The assignment for Writing 101 today (day 18) is to take or use a map as a muse. I love maps, it doesn’t matter where they’re from or what they show, I just love maps. I have a drawer full of different types of maps, all created to show something very different, whether it be roads, housing estates, land ownership etc., and also copies of historical maps drawn up in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was a struggle to decide which type of map to use. I pondered on this all day. Then I decided to look through the tourist type maps we always pick up when on holiday and, eureka, I found this one of Venice which immediately took me back to one of my most favourite memories.
A couple of years ago we (hubbie and I), had travelled once again to our favourite country, Italy. It was a three city holiday; Venice, Florence and Rome. Venice is my hubbie’s favourite city in the world, and one I absolutely love. We’ve been before, and we’ll be going again next year, but the trip two years ago was an escorted one as opposed to one we had planned out for ourselves. So it was that, most days, we were expected to tag along with a group of people taking in whatever delights the tour manager had written down on her itinerary. However, in Venice, we were given the option of going to Verona by coach with whoever else wanted to go, or staying in Venice to do our own thing. Our own thing it was, having visited Verona at least three times and desperately wanting to be let loose on our own to explore the thousands of little streets, bridges, gelaterias and coffee shops that are everywhere in Venice.
We armed ourselves with a map (see image) and just set off early in the morning. Of course, the main roads are really the canals, the bridges and footpaths are architecture. We didn’t have a boat (obviously), so we had to find our way around walking over tiny bridges, major bridges, convoluted bridges, arterial bridges – it was a total delight.
We were staying in an hotel near the Stazione Ferroviaria, and wanted to explore the Dorsoduro area (pink on the map), not having been that way before. We had the map, yes, but we didn’t really know exactly where we were. There are so many little twists and turns that it’s pretty easy to lose oneself in the maze of tiny streets. Not that it mattered, we were happy to just wander aimlessly and take in the freedom of walking round without any need to be anywhere at any given time. We eventually, as we always do, ended up outside a caffetteria, this one was near the Stazione Maritime, with a fabulous view over the canal. The image below is fairly typical of us on holiday. Walk a little, find a caffetteria, people watch, walk some more, find a caffetteria, people watch, walk some more ….
This area was fairly free from crowds, it being out of the main tourist drag, but the tourist area was where we were heading next. We walked over the Ponte dell’Accademia (into the blue section on the map) and headed towards Piazza San Marco, walking through some beautiful little squares on the way (and sampling some fantastic gelato). We passed the Teatro La Fenice but weren’t able to see inside as the doors were closed. That didn’t really matter though, to be honest we haven’t yet been inside any of the fabulous buildings in Venice, apart from shops and caffeterias. This is one thing we’ll address next year. I really want to be able to say I’ve seen more of Venice’s treasures from the inside and not just their exteriors (beautiful though they are).
Once we reached Piazza San Marco we bumped straight into thousands of other tourists, all straining their necks (just like us) to see the bare bottomed figure on top of the clock tower or the four horses above the entrance to the Basilica. It was very difficult to move, something we find very claustrophobic, so we headed straight across the square and to the side of the Basilica where we passed some beautiful shops selling jewellery, clothing, leather shoes, bags and jackets, men’s shirts (beautifully tailored) and more. The day before we had crossed over a bridge and entered a glassworks. This day we walked down a tiny alley to the side of the bridge and walked half way across another one to take a photo of the Bridge of Sighs.
I love this image. Because we had walked away out of the crowds, we had managed to find a vantage point from which to take photographs without being pushed and shoved by other tourists taking their own photographs. The bridge they’re all standing on is straddling the main route along the entrance to the Grand Canal and everyone stops there to make the most of their photo opportunity, as you can see.
By this time we were hungry and set off to find somewhere we could sit down and eat. Once again we entered the maze of paths and bridges that make up the blue area on the map. Of course there were tourists everywhere (we were tourists too, obviously), but because there are so many little passageways you can take, it’s relatively easy to find a fairly quiet route. Not that we knew exactly where we were going, but who cares? The experience of walking around is just amazing. We eventually found ourselves in a square called Campo San Angelo where we sat down at a typical Trattoria. One bottle of wine and a fantastic lunch later we set off again, this time towards the Cannaregio area (green on the map). We didn’t want, or need, to cross the Ponte di Rialto, we’ve seen it before (says she, sounding oh so blasé) we were heading towards our hotel and wanted to walk through another area we didn’t think we’d been in before. We passed street markets, lots of shops selling masks (I bought one), and crossed numerous bridges before, eventually, ending up at our hotel again.
We’d been walking for the best part of the day and were pretty exhausted, not least because it was hot, but we really had enjoyed the day we had made for ourselves. We certainly haven’t exhausted Venice. I doubt that we ever could even if we went every year. There is so much to see – a feast for the senses. So many buildings I have never set foot in. So many little vignettes to inspire the imagination. I can’t wait till next year – I’ll be taking my camera, but I’ll also be packing a notebook to take down ideas as they come to me.