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.
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.