Shauna Bickley

This Time Last Year… Venice

Posted on Thursday 9th July 2020 by Shauna Bickley

Following on from the previous post, this time last year we were just finishing a trip through northern Italy. We spent the majority of the time in and around Venice but we also visited Milan and some other smaller towns. Venice was a must-see on this trip as it had been a lot of years since we were last there, and we had two young children with us then. This visit we were able to see the things that interested us!

We decided not to stay in Venice and chose a hotel in Mestra. That was a good choice for us as the hotel was set in large gardens and was an oasis of peace after a busy day in Venice with all the other tourists. The hotel was originally a chateau and had fabulous frescoes and painted ceilings in the main rooms. The photo below is of the dining room.

Dining room ceiling art

What can I say about Venice that hasn’t already been said? Yes, it is a bustling tourist attraction, but for history, architecture, art, the canals and water-based transport it is truly amazing.

While in Venice we did a huge amount of walking each day. The Grand Canal lives up to its name and is a wide highway but there are lots of narrower canals in the system and small lanes and alleys barely wide enough for two people to pass each other. The Rialto Bridge is the oldest of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal and while we crossed it on a number of occasions it was never quiet.

Grand Canal

The vaporettos (water taxis) were a great way to travel from one place to another when we felt tired, and with all the islands that make up the greater Venice area they are sometimes the only way to get to places.

The island of San Giorgio Maggio is a case in point. It is opposite St Mark’s Square and the church tower gives a magnificent view of the square and of much of Venice and the other islands without all the crowds, and the island is a lovely place to wander around in relative peace and quiet. It was a good thing there was a lift to the top of the tower as it was a hot day and I didn’t fancy all the stairs. There were various artworks on display while we were there but the most interesting thing I saw was this large artwork in the gardens. From the tower you can see clearly the shape of a snake but from the ground it is hard to see beyond the glass bricks that make up the amazing piece.

One of the highlights for me was seeing the Bridge of Sighs from the inside as well as the outside. The cells were creepy and very atmospheric.

Another of the trips we did for the first time was to the island of Burano, like most of Venice is has a system of canals but is most famous for the brightly painted houses.

Our reason for travelling to the places we did was either to relive memories of the times we’d been there before or to visit places we hadn’t seen. However, I do have an idea for a novel and some 30,000 words written. Part of the novel will be set in Italy, and so some of the hundreds of photos I took were for research purposes and to use later when I finally figure out more of the story plot. While wandering around some of the less touristy areas of Venice, I came upon a small square with a narrow bridge over part of the canal system. The only other people there were two decidedly dodgy looking men, not standing together, but looking as if they were waiting to take part in some nefarious activity. I didn’t stop to take photos, and as of yet I don’t have specific scenes for them, but they will definitely feature in the book.

While in northern Italy we also spent some time in Milan, famous for its fashion. For me the epitome of this, and the history associated throughout Italy, was the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II. It is Italy’s oldest shopping mall and dates back to 1867 with a 19th Century glass topped gallery. It is a beautiful building with stunning floor mosaics.

The cathedral, Duomo di Milano, is another awe-inspiring building.

One of the things I noticed everywhere in Italy was how smart everyone dressed. Here in New Zealand the usual dress code is ‘very casual’ with shorts a given in summer. In Italy most women wore dresses or occasionally a skirt and top, and there is a definite Italian chic which is hard to define: the addition of jewellery, a scarf, shoes, or the way colours are matched. Whatever it is I wish I’d been blessed with that gift.

The final place we visited in this part of Italy was Treviso. It wasn’t on our original list but the receptionist at the hotel came from Treviso and gave us such an enthusiastic talk about the town that we decided to visit and were so glad we did. Like Venice it also has a system of canals and some beautiful buildings, but is so much quieter with few tourists and even a year later we still recall the fabulous iced orange drink we had there.

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