Venezia (Venice, Italy)

How do you describe something that is beautiful, dirty and smelly, but inviting all at the same time?

No, not a Bangkok dance club……….Venice!

Today we actually managed to make our train, I was even up and ready to meet Paola 15 minutes early, and we had time for a quickie breakfast and some capucco. The weather was foggy but no cold rain this time, and I was almost levitating along with positive chi. We hopped on the busy train, which was my first experience in the European-style cabins that seat 6 people in a fairly intimate space, and I had to turn to the side a little to keep from bumping knees with the guy sitting across from me. It was a smooth 2.5 hours to Venice and I walked out of the station into an amazing city.

Amazingly full of tourists. But amazing, still the same.

As expected, there were canals and waterways everywhere, all frequented by gondoliers and their tourist passengers. Some are wearing the traditional stripped shirts, hats, and customary cigarette hanging from the mouth. All are in great shape from pushing the boats along with a long pole all day every day. The water in the canals is an unnatural blue color that kind of reminds me of the water fountains you see in shopping malls, I dont want to even think about what is probably in there after all these years! Considering the sewer system here was probably constructed by the Romans, I can make a guess. The smell confirms that you do not want to take a dip in this stuff any time soon. The city literally drops off into the sea and flooding / high tides is a constant problem. Venice is very old and many of the buildings are dilapidated with layers of different colored bricks poking out of cracked and chipped stucco. The streets and bridges are made from cut stone, bricks, and other assorted natural materials that guarantee it will probably be here for another 600 years after I am gone. There are enough narrow streets, passageways, and secret spots to make a giant hamster feel at home. You could get lost, and we did slightly, for hours in this place, just wandering along the shadowy, vine covered alleyways. There are gardens, statues from many generations ago, and occasionally something tacky like a neon “LOTTO” sign sticking out of a 400 year old stone wall like a sore thumb. There are carts selling tourist junk and ice cream shops abound on every corner, as well as pizzerias, one of which I enjoyed the best pizza of my 31 year old life. We ate outside, surrounded by the ancient architecture and amongst the pigeons and random sewer smells.

I saw the home of Marco Polo, one of my personal heroes, a man that had the maroni to travel all the way to Asia before RyanAir was available to provide heartaches at a budget price. We attempted to go into the famous church, but were turned away because of our small daybags. What do they think we want to steal…candles? Holy water or a bench? I wont loose too much sleep over it, because despite the architecture being amazing, I am all churched out from my 2 Europe trips already.

After a full day of exploring the city, we made our way back to the train station and collapsed into our seats on the train. I loved Venice, but at the same time I am looking forward to a retreat from all the pushy tourists back in Brescia. Tomorrow, I am going to the Alps!

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