I was in Ferrara - a short trip from Bologna. It was my second visit to Bologna so I made some trips out of town. It was hot and I wanted to rest a bit, normally I like to take a train at that point. I can relax, look out the window and possibly take a quick nap. So, I went to the station and took an intercity train to Venice. Fast and inexpensive, I fell asleep and arrived in Venice in just an hour and a half or so. Trains in Italy are super efficient and in my experience very reliable.
Normally, I do quite a bit of travel planning before leaving for my destination. Yet, this was a weekend trip and I didn't feel like preparing anything at all. And so I didn't, not for Bologna and not for Venice. There's so much to see, I thought, I'd have to come back someday anyway. A good excuse to relax and just follow my senses. I walked through the station of Venice, looking for the nearest information booth to ask at what time the last train for Bologna would leave. I had a hotel in Bologna so staying in Venice wasn't an option. Not only because I didn't feel like it, the city would probably be far more expensive and I'd lose money on a double booking.
I was confident there would be trains back to Bologna well into the night, these are big cities on the main axes through Italy. For sure, I'm used to the train network in The Netherlands where you can catch a late train. Yet, to my surprise, the last train stopping in Bologna would leave Venice at 18:57! As I looked at my watch, it was about 17:44. I'd have about an hour to walk through the city. Leisurely, I thought. Buy my ticket now, have a stroll over the San Marco square. It was the one thing I knew about the city I'd have to see - who doesn't know the place. And so I bought my ticket, a bit sad of my stay being way too short. But I could only blame myself for that, trying to cram far too much into what was only a weekend trip to Bologna.
And so I walked, impressed by everything I saw on the way. And the crowds. The center is completely packed, but this was as I expected. I followed the signs 'San Marco' and as I had no internet on my phone, I asked some people on the way. At one point, I was told it would be close to 2 kilometres of walking. I had not calculated this at all but was determined to see the square. And so I started speed walking, as fast as I could without looking ridiculous. Friendly asking other people if I could pass. Crossing bridges, up and down. A good workout. I counted I could just spend a few minutes at the square and then already would have to return. Yet, it was so busy, I was afraid I wouldn't make it. And so I started running - at places I could. Not bumping into anyone, just running around them like a mad dog. The distance was nearly twice because I obviously couldn't run right inbetween the other tourists - whom had actually done some better preparation and had the time to walk around and take in the city's beauty.
I eventually got there and was exhausted. I took off my vest, took some pictures and looked at the pidgins. No time to go into any of the magnificent building. I felt rather silly. In my best Italian, I asked some 'gondolieri' how to get back to the station. I needed to take a shortcut. Apparently, the paths I was directed to were far less busy. I could really sprint. I had to ask some more people on the way because there were no signs. I ran and ran, then saw the station. I had two more bridges to cross, the last one a modern one. It was huge and steep. I nearly collapsed from exhaustion as I ran down the bridge. People must have thought I was insane and I would not have disagreed with them. I got one more burst of energy and ran to the front of the train, right on time. I had done about 4 kilometres in an hour - with all the crowds and taking pictures a reasonable speed. It was madness. The train pulled out of the station and I looked at the city lights - fading out into the distance. I felt ridiculous and could only conclude that I gave Venice one hour of my time. I want too much and travel too fast. I had to see it all, and so I saw nothing. Let it be a lesson to travel slow, take in the sights, and at least enjoy the place I first travel to.
Don't do as me, planning an afternoon trip in a day trip in a weekend trip. Relax, breathe, and give Venice at least a few days. What I did see was so impressive - yet I only actually saw that through the quick snaps I took. They turned out quite good but I'm ashamed to say my travel style leaves room for improvement. But that's the point of travel - you break boundaries, face yourself and sometimes get frustrated with who you are and what you want. Travel is confrontational - but it lets you reflect on your behaviour.
A bit of planning saves a lot of disappointment later on - and stop and smell the roses and actually see the place you are! It makes no sense to rush because in the end, you see nothing that way. Or, you see a place through your pictures without having actually lived the moments. Venice - I'll most certainly be back and for more than an hour!
Second visit - 2019
Had the opportunity to visit again. I flew from Sofia to Treviso. In the Treviso post you may read more about this trip itself. I learned from my last visit and chose to visit in the evening. I was close by and just took the train to Venice Santa Lucia station. As it was September and I arrived at 19:00, it was relatively quiet. Especially so when I walked away from the main streets. In fact, in the evening and night, you can have over half of Venice completely to yourself.
I did some research and found a wonderful little Venetian restaurant. There are plenty of them in the eastern part of the city, away from St. Marco Square. There are trains back to Treviso, even until a bit after midnight. So I got to experience the true Venice, I really felt the atmosphere at night. It is truly a magical city, you do need to know when to visit! I recommend September/October and then especially the evenings. The sunsets are amazing. In the second album you may see the pictures of this visit.