Venice: the most romantic city in Europe

Posted by Lianne Van Leeuwen on 3 December 2011

Venice was a destination I was looking forward to the most while travelling through Europe. It is the ‘city of water’, known for its masks (the carnival), gondolas (with singing gondolier) and beautiful architecture (the Rialto Bridge) – need I say more? Venice was truly a city I loved before I’d ever been there. It is just so different and I couldn’t wait to see it with my own eyes.

Friends who had visited Venice before weren’t so enthusiastic about one of the most romantic cities in Europe. On the contrary – they were so put off by the restaurant prices that they didn’t have a good word to say about it.

“We were charged eight euros for a coke!”

“The prices on the bill were different than those on the menu”

“The ‘complimentary’ bread they offer before your meal? You have to pay for it!”

Determined not to let them shatter our illusions, my boyfriend and I went on our trip. After eating waffles in Belgium, we cycle in the Netherlands. We eat baguettes in France and climb the Alps in Switzerland. And then,we finally cross the Italian border. After Milan, Venice is the next destination.

Venice, oh Venice.

From the Santa Lucia station, the first vaporetto (water bus) stop is only a few metres away. After dragging our luggage onto the boat, the ride to our accommodation is a treat already. Venice is everything I imagined it to be – and more. Wesee stalls filled with Venetian masks, the glitter shimmering in the sunlight. Gondoliers pass the vaporettos skilfully, though their ‘o sole mio’ does not bellow between the buildings. But I forgive them. They probably need all of their attention to avoid a crash in the narrow waterways. The boat passes colossal buildings, the gothic balconies decorated with brightly coloured flower pots that hang down the railing.

Nothing can bring my mood down. We’re in Venice.

After dropping our bags at the hotel, we decide to explore the small streets that zigzag over the island. Some follow a dead end. Others lead to open squares and monuments. I am loving it.

The sun is starting to set. Our stomachs grumble as supper time is approaching.  We find a nice spot on the side of the ‘grande canale’. The view over the waters is immaculate. Vaparettos and gondolas float past while the sun slowly sets behind the Santa Maria della Salute, the basilica of St Mary of Health. We nibble on some crusty rolls filled with freshly sliced ham and take a sip of the wine while admiring the scenery. A gondolier ties his boat up next to me. I can hear the murmuring of tourists while their cameriere brings them their bill.

He brings them their bill. Not us.

We had bought the Italian wine in the local grocery store, together with the rolls. A local butcher had sold me the finest ham on the island. He had sliced it fresh off the legs that were showcased on the counter, furry hoofs still attached. We just had a delicious Italian meal for just over five euros. Clearly, my friends hadn’t been ingenious enough.

Venice is sorprendente. Don’t try to change my mind.

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