So we're just back from four days in Venice. Someone asked me today, "Did it live up to your expectations?". Actually, I'm not sure what I expected, but it was certainly a singular experience.
Venice is built in the middle of the sea
Venice is super-touristy
The main island has blocks and blocks and blocks of shops selling masks, glass things and fridge magnets, leavened by gelato stalls and restaurants selling pasta and pizza. There are men trying (and failing) to sell splatty-balls (see pic below), thrusting roses on passing women and attempting to sell horribly bad knock-off designer bags.
Murano must have hundreds of glass shops selling basically the same stuff, just rows and rows of them. I didn't buy any glass, but we did have an okay pizza sitting beside a canal.The crowds and queues weren't too bad over Easter weekend - evidently things get worse in summer.
Why is Lido mostly abandoned buildings?
described the place neatly: "Abandoned buildings with broken windows are interspersed with beautiful
hotels. Expensive ice cream sundaes are served from cafes with rusty
chairs. Huge forlorn Art Deco buildings along the beach side make you
want to cross the road in case the zombies start to wander out.
abandoned mansions on Strada dell Ospizo Marino in the north east of
the island are like something from a war-torn country. It's a
photographers' dream if you like to capture faded glory as piles of
bricks, rusty gates, broken windows and rubbish adorn what were once
Elsewhere on the island ugly concrete blocks of
flats sit next to pretty parks and waterways. I found the whole
experience hugely unsettling yet more interesting than Venice itself."
If you do visit Venice, I highly recommend staying on Lido - it's cheaper and much calmer than the main island. I really enjoyed going back to a bigger island and what felt like solid ground and room to breathe after the crowds and craziness around San Marco.
The Doges were dicks!
Visiting the Doge's Palace, we were overwhelmed with the opulence and the hubris of the whole thing. Various Doges inserted themselves into paintings of Jesus's birth, the crucifixion, the Last Supper as well as commissioning paintings showing the various rulers of the world submitting to them. The scale and magnitude of decoration was so over the top, I can see where people like Versace got their inspiration from.
During the reign of the Doges, they developed more and more elaborate forms of government, including secret police and anonymous denunciations by slipping notes into the mouths of faces on the wall (see below. Then the last Doge just gave up when Napoleon came calling.
Venice makes it seem reasonable to spend 45 Euros on a mask
I could post dozens of photos of the various types of mask, they were amazing. And 45 Euros is a very mid-level price for a mask - some of them went up into the hundreds. I got beautiful black wire swirling design with blue and green glitter and my husband got a traditional black, red, white particoloured mask with a long nose and gold trim. We have no occasion to wear these and they were tricky to pack but it just seemed to be a good idea at the time...
So would I recommend visiting Venice? Hmm... I'm about 50/50. I guess it's somewhere that one should see, but I'm certainly not yearning to go back. I think I'd generally prefer to visit some more ordinary Italian cities but Venice was a unique holiday destination with plenty of bits to enjoy.