Truthful Travel Europe Series: Visiting Venice

Venice was a city of contrasts. It was laid back, with empty town squares while the entire city slept in on an early Sunday morning. But it was also bustling with tourists, shopkeepers and gondoliers as Venice woke up and the day got started. It was a maze, with streets that led nowhere except canals. But it was easier to navigate than any other major city we had visited on our trip. It was the most colorful city we got to experience, with houses in an array of colors and styles. But it was also the most worn down, with extremely old buildings in disrepair.

The Grand Canal near the train station

The Grand Canal

Visiting Venice was our last destination on our honeymoon. We were happy to have made it that far, and to have survived all 37 truthful travel lessons that had come before. But we were sad to be writing the final pages of our European adventure.

Our time in Venice was short, but of course, like usual, it was filled with unexpected moments. We witnessed hardwood floors breaking apart and sweating, and we had a gondola ride that we could never have planned for. Venice is unlike any other city I’ve been to, and it was just what we needed at the end of a three week whirlwind tour of Europe!

Truthful Travel Lesson #38

Hardwood floors can sweat

We arrived in Venice in the early afternoon, after taking a train from Naples. We got set up in our Airbnb, which was centrally located, and realized that for the first time in a long time, we had no plans. Visiting Venice was our time to wind down. We figured our best bet was to travel through the streets and get ourselves intentionally lost trying to find Ponte De Rialto (one of the city’s most famous bridges).

A gondolier leaving his boat (not our gondolier)

Looking down the “street” from a bridge

After our successful adventure we ventured back to our accommodations to escape the heat and take a rest before heading out to find dinner. As we entered into the main room, something caught my eye. The hardwood floors looked strange. Upon closer inspection I realized it had ripped along various seams and was damp and expanding. That could not be good. Our Airbnb was right on a canal, with us having a view straight into the water from our windows. I started to become worried that because I left the windows open, humidity had crept in and ruined someone’s floors. Would this be our worst travel mishap yet? I immediately sent pictures of the floor to our host, and anxiously awaited her reply.

The floors sweating at the seams

Houses in Venice are built on wooden beams sunk into the canals, here is an explanation of how Venice stays afloat

The verdict? It was a normal occurrence. Everything in Venice is super old, and built upon wooden platforms. Due to being submerged in water, these platforms have never rot, but the high levels of the water make everything super damp in the city. The already damp atmosphere and the brutal humidity of the Summer combined to create sweating floors. It is probably not good for the floors in the long term, but it was not an urgent crisis.

Truthful Travel Lesson #39

Not all gondola rides are romantic

The gondola. The unofficial mascot of Venice. What is more romantic than being “driven” through the many canals of Venice in a fancy boat? Nothing, at least that’s what I thought before we took a gondola ride. Since it was our honeymoon we agreed we had to take one. We set out on our second afternoon in the city to find the most perfect gondolier.

What a view!

Our gondolier had no problem navigating through this small, narrow bridge

It was a quiet time of day. Too early for sunset rides, but too late for people just visiting the city for the day. We found a lone gondolier and asked him for a ride around the city. Our gondola was beautiful. Unlike many others we had seen, this one had wooden chairs, fancy cushions and even a rug. I was so excited. We started in smaller canals, and our gondolier was able to navigate tight turns, and effortlessly maneuver us underneath many bridges.

We started asking him about life in Venice, and this is where we ran into trouble. He proceeded to tell us that tourists had ruined Venice. I was not sure how to take that, as I was a tourist. He grumbled about how the low season meant the city basically shut down, and how he could not wait to escape the city and move to China. This continued for the duration of our thirty minute ride. It was a very odd experience.

Here is a history of the tradition of gondolas in Venice

Although I expected a gondola ride more like this, ours was unique!

Our ride was not romantic in a traditional sense: we did not have him singing to us, or telling us tales of love. But it was unique. Not many other gondolas were out, and at times it felt like we had the canal to ourselves. It was perfect in the most imperfect way. Kind of like our entire honeymoon, kind of like all of our truthful travels that had come before. It was a fitting end to our adventure.

Truthful Travel Lesson #40

Venice is Disneyland for adults

Venice really is a unique city. Our last full day there we took a walking tour which included entrance to St. Mark’s Basilica and a tour of the Doge’s Palace. As we started walking around the city there was hardly anyone out, and most canals were empty and quiet. Visiting Venice during the early morning is a must; as is visiting at night when the “day tourists” have left the island for the evening. It is a completely different experience when you seemingly have it to yourself.

A hospital in Venice, look at the detail!

Looking out at Piazza San Marco, and the water surrounding the islands

In Venice I heard someone compare the city to being like Disneyland for adults. It really is. Where else is there a major city where you can you walk around streets without any cars, and have to travel over foot bridges and through tight alleys to get to where you’re going? There is nothing like waking up to the sound of small boats and gondolas riding past your windows, and nothing like looking out at the water from Piazza San Marco and finally internalizing that you’ve actually been staying on a group of islands. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to stand on a bridge that spans the Grand Canal, at night, listening to an accordion playing. It feels surreal, and so charming. I can honestly say there is nowhere else I have been in the world that is anything like Venice.

Doge’s Palace

We knew absolutely nothing about the Doge’s Palace before visiting. It was home to the Venetian government, and you can read more of its rich history here

Truthful Travel Lessons: The End

On August 6th, we packed our backpacks up one last time. Twenty one days had flown by, and we carried 40 truthful travel lessons home with us.

We had overestimated our ability to fight through exhaustion in Edinburgh. In Great Britain we had taken the road less traveled, and found some of the most charming English towns. London proved to be a challenge, with a series of unlucky events dampening our time there. We traveled to Paris, where we fell in love with the city, but commenced our chain of transportation failures. In Normandy & The Loire Valley we learned that France was so much more than just Paris, and that even castles can get crowded.In the French & Italian Riviera we finally got a taste of the hot summer heat. Florence took us back in time to the Renaissance. Rome almost melted us in its heat wave. And Naples, Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast came with a whole lot of Italian charm, and a whole lot of crazy.

Our time there was exhausting but exhilarating, and reliving it through writing this truthful travel series has made me appreciate it even more. I have had a chance to internalize these lessons, and share details of my travels with friends, family, and strangers that I never would have otherwise.

If you read along with this series, if you read about the main cities, or even if you’re just reading this one article, I want to thank you! I would love to hear your favorite parts, and what brought you here in the first place. Leave me a comment in the section below!

This has been a journey for me, and I cannot wait to start creating my next big project!

With all the gratitude in the world,

Samantha,

A Truthful Traveler