If you are willing to pay upwards of 80 euros you can arrive in Venice in style, by water taxi. We couldn’t decide whether we could justify such an extravagance, but after our descent into Marco Polo airport through a thick layer of clouds we figured we might as well climb aboard a humble bus and pay 2 euros each to take us to Piazzala Roma, the main bus station in Venice. It worked to our advantage as the 30 minute ride proved just long enough to convince the clouds to scatter. By the time we were motoring along Canale della Giudecca the sun shone so brilliantly on the buildings of the southern shore of Dorsoduro I even had to dig out my sunglasses. I knew then that this would be more than just a fling. My Man had capitulated much earlier; in fact as soon as we disembarked from the bus he proclaimed his undying love for the city, with its magnetic mixture of brilliance and dilapidation it was just up his street.
Arriving exhausted at Laguna we were met by the most spectacular views of the lagoon, a huge leather sofa and a bottle of Prosecco chilling in the fridge. If the sun hadn’t been shining so temptingly we would have remained there for the rest of the afternoon. But we decided that a sedate trip along the Canal Grande by vaparetto would be a fine way to see Venice on our first day. We made the right choice; sitting outside at the front of the boat was indeed glorious and the brisk wind ensured we stayed awake. We were both seduced by the buildings and particularly struck by the colour scheme. I now understand why Stockholm is called Venice of the north; the low winter sun on the buildings along the north side of the Canal Grande reminded me of the spectacular sight of Söder – the south island in Stockholm when standing on Norr Mälarstrand. All mustard yellows, dusky pinks, rusty oranges, deep reds and the occasional pastel green. But whereas Stockholm borders on the clinical in terms of cleanliness and order, Venice oozes a ruinous charm; crumbling buildings with large portions of exposed brick work that are brazenly decorated with bold flower arrangements.
We arrived at San Marco nearly frozen solid and decided to disembark and so with the rest of the tourists we made the obvious pilgrimage to Piazza San Marco. I must admit it was something of an anticlimax, but a good friend had hinted that very good hot chocolate could be had at one of Europe’s oldest cafés, Caffe Florian located on the south side of the square. And sitting in the lux surroundings sipping a deliciously thick and slightly bitter concoction I could almost feel the presence of past regulars, apparently both Byron and Casanova used to frequent the place (though not necessarily together). At 10 euros it was probably the most expensive hot chocolate I’ve ever indulged in, but I felt fabulously chic attended to by handsome waiters with gold braiding on the shoulders of their white jackets.
On a comfortable sugar high we left Caffe Florian in time to prevent bankruptcy and made our way to San Zaccaria vaparetto stop, dodging the hordes of manically photographing tourists along the way. It’s true, it is beautiful to behold, but if all you see is what’s displayed on the little screen of your digital camera can you really claim to have experienced Venice? We purposely left the camera in our pocket in order to try and absorb some of the sights and sounds and get a feel for the city first. With everything so breathtakingly beautiful it’s easy to be convinced that snapping away for 20 minutes outside the local Coop is a good idea, for it is indeed very pretty but probably not worth more than one shot.
Since we’d been up since 3:45am we agreed that a quiet dinner in our new home would be the best way to finish a lovely day. So we just made some pasta with fresh tomatoes, tuna, a couple of spoons of pesto and polished off the bottle of prosecco. And then after the Jacuzzi – bed. Bliss.