Once Upon a Gondola… Venice
Written by: Ruba Zeidan
“This place cannot be real,” I whispered to myself the minute I stepped inside the Metropole Venice on a cold December night.
I have always wanted to visit Venice. The city is a living proof of The Renaissance beauty. The main island comprises of more than 100 small islands spreading over the Adriatic Sea. With no paved roads and only water canals, Venice is by far different from any other city in the world.
Piazza San Marco
On my first day, I decided to head to Piazza San Marco and start the day with a cup of hot chocolate. The place was bustling with tourists and flocks of pigeons gathering around those offering bread crackers and chocolate chips. San Marco is one of the most beautiful squares of the world. It is the heart of Venice and home to many of the city’s most famous attractions, such as the Basilica and Doge's Palace.
Established in 1720 and said to be the oldest cafes in the world, Café Florian was among the very first cafés allowing women to come in and visit back then. Café Florian is not a place that you pop in for a simple cup of coffee, you can actually breathe in history here. Envisioning Casanova flirting with the pretty ladies from his reserved spot at one of the café’s corners, I sat there enjoying every sip of my drink.
In the afternoon, I went aboard a water cruise on the mahogany boat to visit the nearby Murano island. Right after I jumped off deck, I walked my way towards one of the glass factories scattered around the island. That was a one of a kind experience - I watched a glass blower mastering an old craft, creating a beautiful piece of glassware that turned into a colorful fruit bowl. Venetian artisans of Murano are still employing centuries old techniques. It is believed that Venetian’s Murano Glassware has been influenced by Asians and Muslims, as Venice was a major trading port in the 18th century. I took a short stroll around the rest of the island before heading back to the mainland.
Gondola ride to Doge’s Palace
On my third and last day in Venice, I decided to take the Gondola ride. The gondolier pointed proudly to Napoleon Bonaparte’s white house and Mozart’s ancient residence.
Moving from where I hopped out on the shore, I walked to Doge’s Palace, or as the locals call it “Palazzo Ducale.” For a long time. the palace was home to the Doge of Venice, the ruler of Venice before being transformed into a museum in 1923. It now hosts Venice Carnival and Mask Parade, one of the most extravagant events in the world.
Accompanied by a tour guide, I walked through the vast halls of the gothic designed palace, admiring the beautiful oil paintings and ancient fresco ceilings preserved at the building.
Hidden lunch at Osteria Boccadoro
Leaving Doge’s Palace around noon, I decided to have lunch at Osteria Boccadoro, located away from the tourist’s trail, tucked in a hidden quiet Venetian square. This restaurant serves the best fresh fish and homemade pasta I’ve ever had. All the vegetables and other cooked local ingredients granted me the final chance to savor the authentic and natural flavors of the Jewel of the Adriatic.
As I boarded the plane to fly back home, I couldn’t but recall a profound description that I once read about the floating city: “A realist, in Venice, would become a romantic by mere faithfulness to what he saw before him”.