After two weeks of hard graft teaching kids in Marché, I decided the best thing to follow would be to stay in Italy a little longer and explore Venice before I set off home. The main objective for my time in the city (aside from having a bloody great time), was to spend as little money as possible. This is mainly because my two weeks teaching work- as amazing an experience as it was- paid absolute pittance, and I really didn’t want to end up leaving Italy with less money than I’d come out with. Know what I’m saying?
Related: What I Learnt When I Taught in Italy
Many people had warned me of the extreme drain that Venice can be on one’s pocket- but I am a crafty old bean and in the words of Jessie J- ‘It’s not about the money, money, money.’ Nice one, Jessie. This is my life mantra, these days.
I always find arriving somewhere new in the dark a rather disorientating experience, but even taking this into consideration our arrival into Venice was pretty spectacular. I had travelled up from Fano by train with a fellow teacher from the last couple of weeks, and emerging together from the train station to be greeted with the twinkling lights on the water in front of us was a very joyous moment! We parted ways there as we were staying in different hostels, and the next challenge of the journey was figuring out how to use a vaporetto. (For those who have never heard this word before- a vaporetto is basically a bus that’s a boat.)
The Generator Hostel is located on Giudecca Island, just across the water from St Mark’s Square, and is amazingly easy to find even when the only thing you can see out of the boat is the pitch black choppy waters surrounding you. The lobby/bar/lounge area downstairs is one of the slickest and quirkiest I’ve ever been greeted with in a hostel; it looks more like a boutique hotel. BUT, a word of warning for travellers who come here in need of a good night’s sleep- the music in the bar keeps going for what seems like forever, and if you’re on the first floor like I was, this equates to zero hours of shuteye. Bad times, my friends! I’m not complaining- I knew it was sold as a party hostel, but less patient people than me would be going full on mental in that situation I am sure.
I arrived in my room, a 16 bed dorm, at around 11pm. I was staying in a lower bunk, and the bunk opposite was clearly also being slept in- although the occupant was nowhere to be seen. The bed was piled high with clothes, dismantled newspapers, pens, tiny shiny pebbles, biscuits…all manner of mysterious debris. Let me be fully clear about one thing- The Generator Hostel itself is actually a pretty immaculately kept hostel as hostels go, but the owner of the mysterious collection on the bed was not an immaculately kept person, no sir. When he arrived- a man of around at least seventy years old with tanned leathery skin and whispy hair- he pushed the contents of the bed around him as if he was making a burrow, and snuggled down amongst them.
The mystery man in the bunk opposite turned out to be a troublesome sleeper, and spent the next five or six hours getting up, exiting the room, slamming the door, coming back, slamming the door, shouting in his sleep, moaning in his sleep, and just generally (it would seem), not having a great time. This meant that pretty much everyone else in the 16 bed dorm was also not having a great time. When I got back from the shower in the morning, he was sat on the edge of his bed tapping away at an iPad holding a magnifying glass above it so he could see clearly. When I arrived back at the hostel about 7 hours later, he was sat in the same position, magnifying glass in hand, oblivious to his surroundings. I accidentally dropped something on his foot as I was getting it out of my locker and he didn’t even flinch or respond when I said sorry.
I JUST HAD TO REMOVE IT FROM HIS NAKED FOOT.
Day 1: Wandering in the Style of a Lost Girl
I awoke pretty early and decided that after the previous evening’s events the best thing to do would be to walk it off and get as lost as I possibly could.
Never use a map in Venice. I find getting lost is always a brilliant idea, but getting lost in Venice is on a whole other level- I highly recommend it. I can’t even begin to tell you where I went as I have absolutely no idea, quite frankly. It is beautiful, and strange and somewhat mysterious. What blew my mind is that the city has looked like that for years and years and years, and will probably stay exactly the same for just as long…it’s been built on a lagoon for goodness’ sake. I mean, what kind of nutter would come up with that idea!? A BRILLIANT BUT KIND OF SILLY NUTTER, THAT’S WHO.
Related: The Art of Getting Lost
St Mark’s Square and the area around it is packed full of tourists, but take one turn off of it and all of a sudden you could be completely alone in a narrow alleyway, in silence. Venice is probably the only city in the world where you can have a conversation in the centre without having to shout over the traffic, and that is a notion which I find highly surreal.
One of the more awkward moments of the day was the point at which I realised I was dressed like a female version of a gondolier, matching t-shirts and everything. It was only upon looking back at this picture (see below), that I came to this shocking realisation and felt like I might as well put an I ❤️ Venice baseball cap on as well, for a laugh. But I didn’t.
By about 4 o’clock, in my rock and roll way, I felt as if I was on the brink of collapse and sheer exhaustion, so headed back to the hostel to attempt to chill out. A friendly Austrian man bought me a drink, and what a bloody interesting lad he was…he’d walked all the way to Venice from Austria. I mean, that is really far! It took him two and a half weeks!! Pretty cool, I’d say.
Dinner time came around and next thing you know I was out and about in the studenty area of the city with a different bunch from the hostel, ready for pizza galore. I don’t think I would ever get tired of pizza if I lived in Italy. There were five of us altogether- two English guys who have come to study in Venice for a year, (through the Erasmus programme, which sounds pretty awesome, check it out), an English lass who does something to do with lots and lots of money in London, an Australian guy who has been travelling in Europe for a while, and little old me. All very different experiences of life, I reckon. This is the beauty of hostels, and also the world.
Whilst perching on a bench in a square, contemplating life and hostels and what series to watch at the moment on Netflix, a man approached us to enquire as to whether we would be interested in purchasing any drugs. We politely declined, but the other English lass was rather appalled and exclaimed ‘Well it didn’t tell me about THAT in my guidebook!’ Ah, Venezia… ❤️
Day 2: The Honey Conundrum
The Honey Conundrum had been an official Conundrum since approximately day five of being in Italy- but today was the day the Conundrum was officially resolved. That’s right, pals! Jubilations.
Let me explain: whilst staying with the lovely Venturini family in Mondavio, I had been given a jar of homemade honey to take home with me…a beautiful gift which I treasured to the max! However, awkward times as I only brought liquid-restricting hand luggage with me (that’s right, hand luggage, for three weeks). What an idiot. I spent all of yesterday and today trawling the city for stationery shops selling padded envelopes, and let me tell you that’s no easy task when your knowledge of the language is limited. Eventually I managed to locate one on the island of Lido, stuffed the honey jar into it and with the help of the guy on reception back at the hostel, sellotaped it up good and proper. It looks like an extremely suspicious package now, I’ll tell you that for free, so whether they even let it into the country after all that is another matter. What if they think it’s a bomb????
So, the morning was spent trawling the city with a lass from the hostel, and we didn’t solely focus on envelope-hunting, so all was good in the hood. We walked over The Rialto bridge and basically kept going for as far as we could, instagramming many things, before we felt like it was time to eat. It’s pretty cool to just take your time exploring the different shops…beware the ones selling cheap tacky versions of real Venetian things, though. Genuine Venetian masks are highly amazing things, so beautifully crafted, and a lot of the time sell for the same kind of prices as the plastic knock-off versions which are mass-produced and covered in glitter. RIP OFF. The little shops selling cones of seafood are pretty cute too, I’m telling you.
By the time we were hungry we were in a square with a few different choices of food…but we went for Morroccan. Classic Venetian Morroccan. Maybe a silly choice but actually it was beaut so I don’t regret it a bit!
In the afternoon I was planning to visit the Doge’s Palace…but then I saw a boat destined for Lido and thought- ‘it’s a sign!!’ So I only went and got on the boat, didn’t I!? And it truly must’ve been a sign as that is where I discovered my padded envelope extraordinaire. TRUE STORY, MY FRIENDS.
I got off of the vaporetto with absolutely no idea where I was (well, obviously in Lido but my exact location), or where I was going but I figured that if I continued onwards in a straight line I would probably, at some point, come across the sea. It was late afternoon but by the time I reached the beach it was almost completely deserted. What a massive contrast to the centre of Venice.
It was still warm but quite windy, giving a bit of a mysterious looking haze to the whole beach as the sand was blown up into the air and the synthetic grass-roofed beach huts and umbrellas rustled. I always really appreciate being by the sea when I haven’t seen it for a while; this was no exception and a very welcome, peaceful break from being around so many people 24/7. Being sociable can really take it out of a person.
Day 3- Murano, Burano, Squid
My last full day in Venice…sad face. So, I intended to make the most of it, and set off fairly early to Murano and Burano. It turns out it takes what feels like an eternity to get there, which is unfortunate when you’re really desperate for a wee and realise you are nowhere near land. ‘Go when you can, not when you need to,’ is what a wise lady once told me, and it’s truly one of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given. If only I’d remembered that before I left the hostel.
Anyway. I didn’t spend a lot of time on Murano- the glass-making island- as what I really wanted to spend time doing was photographing the brightly coloured houses on Burano. The actual craftsmanship involved in making the glass is probably really fascinating, but I’m not gonna lie, I don’t find the glass that pretty to look at. Sorry, Murano.
Burano is definitely a place I appreciated highly, as well as making me really jealous of people with brightly coloured houses. I truly believe that good colours put people in a good mood. Maybe living in a brightly coloured house is the secret to happiness. Who knows.
Even the ice cream in Burano is colour-coordinated…
I met a work friend in St Mark’s Square that evening to go and get some dinner…and pretty soon after greeting each other and deciding which direction to head in, was casually mobbed by many foreign students wanting selfies with a blonde girl. Now that was a strange experience. After one set of students left, we’d get five or six footsteps further before being mobbed by a new group. My pal Toria was left watching/laughing in a bemused state whilst I was surrounded by 10 students at a time wielding iPhones and selfie sticks. This must be what it’s like to be Taylor Swift.
In ceremonious end-of-trip fashion, we went to a restaurant somewhere on the river and consumed all the wine and sampled the local cuisine, you know how it is. Squid-ink spaghetti, which I enjoyed more than I thought I would. It looks like someone’s poured tar all over the plate, and tastes mildly fishy which I’m not sure why I was so shocked about. I mean, it is squid after all, what an absolute dingbat I am.
Day 4- The Most Expensive and Delicious Hot Chocolate Ever in the History of Me
Having fully refrained from buying any souvenirs to take home (mainly due to the hand luggage issue), I decided that this morning was Treat Day.
I got up bright and early to make the most of my last few hours on Italian soil, and made my way to Caffe Florian, the oldest cafe in the history of the world, ever. Just to be clear, I am fully aware that it costs an extortionate price just to even sit on St Mark’s Square…but Treat Day rules applied, so it’s totally fine.
Caffe Florian has been open since 1720, and apparently even the actual Casanova himself used to come here…probably because it was one of the only cafes to allow women in. I’m really glad women are allowed in there these days, I’m telling you. Imagine denying a woman access to a Starbucks, I mean things would majorly be kicking off wouldn’t they?
I sat out on the square listening to the band (you also pay extra when the band’s there), and ordered a hot chocolate for around €10, which plus the costs of sitting and being in the presence of musicians took it up to the princely sum of around €15. But actually, it was worth every penny. The hot chocolate was the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted, and was more like pure melted chocolate than your average powdered version. So good. Also, if you sit in Caffe Florian with sunglasses on just taking in the scenery, I think people start to assume you’re some kind of absolutely glamorous DIVA with an exciting and mysterious reason for being there alone. Several people will fully ask what the exciting and mysterious reason is, but in reality I was there because I wanted a warm beverage and it was Treat Day so why the hell not, I say. Oh, life.
The water in the city is starting to get rather high, so they’ve started laying out raised walkways around where the flooding gets the worst. It’s called ‘acqua alta,’ and in my dim silly way I hadn’t realised that in a city built on water, this might be a problem at times!?
The journey to the airport was long but easy…a vaporetto all the way from the hostel to the bus station, then by bus to Marco Polo. I sat next to an English girl who was going to meet her boyfriend at the airport…she was being leered at by a creepy looking man standing nearby for the entire journey, and pretty close to his stop he began licking his lips and winking at her. Horrid. When he finally got off a couple of stops before ours, he banged the window next to her face before he sauntered off. What an ABSOLUTE GENT.
Despite the gross ending…I’m gonna miss you Italy, you little beaut boot.