Google+ The Bluestocking Firefly: April 2012

Monday, April 9, 2012


So I went to Venice last week with a friend who was visiting from the States.

Top tip for anyone planning on visiting Venice: forget the sunscreen. Bring bug spray.

I got eaten alive by mosquitoes. Woke up one morning and could barely open my left eye, which had pretty much swollen shut thanks to a bite on my eyelid just below my eyebrow. I mean, really, who thinks, 'ooh, I'll go to Venice, I need to be worried about the local wildlife chomping on me'? Yes, of course it's a city on an island riddled with canals, but somehow the constant 'bzzzzzz' of mozzies in my ear at night hadn't really occurred.

Aside from the mosquitoes, top tips for Venice travellers:

1. Find your hotel on a map and figure out how to get there from your point of arrivalbefore getting to Venice. Also, try to arrive during daylight hours. My friend and I arrived sometime around 11 pm thanks to a delayed flight, and although we knew vaguely where the hotel was, trying to find it turned out to be far more of an adventure than either of us planned. Popped into a hotel and asked the concierge; he told us to walk for twenty minutes and turn left on a street that we never found (turns out we should have turned left just over a big bridge...but never mind. Pretty sure that wasn't the street name he gave us, anyway!) Quite thoroughly lost, we then asked a very nice policeman, whose English was minimal - he had absolutely no idea where the hotel was, but he had *gasp* a phone! Unfortunately he couldn't get hold of the hotel, so we once again ventured forth on the streets of Venice. Next stop was a wine bar, which contained very nice people who actually got the hotel on the phone. Cue directions, which turned out to be not very useful since somewhere along the line miscommunication occurred and they didn't understand where we were...directions are not very helpful if your starting point and the directions' starting point are not the same! We ended up wandering for ages with very little idea of where we were before a man came up alongside us and inquired as to whether we needed help. I had the directions in my hand and he thought it was a map. We had nothing to lose, really, so we gave him the address - and lo and behold, he knew where it was! And was very enthusiastic about taking us there, although he wanted to know why we weren't staying in his B&B. Erm... He also wanted to know why we had matching black totes (my friend borrowed one of mine). He got us just past his place, and then his directions consisted of: 'Go straight straight straight straight, past the wooden bridge, straight straight straight straight, then right, then you're there!' He was very enthusiastic and wanted us to come back and visit while we were in Venice. Somehow, we never quite found the time... We did, however, finally find our hotel by walking straight for ages, which street finally ran into a gate and forced us to turn right (it was either than or go swimming in a canal). And hurrah! Hotel! So yes. Know where you're going and get there while the sun is still up unless you fancy popping into every establishment along the way and hoping someone recognises the address. Who knew on such a small island so few people would recognise a hotel address??

2. It doesn't matter if the sun is out and it's 70 degrees in late March in Venice, wearing shorts will mark you as a tourist. If you're a girl, try tights with boots and shorts with a t-shirt and a scarf. Wear your hair down or partly up, throw on some big sunglasses, and walk with confidence down those cobbled streets. (Try not to roll an ankle.) If you're a guy...uh...don't wear shorts??

3. Skip the gondolas. They're expensive. (But pretty.)

4. Get lost. One of the best afternoons we had was when trying to find S. Marco Piazza we took a wrong turn and ended up wandering down side streets with hardly anyone in them. Not only is this a good way to find shops not located in the touristy areas, it's also a good way to explore the city. It's vaguely helpful if you can read a map so if you get absolutely and thoroughly lost you can find your way back to someplace resembling a main street eventually.

5. Sit outside. If it's sunny, take a sketchbook or notebook or book and find a courtyard or a wine bar or a coffee shop and claim a place. One of my favourite days was the one in which I sat out in the courtyard at our hotel and wrote for several hours. Didn't go anywhere, didn't see anyone, just sat and absorbed.

6. Beware of kamikaze pigeons. There are lots of pigeons in Venice. They will fly up in front of you and dive bomb you, so make sure you're paying attention.

7. Food. It is entirely possible to spend very little on one's groceries during a week in Venice by buying cheese, fruit, bread, wine, and veg at Billa, which is a grocery store, and the produce stands in the streets. I'm gluten-free, so we found the one gluten-free store in Venice:
Mea Libera Tutti
Sestiere Cannaregio
Calle Racchetta – Calle Priuli 3803
Venezia, Italy
Tel: 041 5210454

If you walk past Billa (on your left) there's a courtyard on your left - walk to the back of the courtyard, turn left and immediately right, and Mea Libera Tutti is a few doors down on the right. The owner is very helpful and speaks pretty good English. Made our stay in Venice much easier for me!

8. Don't fall into any canals. Elementary, but you know. Once upon a time I think people went for swims in the Venetian canals, but nowadays I think they dump things in there. You might come back out with an extra head...

9. Wear comfortable shoes. You walk everywhere in Venice. If you're not wearing comfortable shoes, you will end up with sore feet and blisters and you will be very, very grumpy. And whoever you're with will not be happy either!

10. Check opening times. We intended to go for lunch at a restaurant serving gluten-free food, but we didn't check the opening hours. When we arrived we sat down and waited for someone to come and, you know, see to us - we must have sat there for ten minutes before we worked out from the owner talking to another table that the restaurant was now closed and no longer taking orders. So we had to watch food being brought out to others while we wearily gathered our bags and trudged off in search of food elsewhere. Tired + food allergies + walking all day =/= happy bunnies.

11. Gelato. Eat lots of it. It's everywhere, it's really good, and you can pretend the calories don't exist because a) you're on holiday and b) you're walking everywhere. Somehow, despite being there for a week, we only had gelato once. I'm not quite sure how that happened...

There are probably other top tips, but those are the only ones I can think of at the moment. So! Pictures. :D

Lost on the way to S. Marco.

Lost relative to S. Marco but at least we know where we are!

Taking pictures while my friend attempts to reroute to S. Marco...


Super cute little girl with a giant apple.

From the Bridge of Sighs.

Also from the Bridge of Sighs, in the direction of S. Marco.

Across the water from the Bridge of Sighs.

Street sign.

Street sign #2.

Street sign #3 (we couldn't go in circles...).