As I had been to Venice before, I wasn’t too sure whether we should visit it on this trip. Notoriously expensive, touristy and pedestrian-only to top it off, it’s not the ideal place to take a van. However, it was on the way, and Colin was interested in comparing canal cities after living in Amsterdam for two years. Plus, maybe it would show it’s romantic colours when travelling there as a couple, rather than just with a friend (sorry Anna).Decision made, we found a campsite situated next to a ferry stop so we could easily whip across the water to the city proper for the next couple of days. Arriving in the afternoon, we decided to pop over for the evening to check it out. As we alighted the ferry we came upon a rather non-Venetian scene, the shooting of a Bollywood movie. Well, when I say they were shooting, they were actually having a break, but there was a Bollywood beauty wrapped in a blanket and a camera and loads of Indian dudes in puffer jackets, so close enough right?
Our only mission for the evening was to start getting acquainted with one of the cornerstones of Italian culture – food. First stop, hole in the wall pizzeria for a giant slice. Then wander round some tiny streets. Second stop for a Spritz, a mixed drink of Aperol, soda water and prosecco, topped off with a fat juicy green olive. Then wander some more tiny streets.Next up, two big scoops of gelato. Wander some more, then it’s back on the last ferry and home to bed.The next day we woke to bright blue skies and were more than happy to spend some sunshiny hours getting lost in Venice’s maze of pedestrian lanes and alleyways. We also found a cool small gallery near the packed Peggy Guggenheim House running a Kitsch Biennale – a style of modern art that doesn’t have much to do with the word as we know it, but definitely earned itself two fans that day. Kitsch draws (ahem) on two of my favourite, if somewhat old-fashioned, styles of art – realist portraiture and still life, and due to this somewhat stuffy style, was named “kitsch”, though the result couldn’t be further from still. Unsettling and often violent, the paintings by the main artist, Odd Nerdrum (above), were incredible and we found ourselves marvelling over them for the rest of the day.We also checked out a Stanley Kubrick photography exhibition at the Venetian Institute of Letters, Science and Art, which stands imposingly over the Grand Canal that cuts through the city. Turns out old Stan was quite a well-respected photographer before he discovered the medium of film, and he has some great series of shots that showed a flair for story-telling. Overall however, it didn’t match up to those beautiful, haunting paintings from earlier in the day.After all this culture we decided we needed to rest and refuel, so we hit up a great little restaurant that was full of Italians and downed a delicious quattro formaggio gnocchi for me and a spaghetti marinara for Colin. While still very much in the centre of things, the meal was inexpensive and tasty, so we were pretty happy for that find. It can be so easy to end up in a crappy restaurant and pay through the roof, so we were glad not to have gotten jipped.We decided to finish off the day with a few drinks in the last of the sunlight and so we found a prosecco bar on a great big open courtyard at the more suburban side of town to wind down in. I enjoyed a rose prosecco and Colin his first Manabrea, an Italian artisan beer that served him well throughout Italy. As the sun set, the courtyard soon filled with school children, who finish school at 6pm in these parts of the world due to siesta time and long lunches at home in the middle of the day.We realised we were drinking in what was essentially their backyard, due to the small apartment living that residents of Venice have to put up with. Apart from the exhibitions the city at first felt it had it’s old soul sucked from it and filled with tourists, photo opportunities and Venetian mask shops, but straying further afield it comes to life, very much like it’s canal city cousin, Amsterdam, where locals tend to live their lives on the street to avoid spending all their time in a 50square metre apartment.Venice really only needs a few days and we were ready to move on the next day, and excited to meet up with Grant and Amanda in Turin as soon as possible. A long drive ahead of us the next day, we called it an early night at chugged back across the water and waved goodbye to fair Venice.