Our host Marie and her friend Rudi were planning a trip to pick up another friend near Venice, which is only a few hours from Kobarid, and they invited us along. We were not planning on seeing Italy at all this year, and so we jumped at the chance. Rudi drove us to Cividale de Friuli first for an espresso and a look at its big stone bridge. It was raining, so after we finished our coffees, we got right back on the road.
Venice is surrounded by some pretty depressing urban sprawl and industrial areas, at least the parts we could see from the four lane highway, the area that Marie and Rudy dropped us off in, and the parts the bus drove us through before we got to actual Venice Venice.
When you first cross over the from the large bus parking lot, it’s almost a theatrical entrance as you can hardly see anything until you reach the apex of the main bridge, and there before you is a big canal full of boats and rows of very old, damp, and not so vertical buildings. And hordes and hordes of people.
It was about 2 p.m. when we arrived and we needed to catch a train to meet Rudi and Marie at 6 p.m., so time was short. We decided we just wanted to wander the streets and enjoy the unexpected treat of visiting one of the world’s most famous cities, have a nice meal, and maybe treat ourselves to an espresso and gelato.
We quickly discovered that while most of the main thoroughfares were elbow-to-elbow with souvenir shoppers and the wheelie bag draggers, most of the time we had the streets and alleys to ourselves if we just deviated a block or two.
We were glad that it was a grey and gloomy. It matched he preconceptions we had in our minds about the place, which doesn’t happen often. The whole city was fantastical and we were happy just observing and admiring everything… from the canals and multicolored buildings, right down to the door buzzers and shutter locks.
Lunch was another story. We didn’t do any restaurant research beforehand, so we were completely at the mercy of fate and our own good judgement. Both failed us and we managed to spend about $60 on a pizza that had sliced hotdogs on it and some gnocchi that made us certain the chef’s name was Boyardee.
At least the wine was good. And we got this sweet photo of the waiter who gave the restaurant an aura of undeserved legitimacy.
By the time we finally got the bill, raindrops began to fall and we realized we had to leave for the station soon if we were going to catch our train. We opted to take a water bus back, reasoning that even if we missed out on expresso and gelato, we’d at least have an enjoyable boat ride and see some more of Venice. The wind and rain was really starting to pick up now and the boat plunged up and down as we boarded.
We managed to pick the boat that took us past large shipping docks and the backside of large industrial buildings, and eventually the weather was so bad that we had to retreat into the enclosed area.
When the boat finally churned sideways into the dock, there was little time to spare and we began to make a run for the train station. The instant a raindrop falls in a tourist destination, magical umbrella fairies appear and try to make a quick buck. They mistook our rush for trying to stay dry and kept stepping right in our paths to make sure we knew that they had the solution to our problem. The stone promenades were slick and I imagined myself tripping and sliding on my face. We made it to the train soaked, intact, and with three minutes to spare.
Venice didn’t turn out anywhere near perfect, but we’ll remember it just as fondly, maybe even more so, than if it had.