Venice is unlike any other city on earth. It’s the kind of place where you have the greatest expectations before arrival, placing it on the highest pedestal, dreaming of what it would be like to wander its narrow streets, strolling over endless bridges as men adorned in ystripe tops effortlessly row their gondolas through the narrow canals. Venice is the dream that you can actually wake up in and not be disappointed.
Where people often go wrong is that they make out a bucket list of things to do in Venice, things that must be done in order for their dream trip to be complete. Ticking off a long list of museums and squares teeming with tourists, sunsets spots where you have to fight off the masses and ice-cream that will quite literally cost you the clothes off your back.
Venice is more a feeling, than an action. It’s about a slower pace of life. The more time you spend trying to tick off an endless list of things to do in Venice, the less time you will have experiencing the city’s real magic. The hidden passage ways, that one tiny square without a single other tourist, a perfectly made Aperol Spritz served with a sunset to die for.
Venice is about hopping on a boat and getting off wherever you please. It’s staying on the boat and not getting off at your stop because you are enjoying the conversation with some newly made friends. It’s taking the boat the wrong direction to try see the city from another perspective.
Venice is about running as far away from San Marco Square as possible in the middle of the midday heat and returning late at night, to get that perfect shot and to take in the beauty of one of Europe’s most beautiful buildings at a time when you can truly appreciate it.
It’s about entering the sacred halls of one of the world’s most stunning cathedrals just as the six o’clock mass has ended, allowing you to take in every detail at your own pace and see the inside of the cathedral light up bit by bit, as the security guard shows you some hidden and secret treasures.
Venice is not about searching hours for that ice-cream, shop everyone recommend you to find. It’s about allowing yourself to get lost and coming across a small, unknown Ice-cream shop that will forever remain a secret.
It’s about paying just €2 to eat some gelato with a perfect view, sitting on the steps on a deserted square and watching the world go by. It’s about running from the masses of tourists and the outrageous tourist traps that make you pay for each minute of your precious day and instead opting to hang on a wall with some locals sipping on whatever their having.
Venice is about taking a left, followed by a right, followed by two lefts and coming across a peaceful canal just as a gondola turns a bend and passes by the perfect beam of morning light, allowing you to snap the most beautiful photograph.
It’s about exploring until your feet hurt, then finding a tiny archway beside a canal, that is lit up by the soft afternoon sunshine, and just sitting with the sun beaming down on you, knowing you are in one of the most beautiful cities on earth and yet there’s not a soul around to ruin the moment.
Venice is about sitting down at a cute cafe for one drink because your feet hurt and the sun is at its hottest, and accidentally staying at the cafe all morning and all afternoon because you’re enjoying the company of strangers (and now friends) as they come and go throughout the day. It’s about exchanging stores with 70-year-old Australian pensioners with a taste for partying hard or discussing the merits of the British Education system with a sweet couple from Scotland.
Venice is not about finding the most expensive or highly rated restaurant, it’s about eating pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner, each time picking different toppings and a different pizza stand. It’s about ordering €5 gnocchi from your hostel, and eating it from your lap while you dangle your feet over the edge of the Grand Canal, sipping on a glass of cheap house wine.
Finding the perfect, albeit outrageously priced, hotel in the centre of all the action is not what Venice is about. Opt instead to stay in a design hostel with panoramic views looking back at the main strip, waking up to the wind blowing sorting through the window and an unobstructed view of one of the most stunning skylines on earth.
Venice is a series of seemingly inconsequential decisions that magically bring you to the right place at the right time. It’s time you stopped searching for things to do in Venice, and simply went to Venice.
It’s my experience that you don’t DO Venice. You simple BE.