Wolfsberg to Venice
Distance: 216 miles
Duration: 3 hrs and 30 mins.
We left Wolfsberg mid-morning to drive to Italy. Normally, we would avoid paid toll roads but this time we chose the quickest way to Venice and that is through the Autostrada. We paid €18.00 for the use of the Italian motorway but unlike the smooth road surface of France or the sturdy bridges of Germany, the road in Italy is bumpy and poorly maintained. We would never understand the spaces in between the slabs of their bridges that made our car jump a little every time we pass by. Also, many drivers are ill-disciplined that they would cut you off with little regards to their safety or yours. This is something that occurs everywhere and sure enough they happen in the UK too but it seems more pronounce in Italy. When we reached Mestre we were waived at by an unmarked police car and asked to pull over and so we did. The police showed us his badge and asked to check my hand bag. We weren’t sure what was happening at this point so we foolishly handed him my bag. He refused to take it but instead asked my husband to open it for him. He then proceeded to sniffing it which I found quiete funny and asked if we were carrying drugs. Of course we said no! And well whatever he was sniffing, he didn’t find it and so we were cleared to drive off.
Venice is in everyone’s bucket list of places to visit and it’s price tag definitely reflects that. We didn’t think we would afford staying there with our limited budget so we looked for an accommodation just outside of the historic centre. We stayed in an apartment in Mestre, 5 and a half miles from Venice. Many people visit Venice this way and there are a lot of hotels in the area. Don’t expect Mestre to accommodate to tourist as much as other places in Italy do though.. it doesn’t. There are many restaurants around but by large, they serve Italian dish. It will be hard to find roast dinner or sausagees in Mestre and breakfast mainly consist of croissant and espresso. This doesn’t bother me as I love Italian food to begin with but if you’re not a fan of Italian food this might be a problem. There is a McDonalds in the town centre, so this can be an option. And if you look hard enough, you might even find an Irish pub (we did). Also, expect restaurants to be closed around lunch time to early afternoon. This is a practice that is common in towns than in the cities of Italy. It is called riposo (rest) or the Italian siesta. They typically close around lunch time so catch your lunch early and opens at about 4 or 5 in the afternoon. This is also the time when Italians are out and about until late in the evening.
You can drive from Mestre to Venice by crossing a bridge over the sea and it will only take 12 minutes but the car park is ridiculously expensive. Venice is navigable by foot and by boat so if you bring a car, you will have to park until you are ready to leave. Meanwhile, the bus fare from Mestre to Venice only costs € 1.50 each way. You can also go there by tram but the bus stop is closer to us and it only takes 15 minutes.
When it comes to views, Venice does not disappoint. You can see it in pictures but seeing it up close and walking its street is mind boggling. It is certainly breath-taking and history abounds every corner. We were there from early in the morning and at some point you need to draw the line on when to stop taking pictures and experience the moment. The first thing that we wanted to see is the Piazza de San Marco. This is the city’s main square and was described by Napoleon as “the most beautiful drawing room of Europe”. Indeed it is beautiful but also heavily crowded. The main attraction of the piazza is the Basilica de San Marco. There are many churches in Venice but this is the most popular and probably the most spectacular. Its Italo-Byzantine architecture and opulent façade is a symbol of the Venetian’s wealth and power. Also located in the square is the 15th century clock tower or Torre dell’Orologio and the basilica’s bell tower (Campanile) both can be explored if you have the time. There are websites that will allow you to book tickets to enter these buildings which will probably be advisable as the que is quiete long.
You will get lost in Venice, literally and we did. You can always find your way around and we definitely did…with the help of Google Maps. We got lost looking for the Rialto. We didn’t mind though, anywhere you look are spectacular buildings and you would want to stop and take pictures. Rialto is the commercial and financial hub of the city and its famous monument is the Rialto bridge (Ponte di Rialto). It is the oldest bridge located in the Grand Canal. As most things in Venice, it is best to come in the early morning before swathes of tourists come out or in the evening when the crowd begin to disperse. If you find a spot to take a picture, take advantage of it, it’s hard to come by.
The city is overrun by tourists and in peak season, the number of tourists more than double the number of locals. It is said that after 9 am, most people that you will come across in Venice are tourists. A big volume of tourists that come to Venice are from the cruise ships that made the city its attraction for a holiday package. In some way, it has become a victim of its notoriety.
Venice is popular for many reasons and one of those is its Venetian mask. Wearing a mask is a centuries old tradition worn during the Carnival of Venice. The designs are intricate and colourful and there are plenty of shops around the city.
The iconic way of touring Venice is through the Gondola but it will set you back € 80 for a 45 minute ride. We opted to use the water bus for € 20 unlimited hop on hop off ride for the whole day and we didn’t regret it. Even the views of Venice from the water is spectacular. Water buses ferry people to the whole island as well as the surrounding islands of Venice like Murano where Murano glass originates from. I did my research and went straight to the back of the boat for the best photo opportunities.
The streets of Venice is a pedestrian only zone. The ground is covered by cobbled stones and trees are very few. I think it’s what made it even hotter. Gelatos, cafes, shops and restaurants are everywhere so you can always get refreshments. It is expensive though, expect to pay double the price of what you would pay outside the city. There are a lot of horror stories of tourists paying extortionate prices. Just this year, four Japanese tourists paid €1,000 for four steaks, a plate of mixed seafoods and water. I read that the food in Venice doesn’t represent Italian food as locals would have it. The restaurants cater mainly to tourists and have adapted their way of cooking. We thought about bringing sandwich and water but we didn’t really want to eat soggy sandwich on our holiday so we opted to buy slices of pizza in one of the street stalls and looked for a shaded spot to eat. We did buy cold drinks in the shop but we also brought a bottle of water which we re-filled in the many water-refilling taps. It was really hot when we went to Venice so it was important that we kept ourselves hydrated.
Visiting Venice is expensive but there are cheaper ways of exploring it. As spontaneous as we would like us to be, it saved us a lot of money by researching before we went. If I go back to Venice I would definitely go in spring or autumn when the crowds are smaller and the weather more agreeable.