One of the great pleasures of Slow Travel is getting to where you are going. Enjoying the ride rather than being focused on getting quickly to your destination so that you can pack in more, one can enjoy the sights, the people, the smells, and soak up the general atmosphere. Slow travelling around Venice provides the perfect backdrop for enjoying the ride.
Vaporettos or water buses are the most common form of transportation around Venice. The tourist can buy a pass for varying lengths of time from 12 hours to seven days, and it is always more worthwhile than the very expensive cost of a single trip (7 Euro). We purchased a seven day pass during our stay (cost:50 Euro each ) allowing us to enjoy this most unusual form of transportation during our entire stay. Just imagine every time you want to go somewhere you get to take a boat ride. The local Venetians of course take this in their stride, and by the end of our stay, we were quite blasé about the whole thing. But the first few rides were very exciting indeed. It is hard to imagine that this is the only form of public transportation. No buses, no trains, no trams no light rail, only vaporettos. We particularly enjoyed the long ride out to the islands of Murano and Burano, the former a quaint island noted for its glassworks, and the latter known for its colorful houses and lace. The weather was glorious, and with the winds in our faces (we chose to sit outside) the forty five minute ride allowed us to enjoy the water and the ride, and feel like we were getting a great deal into the bargain.
The Grand Canal
Another not to be missed ride is the vaporetto ride down the Grand Canal (Bus #1 ) an unforgettable ride through history. Choosing to sit once again on the outside so that our view would be unobstructed we floated by scenery that felt like movie sets from Hollywood. Decaying palaces lining both sides of the canal showed their architectural treasures from the Gothic to Moorish to Renaissance , and caught us breathless trying to keep up as we turned our heads from left bank to right bank. The Rialto Bridge, perhaps the best known landmark of Venice is of course one of the high points of the Canal, and a great place to get off and explore the markets and shops.
On Footbridges and Trolleys
Once you reach the water bus stop closest to your destination you will usually have to walk a few steps, and this almost always entails a footbridge crossing one of the more minor canals. These picturesque footbridges invariably consist of several steps up and several steps down making travel for the infirm or handicapped very difficult in Venice. Dragging large suitcases any distance can be difficult as well, and therefore it is recommended to travel very light when going to Venice. Most interesting perhaps of all are the trolleys or hand trucks that abound and are the preferred method for bringing produce and merchandise to vendors on the islands of Venice. Garbage is hung on hooks outside one’s entrance and carted away on hand trucks as well.
We couldn’t finish this piece on travel around Venice without mentioning what Venice is best known for: her gondolas and gondoliers. A confession is in order here. We did not splurge on a gondola, and splurge it is. A gondola ride is similar to hiring a limousine for an excursion. An hour long ride costs a mere 80 Euros, money we preferred to spend elsewhere. The gondoliers are in fact a colorful addition to the human landscape of the city, and a memory of time’s past before the days of motorized water buses. Tourists seem to enjoy the ride but we preferred rubbing shoulders with the locals on our favorite vaporettos.