I was visiting Venice for the first time, and I was far from prepared for what I was about to experience. I had never seen anything like this before – an actual city built on water, and this famed city was not going to let me forget why it is known as “The Floating City”.
After a peaceful night’s rest, when I woke up in the morning and as I rolled over and sat up in my bed, I couldn’t believe my eyes. At first, I was a bit anxious as I tried to make out the blurry object moving along the bedroom floor. I rushed to grab the glasses that were resting on the pillow next to me and placed them on my face to decipher the distorted figures on the floor, only to realize that the object was someone’s shoes (I think mine) and they were moving because they were FLOATING.
It finally hit me what was going on – our hotel rooms had flooded. I leaped out of bed and frantically moved the remainder of my belongings to higher ground.
As the day and the rest of the weekend progressed, the water levels began to recede slowly, and I mean VERY slowly. After numerous failed attempts at navigating around pools of water, I stopped trying to avoid them and instead just walked through them. With my focus shifted, I was finally able to enjoy the sights of Venice all around me – the Rialto Bridge, Palazzo Ducale (Doges’ Place), the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, the markets showcasing elaborately designed Venetian carnival masks, and Piazzo San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) to name a few. St. Mark’s Square is the social heart of the city where St. Mark’s Basilica and St. Mark’s Campanile are also located.
What I missed doing on my first trip to Venice, I made up for on my second trip. Coincidentally, when I returned to Venice some years later, there was some minor flooding in the b&b where I stayed, but it was nothing like my first experience. Fortunately, the second time around, I was able to enjoy a ride on the canal in a traditional gondola (something you have to experience at least once when you come to Venice).
My second trip to Venice presented a new set of travel woes. I had been traveling for a month throughout Europe, and Italy was my last stop, so I had twice as many pieces of luggage as I did on my first visit and they were much heavier. I was scheduled to stay in Venice for a few days before making my way down to the Amalfi Coast and planned on making stops in several cities along the way. When I disembarked from the vaporetto in Cannaregio, despite it only being a 5-minute walk to my b&b, it felt like it took forever – pulling my full-sized suitcase down the narrow side streets and lifting it up steps as I crossed over multiple bridges while simultaneously carrying my crossbody travel tote.
The 5-minute walk took closer to 15 minutes as I got lost along the way and stopped several times to give my arms a rest. By the time I got to my b&b, I was ready for a quick nap and an early dinner. Re-energized the following morning, I continued exploring the city and the many shops offering handcrafted jewelry, unique stationery and bookstores, Murano glasswares and handmade Burano lace that the Veneto region is so well known for.
In hindsight, there are 4 practical tips I wish I would have known before visiting Venice which I believe are essential for any traveler to know:
- The only way to get around Venice on land is by foot (bicycles are also allowed in certain areas) – so wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to walk.
- Bring an extra pair of comfortable walking shoes in case you have to sacrifice one pair due to flooding/need to give them time to dry in-between wears.
- Exploring Venice is like walking through a maze. While there are street signs, one could easily lose their bearings. Take a moment to identify specific shops or restaurants en-route to your hotel to help with finding your way back. I would probably still be searching for my b&b now if it weren’t for the fruttivendolo (literally means “greengrocer”, but loosely translated is the fruit and veggie store) and the Coop grocery store located just around the corner.
- Expect to transport your luggage through the streets and over bridges by foot, so pack light if you can. If you can’t pack light, there are three Store Your Bags facilities conveniently located near major landmarks in Venice. Offload your heavier luggage in storage so you can transport your lighter luggage with ease to wherever your final destination is. If you missed it, find out more about Store Your Bags on our blog here.
Although my trips to Venice marked the end of the road for my Euro sneakers and I felt like Alice in Wonderland walking through a maze half of the time, I wouldn’t have traded in my experience in this floating city for anything else.