apple and strawberry with cinnamon tasted very nice. I ordered a very delicious fruit juice (pomegranate, strawberry, apple, carrot and orange) for my parents. Under the Rialto Bridge, watching the city lights we drank our drinks, I felt that coming to this romantic city on honeymoon or anniversaries would be a very good idea.

We started the next day with such a delicious breakfast that I hadn’t dreamt was possible in Italy. There were different kinds of bread, fruit juices and cheese. The only problem was the tea because they served hot water and tea bags, so you have to drink the tea cold and plane. The room service can bring this breakfast to your room without and extra fee. After a satisfactory breakfast we checked out. They charge in full without any installment options, with a city tax of 4.5€. We said that we'd take our baggage later, and left the two suitcases in the stairwell at the spot where they showed us.

We strolled that day. We had comfortable clothes and shoes. We hit the streets. I started haggling for the gondola ride on the first street we came across. My mum turned her back and walked away when she heard that they charge 80€ for 25 minutes. I tried very hard and told the gondola ride sellers about my parent’s situation, and eventually I convinced them to let us ride for 50€. It was even more difficult to convince my mum to agree to the price! After I had managed to persuade everyone we started our early morning gondola ride.I found it funny how they control the gondolas by hitting the walls with their legs. We passed by Marco Polo's, Casanova's and the first prime minister's house and under countless bridges. We almost hit our heads going under one of them. The gondola guy told us that there are 400 bridges in Venice.

We pulled over to St Mark's square and with a vaperotto from there we sailed just across to the Salute district. We entered the Basilica of St Maria of Health anta Maria Della Cathedral that we had seen from the outside the previous day, and listened to the silence of the church and the prayers of the people lighting candles. This was also God’s house, so we prayed too. After that we walked under the sun on the south banks and hit the streets.

The wells on the squares and small squares were very interesting. Though they didn't use them anymore, some houses had their own wells. Wandering around the narrow streets shaded by the four or five story buildings, just around the corner and out of the blue, you may come up to little empty squares wedged between the houses and those were the lovely surprises of our trip. At one of these squares we took a tea break at a cafe that had put tables and chairs on one of these squares and enjoyed ourselves. The door handles and the bells were very interesting. We saw people late at night wandering around on the same streets without any worries for security what so ever.

You can organize a trip for yourself in Venice by preparing a list of the places you want to see. During the tour you can use the Grand Canal as a mile stone for keeping the track of direction. If you separate the city to districts it will save you time.

1. Southeast( San Marco and Castello)
2. Southwest (Dorsoduro)
3. Northeast (Cannaregio)
4. Northwest (San Polo and Santa Croce)
5. Grand Canal
6. Islands

Venice is a city where you can easily get lost even with a map.The bridges and streets are all alike. And the city isn’t very organized. To make your tour a little easier they have put signs on the buildings to direct you to the touristic spots like “Rialto”, “Piazza Roma”, “San Marco”, “Accademia”, ACTV (vaporetto) and traghetto (ferry) pier. Besides following these signs, the best thing you can do to find your way easily is to select a reference point at each district you go to, preferably a building that can be seen from very far away, and stroll around keeping it in sight. Another solution to find your way is to ask for directions. Never the less, there is not a better thing than to get lost in Venice. Remember to keep the calling card of the hotel you're staying in, just in case.

It's possible to visit most of the Venice in two days, but in order not to exhaust my parents and turn this visit into grueling experience, we skipped the streets on the northeastern part of the city and “the getto”, Jewish neighborhood and left it for the next time. We took our stuff from the hotel, with the bus number 5 from Piazza Roma went to Marco Polo Airport and caught our returning flight without any problems.

We were a little tired but very happy when we left Venice. Add Venice to your travel plans as soon as you get the chance and live a dream for two days. 

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