Travel Italy: Venetian Winter

Travel Italy: Venetian Winter by Cami Courtright

Travel Italy: Venetian Winter by Cami Courtright

Travel Italy: Venetian Winter

By Cami Courtright

I lost track of how many people asked me why in the world I was going to Venice in January. It was going to be so cold! And there were a few days I roamed the cobblestone alleys in chilly fog. But most afternoons it warmed up and it was a wonderful experience for numerous reasons. One being the crowds aren’t as immense. Don’t get me wrong – it is still crowded, especially on the weekends. But compared to summertime it is easier to navigate the masses. Because it’s a city one does a lot of walking in it was easy to stay warm. And from the end of January to the middle of February it is pre-Lent Carnevale season. Which means festivities, masquerade balls, street performers and frequent sightings of locals in vintage costumes.

Venice Carnevale Season

Venice Carnevale Season

I ventured to Italy solo and stayed at a bed and breakfast run by a wonderful Italian couple in Mestre, which is urban new Venice on the mainland. It is easy to take the train or bus straight to (old) Venice from Mestre, and I liked being able to escape the flocks of tourists when I went home. If you take the train into Venice, the train station is conveniently located in an area where you can make your way down either side of the Grand Canal.

There are endless rows of bakeries, cafés, restaurants and gift shops and booths as you follow the flow of human traffic and make your way to Piazza San Marco. I suggest taking your time, and arriving at St. Mark’s square at sunset. It is gorgeous to watch the colors of the city and the water change and an ideal opportunity for pictures. I also recommend ambling the streets after dark at least once. There is a different beauty that exists in Venice at night.

After walking for hours one morning, I purchased a 24-hour water taxi pass (20 euro) mainly so I could sit down for a while. It was well worth it. Not only do you get a different view of some of the buildings and architecture from the water, but you are also able to use the pass to go to the small islands near Venice. Murano and Burano were engaging with blown glass, colorful picturesque houses and more pizzerias.

Canal in Venice, Italy

Canal in Venice, Italy

For those of us who aren’t able to eat bread and pasta all day or may be lactose-intolerant, I found a smoothie shop with healthy juices. It also has a happy hour in the evening offering smoothies with vodka or sangria. There is also an old theater that is now a renovated grocery store (Teatro Italia) with a good selection of healthier options. The floor supervisor was also quite friendly and helped me out with my small bag of groceries. He told me I should always find him and say hello whenever I came back. He would be glad to help me with anything I needed!

For a lovely elevated view of the city, search out the department store Fondaco dei Tedeschi. There is a terrace on the roof where you will encounter other visitors clicking pictures of red rooftops and the canal. Gondola rides were not much more expensive than when I visited Venice twenty years ago. However, the languid tour is much shorter. So inflation hasn’t affected the price as much as the length of time. If you are interested in a sunset gondola ride this is a lovely idea, but you are not alone. You can reserve times earlier in the day which is helpful. An accommodating tip: if you are on one side of the canal and don’t feel like searching out a bridge you can pay a gondolier 2 euro to be taken across.

Fondaco dei Tedeschi - view from rooftop terrace.

Fondaco dei Tedeschi – view from rooftop terrace.

In addition, as you traverse the city you will see signs for a WC. It will take you left then right then straight… and down a back alley and you will think you are being lead to a Brooklyn poker game. But after a few more turns a public restroom will materialize, which you must pay for. Some of them I was able to make change but not always, so hold on to your one euro coins.

Venice is also in an area where you can do many day trips. Verona, Padua and Vicenza are not far by train. I especially enjoyed Vicenza which is a town that echoes its Roman past and is easy to find one’s way around in.

St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice, Italy

St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, Italy

In whichever season you may visit, Venice is a city you can enjoy getting lost in. You can go for the art, the pastries, the history, the costumes, the views. For whatever reasons pull you there, it is likely you will not leave disappointed.

IF YOU GO

  • Bed and Breakfast: Venice Pier BB (email: venicepierbb@gmail.com)
  • Healthy (and alcohol-laden) smoothies: Frulala

 

BIO

Cami Courtright

Cami Courtright

Cami Courtright writes a monthly column for a local newspaper where she lives (north of San Francisco). This came about as a result of an on-going humorous blog she’s produced about her hometown for the last four years. Click here to read her column.

 

 

 

 

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