What were my impressions of Venice from my first visit?
Crowded, hot, smelly, wet.
On a July morning in 2005, my husband, son and I had taken an early train into the city from our base in Verona, but it was obviously not early enough for the city was already solid when we arrived. We took a packed vaporetto (water bus) down to San Marco with the idea that we would walk from here over to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and then walk slowly back to the train station, taking in the sights along the way.
I remember being floored by Piazza San Marco, and wanting to sit in one of the cafes to take it all in. But we were on a schedule, so we kept walking – past the La Fenice theatre, past several churches, past lovely outdoor trattorias. And the temperature and humidity were going up and up. Lunch was a huge bottle of water and a quick panino, sitting along a steamy, busy canal. We finally got to the Accademia Bridge, where we snapped a few photos and rushed over to the Peggy Guggenheim, which we could see from the bridge.
The museum was an oasis! Leafy courtyards. A quiet cafe. A cool bathroom. And a chance to meander from room to room at a leisurely pace, my teenage son and I discussing the different pieces from contemporary masters. What a welcome breather!
All too soon, we had to leave to catch a train back to Verona. Thankfully we took a vaporetto back versus making a mad dash through the crowds. Once on the train, we only got a couple minutes out of the city and the train’s air conditioning system failed… and we were in a car that didn’t have any windows. Train staff were handing out bottles of water and we were fanning ourselves with any paper we could find. I’ve never been so hot in my whole life! An hour and a half later, we pulled into Verona station, and I’ll never forget that first breeze on exiting – it felt so cool and refreshing, even though we later found out it was 36 degrees Celsius (97 F) in Verona. How hot was it inside that train?!
So, my first visit to Venice was not pleasantly memorable. But I was determined not to let that be my last memory of Venice. I went back in May 2007 for 5 days of lovely weather and gentle exploration. I returned again in June 2014 for 3 days of relaxed sketching, shopping and island-hopping. And I finally sat at Caffe Florian in Piazza San Marco (twice!), soaking in the atmosphere.
For me, this city is best experienced when surrendering to its natural rhythms over the course of a few days!
Mini Vacation piece #91 is painted from one of those 2005 photos on the Accademia Bridge – “Grand Canal at Dorsoduro”. It does give me the faint memory of that hot first day, but thankfully now, there are several more wonderful memories that quickly rush in to replace it.
(Original available at local art shows or on my Etsy shop, ArtWeWonderful, until sold)