VENICE

Italy

As if we were gondolieri

Venice airport, harbour, platform #13. The vaporetto meant to bring us to Venice is swaying on the lagoon water, that the morning mists colour in steel grey and thick brown. "Zisse ticket no good", the lady in front of us tells us rather coarsely when we show her our Passes. "Zisse fore bus, inne front of ze airport." Abruptly, she turns away from us and continues to chat with the boat driver.

Darn! That's dump, really dumb. We've paid a supplementary six euros each for this transfer, without imagining that our Passes… wouldn't be valid here. Of course they aren't—they've been issued by the competitor company ACTV, after all. We look at each other, undecided. What shall we do? Stumble back through the long corridor that links the airport to its harbour in order to catch our bus? Be driven around for an hour via ugly Mestre and the Ponte della Libertà? Uhm, no.

Therefore we walk over to the Alilaguna counter and purchase two simple tickets for Venice. Costs us fifteen euros each. The price of our dumbness. The next boat is supposed to leave in twenty minutes, but for once we're lucky: at platform #13 our lady of the coarse manners is still telling the same boat driver stories about her husband, the mamma, the nonna, the zia, the kids and the dog. We find a place in the middle of a swarm of Spaniards, then the boat leaves the platform, dances on the waves, and the mists swallow us like an old-fashioned mystery. From time to time things stick out of the grey veil that surrounds us, first the wooden blocks, eaten by salt and water, then some islets, then Murano, San Michele, and finally, like a mirage… the skyline of la Serenissima.

The sun gets out and chases the morning vapours while we're waiting in front of the Santa Lucia railway station. The Canal Grande is a surprisingly well organized chaos where vaporetti pass gondolas, gleaming luxury taxi-boats, smaller crafts and larger boats shipping any kind of goods one can imagine, food, construction material, even waste. The vaporetto stop, which is in fact a floating landing stage, lurches under our feet.

Around us mums are trying to keep their bambini calm, some signori are reading the Gazzetino or the Gazzetta dello Sport; elegantly dressed old ladies are holding wicker baskets, revealing thus that they're headed for the Rialto market to do their shopping. Vaporetto #2 arrives, a young employee moors it alongside the landing stage, opens the security railings, then shouts, "Ferrovia! Ferrovia!" Her Rs crack like drum rolls.

We have to wait for a huge crowd with tons of luggage to step off the boat. Apparently, some people love to travel lightly… Then, we get on the boat. We find two seats outside, at the rear of the vaporetto. An unwarranted gift of destiny. We sit almost as low as the water around us, the machine roars, we hold our noses into the wind and enjoy the façades of the palazzi, churches, monuments, and museums that slowly pass by. Everything looks improbable, with that slight taste of exquisite decadence, of sweet and beautiful decay.

Early afternoon. It's hot, we've switched into digestion mode and walk down some narrow lanes without hurry. At the Zattere station, we agree that a little boat expedition would do us good. We board the #5.2 line, which is certainly the least exhausting way to see a maximum of Venetian scenery.

The vaporetto leaves the landing stage, we drive towards San Basilio, the Giudecca isle is spread out to our left, the southern banks of the Dorsoduro to our right. We know that our trip will take more than an hour, including a stop at the Lido, before we will get back to San Marco. Seagulls are singing a very personal rendering of the famous "O sole mio!" with their coarse voices; small wavelets lick the hull of our boat; the sun is caressing our skin. Happiness, Venetian-style. Right now, we guess only the gondolieri come closer to it.

GOOD TO KNOW

  • Except taxis (rather expensive), only Alilaguna allows you to go to Venice from the airport and vice versa (orange line) – FR, EN, DE, IT, ES
  • Venezia Unica sells Passes for vaporetto + bus (and fixed rate tickets that even include several museums, churches etc.) – FR, EN, DE, IT, ES, RU
  • To go up and/or down the Canal Grande, there are two vaporetto-lines: the #1-line and the #2-line; we recommend the #2-line, which has fewer stops (but you should adjust that choice if the #2-line is too crammed)
  • The #5.2-line allows you indeed to circumnavigate Venice; we recommend you board it at San Zaccaria near Piazza San Marco or at one of the stops on the Dorsoduro; take into account that the whole trip takes easily one hour at least.

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