After a quick cup of coffee next morning we caught the bus to the station and then the Italo train to Venice (all booked at home on Trainline). I still can’t get over the amazing sight that greets you on coming out of the station concourse. You are immediately in the heart of Venice and its canals. Right there. At the start of the Grand Canal. It’s like stepping onto a film set. Incredible.We knew that the water taxis – the famous vaporetti – would be nearby. They were right outside.We grabbed a day ticket each (12 Euros) and what a bargain that proved to be. It was worth it for the trip into the centre alone. The boat went more or less the whole length of the Grand Canal stopping along the way. What a journey. Click after click went my mobile.And what I couldn’t get over was how busy the waterways were. Particularly with goods traffic. Everything from dredgers with their miasmatic loads to DHL boats (imagine) to fruit and veg boats. I really hadn’t appreciated that this was how it would be.I understand that gondoliers get around £95,000 a year……..but they still can’t afford to live in Venice itself…….
But the architecture was something else. We all know the problems of Venice – the stupidly large cruise ships, the conversion of old buildings to hotels, flats, Airbnb, the loss of residents to tourism. According to Bloomberg ‘The city’s population basically peaked in the 1500s, and though it rallied again to near 16th century levels in the 1970s, today there are just one third as many Venetians as 50 years ago.’ Less than 50,000 residents compared to over 20 million visitors each year, of which over half are day trippers (just like us). It’s all a disaster. Basically the place is a museum. But what a museum! All too soon our journey was over and we disembarked at the Piazza San Marco. Because we were here for such a short time we had no intention of actually going inside places (just as in Milan). That would have been pointless to try. Instead we wanted to ‘feel’ Venice. So, we enjoyed the sheer size and splendour of the Doge’s Palace…..the Piazza itself (Napoleon called it the drawing room of Europe)……and of course the Basilica….as well as the Renaissance-style clock tower…However fairly quickly and decisively we headed off down the nearest street in order to escape the tourists….(sorry, I should say the other tourists)….That escape never came. We walked 30,000 steps that day, (according to my app about 12 miles, but say 8 or 9 miles), and we never got rid of other tourists. They were literally everywhere. And not only tourists, but tourists’ shops. Like Blackpool in the 50’s. Well not quite.But you could have 200 million visitors a year let alone 20 million, and you still wouldn’t take away the beauty, the specialness of the city…..around every corner, and I do mean every corner, a wonderful view……We were heading for the district of Castello to visit a special bookshop. But we just headed in a general direction, not concerned whether we got lost…..which we did frequently…and eventually we were there……the Libreria Acqua Alta. In this unique shop, which has been called one of the most beautiful in the world, and is certainly one if not the quirkiest, books are stored and on display in gondolas, canoes, and bathtubs. Books are even turned into furniture and architecture themselves! Books that got ruined by high water, or acqua alta have not been thrown away, but have been used instead to become decorative features, walls or even the steps of a book staircase that gives wonderful views over the canal. It is unbelievable. Especially to a couple of people like ourselves who owned two very nice bookshops. The guy who owns this has turned a problem into an opportunity in a very big way indeed.We sat fascinated by the loop of film which shows the shop actually under water……and as for the full-size gondola in the middle of the shop……Incroyable!Unless we had seen it we wouldn’t have believed it, but lunch called…..and we resumed our magical footstepsand we were so lucky to find what on this day was probably the quietest piazza in the whole of Venice…….we had yet another ‘special’ birthday lunch here at Osteria Boccadero (I was doing so well with this birthday….). It was really really nice. And my squid ink seafood linguini was delicious…….Suitably rested and refreshed we only had one more ‘objective’ (good to have objectives) on this day, and that was to see the ‘bridge with no parapet’. This involved a walk along the lagoon side of Venice along a lovely promenade, then cutting back towards the Grand Canal…..