Venice has been flooded…with tourists!

Fontaine Family European Adventure…Installment #3

After having spent just over a week in both London and Paris, our family foray through Europe continued southward as we boarded a flight to the Italian coastal city of Venice. Quite honestly, our time spent in Paris was way too short, but I have to keep reminding myself that this trip was mainly about exposing our 14-year old son to as many countries, cultures and people we could in a little over three weeks. So far, mission accomplished.

Discount airline EasyJet brought us to Venice.

I must admit that getting to the massive Charles de Gaulle Airport was much easier than I expected. All it took was boarding the Metro subway, then one stop later we transferred to a separate rail system that brought us via “express” to the airport. The journey was only 30 Euros [$45CAD] and way less expensive and quicker than a taxi to our destination. Once again, let me give a big plug to the public transit system in both Paris and London…simply something to aspire to as a resident of metro Vancouver.

After passing through security [and a few dozen police officers with machine guns] we made our way to the appropriate gate. It was then a quick one hour and thirty-minute flight aboard EasyJet, the discount British-owned airlines with a distinctive orange and white branding. Then appearing outside the cabin window was Venice [see image], a city surrounded by the deep blue waters of the Adriatic.

An uneventful disembarkation [from both the front and back of the plane which is marvelous] then on to the shuttle bus for the quick 30-minute trip to Venice proper.

A journey down the canals of Venice by water taxi

Once there, it was a bit of a madhouse to figure out where to buy our water taxi tickets and board the boat. As a recent Globe and Mail travel story noted, Venice has been completely flooded – by tourists. As a result, it seemed near impossible to find even a quiet spot to contemplate the history, beauty and charm of this “city of islands”.

Unfortunately for Venice, it has simply become too much of a good thing. You do feel a slight bit of resentment from the locals who have to face the hordes of foreigners who have peacefully invaded their city.
Once we found the appropriate water taxi, staff herded us aboard with the sheer sophistication of a cattle farmer. A transit worker loudly shouted at us in Italian – one assumes – to squeeze in even tighter and get a few more passengers aboard.

It truly gave us new meaning for the term “survival of the fittest”. If you aren’t aggressive [or rude as we would say it] and push your way on board, you run the risk of waiting in the searing heat and humidity for the next taxi heading in your general vicinity.

The Venetians have certainly mastered their local waters. Watching the myriad of watercraft ply the hundreds of canals is worthy of a weekly reality TV show! The fact there aren’t more disasters or accidents is a testimony to the fact they have been doing this for centuries…and while it is complex, the captains of these vessels all make it look so simple – almost hypnotic. A tip of the hat to all of them for bringing people from point A to point B in a safe and secure manner.

St. Mark’s Square is the most popular tourist site in Venice

We only had 24 hours in Venice before we boarded the MSC Poesia, therefore we had to make the most of it. As luck would have it, we stumbled upon an amazinc Italian restaurant – with no customers or lineups! My first thought was…why is this place empty in a city overrun with tourists? Is the food that bad? But we took our chances after briefly speaking to the waiter who sold us on the food and service. In the end, I realized we were having dinner at 7 pm…which about three hours before anyone in Venice eats the same meal!

The chef prepared some amazing Bass, oven-baked roasted potatoes and a wonderful vegetable medley. The best part was he brought the whole fish to us and filleted the darn thing right in front of our eyes. It was a true pleasure to the palate and amazingly it cost only $25 Euros per person. Something similar in Canada would be not only difficult to secure, it would be twice the cost.

After dinner we wound our way through the narrow streets and canals toward St. Mark’s Square where they were hosting a massive graduation ceremony. At least that’s what I could decipher from my very limited knowledge of Italian. A lot of young Italians there looking forward to a bright future ahead of them in the European Union – which will soon be without Great Britian.

As luck would have it, I was fortunate enough to be in the square when the bells began to chime…truly an unforgettable experience. I’d been there before, but had forgotten how remarkably beautiful and open this public square was in a city as dense as Venice.

If you’re looking for an amazing little boutique hotel, close to absolutely everything, I’d highly recommend Hotel Trivatore. It was easy to access by public transit and walking distance to everything…and at $280CAD per night, it’s reasonably priced.

Bags are now packed as we head toward the cruise ship terminal for a one-week adventure on the Adriatic and Mediterranean Sea. Stay tuned for “Installment 4” of the Fontaine Family Foray in Europe with a special focus on Bari, Italy and Katakalon, Greece.