It was warm, sunny and calm the morning we set off to spend a few days in the romantic city of Venice, not the promised strong 20kn southerlies to push us up the coast. A good weather window is vital for a 400nm plus journey (3 days) but as our cruising tax was running out we had no option but to go.
We met a young couple in Lamu back in February who told us it was possible to sail into Venice so the excitement had been building and now we were on our way. It is quite a big detour from Montenegro- nearly 900nm round trip but it was one of the best stops we had yet had.
About lunchtime we started to smell the land again, and saw that the outskirts of the city. By mid afternoon we were tied up on the collector jetty of Cerosa marina and had the best reception from a marina we have ever had. This included maps, laundry/medical/ banking/ poilce etc folder, bus timetables, tourist information, marina info, provisioning info, a cappuccino and a biscuit! Cerosa is a island just opposite Venice and has it’s own bus stop so we went into Venice later that day to start our exploring. Venice has around 20 million visitors a year but they have got their public transport system well organised. The water buses go round and through the island up the Grand Canal every few minutes – you can purchase a pass for as many days as you need and just click on and off – we bought a 3 day pass from the marina which saved a lot of time. Why doesn’t Perth use it’s river system like this – it would be so practical.
Anyway, we found St Marks Square easily and because it is late October the crowds were not that bad. It was absolutely stunning – no photo could do it justice really. Leading off the square were a myriad of small lanes and canals, all with the obligatory tourist shops and restaurants.
We wandered around – walking over bridges to see the gondola passing underneath. All the gondola drivers have to wear black and white striped sweaters to look the part and their gondolas are all freshly painted and look lovely. It was very romantic and very different from any other city we had ever been to. We stopped for a wine and watched everyone take selfies of themselves on the bridges. Venice has no wheeled transport – not even bicycles so it is very safe to walk around. The Rialto Bridge, St Marks Basilica and The Doges Palace are all within a km of each other so its very easy to cover them all in one afternoon.
We had a very average dinner – most places seem to just sell pizza and pasta and cater for a quick turnaround of eaters – so the meals were microwaved and produced fast but I guess if we had gone to one of the flash restaurants in one of the flash hotels it would have been different. The prices were very high for us having come from Montenegro (about double) but hey – we were in VENICE!! I kept pinching myself – we had sailed right into Venice.
The next day we decided we had better check into the country. Again the Marina were very helpful so we took the water bus back and this time went down through the Grand Canal. This was one of our favourite things in Venice. It was magical going through all the bridges, watching Venice work. The trash boats collect the rubbish from the hotels en route using a small crain with a basket attached, the ambulance has it’s own little boatshed, the school kids jump on and off the boats to get to school and the tourists all look up and marvel at the architecture as they meander along in their gondolas.
The canals are very busy with buses, water taxis, working boats – e.g. delivery boats, rubbish boats etc, and gondolas but everyone is patient and calm and it all seems to work very well.
We went right through the island to the port police for our immigration stamps. The rather dour policeman stamped our passports and told us to go to customs so we walked for a couple km to get there and were told we didn’t need to as the paperwork the policeman had given us covered everything for the boat as well if our only stop in Italy was Venice. Very very few of the 20 million tourists come here by private boat, so they don’t have the normal system of port police/customs/immigration – good for us, just one piece of paper- a first in our journey.
That afternoon was spent wandering around exploring. We found a quieter part of Venice with just local housing and churches. Tiny little bridges and even tinier lanes -, some of them literally one person wide. We bought a leather handbag for me and a leather wallet for Ian – our Venice souvenirs and also became typical tourists as we sat on the foreshore with a glass of wine people watching- I played around with my new selfie stick I bought in St Marks Square and Ian watched all the boats come and go from the various stops along the river. A lovely relaxing afternoon.
The next day we were sitting in our little water station waiting for our water bus and we noticed that the couple next to us had Aussie accents.- yep they were from Perth and were also spending a day just following their noses around this beautiful place. We were waiting for a bus to Murano, the island which produces all that beautiful Venetian glass so they joined us for the day and went off to see the glass blowing. Murano is beautiful-, totally dedicated to glass blowing and selling their stunning glassware.
First off we went to a shop attached to one of the factories – the glass on sale was magnificent and we would have loved to have bought a piece but at €800 ($1500) the prices were a bit out of our range. Pat and I did buy a little glass necklace each which I will treasure. We then wandered down the main canal and saw a guy playing tunes on glass rims – he was excellent.
The shops all sold Murano glass and we eventually couldn’t help ourselves and bought a vase for only €80 ($150) – still the most expensive vase we have ever bought but hey – we’re in Venice!
Stopped for a great pizza and bottle of wine in a delightful cafe and then more window shopping before wandering back to the water bus – Murano is delightful and much quieter than Venice as the tourists from the big cruise liners don’t have time to get here. We all went back to Indian Summer for a drink and Pat and Tom headed back to their hotel before dark. A lovely day, made more fun by sharing it with friends we met at a bus stop – wonderful.
Checking out was a doddle. Back to our grumpy immigration policeman, who was happier today and with our passports stamped and our paperwork in order we headed off to get some provisions for the long journey to Greece. Over a coffee and doughnut overlooking the water (this is Venice afterall!) we thought – Why are we rushing down to Greece en route to Turkey? – we have the time to spend a couple of weeks to get there, so the plans changed again and we have decided to go back via Croatia – and sail down the Dalmation coast stopping in Montenegro again to fill up with cheap duty free diesel before heading over to Turkey to overwinter India Summer.
We had spent the most wonderful 3 days in this magical city, but with only a month before our haul out in Marmaris, it was time to start heading for Turkey. Back to the boat, an revoir to the staff at Cerosa, new course set, jackstays in place, lines released and we set sail for an overnighter to Umag in Croatia.