Venice – Still Magical

After all these years Venice is still magical!

My first visit was eons ago as a student. I spent 3 months in Europe, traveling around with my HARVARD STUDENT GUIDE TO EUROPE, living on $4 a day which included food, lodging, museum admissions, TIME magazine and entertainment. I traveled first class on my 3 month Eurailpass which as I recall cost around $400. There was a university dorm in the Centro Storico, the old historic city of Venice, where since their students were on holiday they allowed visiting students to stay for something like $2 a night. So I had this beautiful room on the level just above the canal. I could throw open the windows and watch the canal . . . fantastic! Until 3:30 am when I was rudely awakened by what sounded like jet engines warming up below me. Then the sirens went off. Turned out my room was right above the fire boat station.

Nikki and I went to Venice on our honeymoon. We arrived late at night and the streets were deserted as we lugged our luggage and sought to find a tiny B&B described in the guidebooks as “faded elegance.” It was a huge room with fantastic antique furniture and when we crawled into this beautiful old bed we both rolled to the center.

Two of the most magical things about cruising into Venice have always been the sail in and sail away. Usually I would be up on the bridge giving guests a play-by-play of what they were seeing on this magnificent sail in. The route goes across the lagoon into St. Mark’s Canal and then turns into the Canal della Giudecca which you sail along to the docks. The sail away was definitely the best in the world: out on deck with a glass of champagne and opera music blaring from the speaker system. Heaven!

But no more.

Venice has now outlawed the “noise pollution” of ship PA systems so nothing but emergency – “Abandon ship” – announcements. Same thing on the sail out. Deathly quiet. And starting next year cruise ships will no longer be able to sail in passing St. Mark’s Square but will have to come in the back door with all the container ships. No, it’s not the COSTA CONCORDIA incident as these restrictions had been announced prior to that tragedy; although I’m sure it helped the Venice folks to feel they had made the right decision. A huge Costa ship stretched on its side in front of St. Mark’s would have been a nightmare which could have destroyed parts of this fragile city.

We did get to see a number of the big sailboats in town for the America’s Cup advertising their brands by sailing around the lagoon.

I haven’t been out to the glass-blowing island of Murano in years, and although far more “touristy” than I remember, it still really doesn’t have much more than glass blowing demonstrations, which are interesting the first time around. Vases, little animals – now if Dale Chihuly had a studio here . . . that is glass work I’d really like to see.

I’d never been to the nearby island of Burano and I found it delightful! All the houses are painted different bright colors. The story is that it was a fishing village and at night after a long day of fishing the men would all go to the bars. Stumbling home drunk at night they would often end up in the wrong house and in bed with the wrong woman, so the brightly colored houses helped them find the way home and into the right bed. Interesting story. But today the island is protected so you can’t change the color of your house without getting it approved. It is also a center of lace-making. The real lace costs a near fortune, but there are lots of Made-in-China knock off items available as well.

I can see I am back to cruise ship Internet which, by design, sucks as much time as possible.  You have a better chance of winning in the casino than “winning” using the ship Internet!


One thought on “Venice – Still Magical

  1. Wow, our experience in Venice and Murano was a bit less flattering, perhaps because this was our first time there. Visiting in January, we had beautiful, sunny weather and no crowds. Our first, superficial impression was of a unique and special place, unlike any we had ever visited before. The sparkle of the sun on the canals, zipping around between beautiful facades in the water taxis, walking through the maze of tiny streets lined by bakeries, shops, and cafes – all of this combined to make our first couple of hours in Venice magical.

    Enchanted at first, we started realizing that there were two Venices – the Italian Venice and the “Chinese” Venice. Some of the shops in Venice are expensive, and some are very cheap – in fact, the cheap shops offer “Made in Italy” clothes and trinkets at the lowest prices that we saw anywhere on our trip from Rome to Venice. The cheap shops were always staffed by Asian workers. When we asked questions, we were always dealing with a Asian manager. Thus, I call these “Chinese shops”. Always on the lookout for a bargain, we went in many of these Chinese shops. The clothing for sale was poorly made, in many cases already picked and torn, and when I tried on an XL jacket, it barely fit…and I’m a medium! Obviously, it was made for a market where people are much smaller! Even though the hangars said “Made in Italy” and the signs in the store said “Made in Italy”, something was very wrong!

    By contrast, the “Italian shops” were on par with what we had seen elsewhere in the country. Quality goods on sale between 30% and 70% off were still more expensive compared to what we can buy in the USA, where prices are more like a third world country. These shops were staffed by Italians, and the clothing and leather goods were of good quality.

    By the time we got to Murano, the island specializing in glass-blowing, we weren’t at all surprised by the signs in many of the store windows – “Please don’t buy counterfeit Chinese glass. Italian-made glass is more expensive, but we need your support. Cheap Chinese counterfeits are destroying our craft and our livelihood.”

    I had to post this in response to your take on Venice, as the prevalence of cheap Chinese trinkets and lousy food and service offered in Chinese establishments really ruined our experience there and put Venice on the list of places to “visit once”.

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