Europe Express: Carbs and gondolas in Venice

Day 5 – 6 VERONA/VENICE, ITALY

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After watching Eat, Pray, Love, I was quite certain that I would be in for a culturally-rich, hand-gesture-laden, passionate-speaking city, with smells of fresh pasta, pizza and coffee at every corner.

As it turned out, the city in Eat, Pray, Love was Rome, and Venice is nothing like this depiction of Rome.

Venice is a city built on stilts over a group of islands, linked together by hundreds of bridges. With the only source of transport being by foot or by boat, Venice is not a popular place for Italians to live permanently. In fact, it is more like a get-away destination for international shoppers.

2016-06-15 10.54.44In the whole time we were there, I didn’t hear a single Italian accent. I heard a lot of American and Australian accents, and saw a lot of pale English skin turn to the shade of a beetroot. But the expressive and extroverted, loved-up people of Italy were nowhere to be seen.

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A New Zealand store in the middle of Venice…

I did the stereotypical tourist thing of eating and shopping, but that got boring quite quickly. Particularly around the city centre, where the prices would be ten times what they would be a few streets out.

A friend of mine reckoned she saw an iced coffee for sale in the city’s square for 14 euros (£13/$22NZD)!

2016-06-15 12.23.07I did go on the gondola down the canals with a man in a black and white striped shirt. He was on the phone for much of the journey, though.

The canal wreaks, by the way! Not as romantic as it looks in photos. This is due to the canals essentially being open sewers for the accommodation and cafes.

The sewerage cements the stilts into the canal bed, apparently.

On the way back to the mainland via ferry, I was scared for my life as the boat was packed full of people from bow to stern.

2016-06-15 12.32.25Glancing up at the 212-person max. sign, while planting my feet and looking for something to cling to, I was certain we were going to end up in the brown canal. The ferry was dipping and swerving, with water splashing onto the floor.

All I could think of was how many pizzas all of us passengers had eaten, and perhaps we wouldn’t be so close to sinking the boat if we weren’t weighed down by cheese.

This water-based city business wasn’t something I whole-heartedly enjoyed, if I’m honest.

In between major historical buildings, Venice was a mall disguised as a city, perched on stilts. Not culturally-rich, but modern and materialistic, attracting similar types of people.

2016-06-15 11.32.41With tourists, comes waste. Rubbish was littered everywhere, attracting an unprecedented amount of pigeons and seagulls, who shat on all of the monuments, buildings and pavements.

I found this vibe in the city of Verona, too – the backdrop to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – not far from Venice. High streets and luxury stores between buildings faintly resembling their historic roots.

This can’t be the real Italy. There has got to be more to this country than carbs, gelato, pigeons and poo.

I must return to discover Rome!