I’m really sad to admit that when I bought our plane tickets to Venice just before Christmas 2017, it was on a bit of a whim and I thoroughly expected to absolutely hate the place. We’d just been to see the amazing Canaletto exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery and had been blown away by his wonderfully atmospheric, colourful and detailed depictions of Venetian life and so when I saw how cheap it was to fly there, I naturally leapt at the chance. However, I had also heard that the city was uncomfortably busy, not the freshest smelling and rather run down so had some misgivings about how much we’d actually enjoy ourselves – especially as we were going at the end of January. There was the also the fact that my undergraduate trip to Venice as an Art History student had been cancelled by my probably over zealous university faculty on the grounds that it would be immoral to visit when the city was so endangered by the effects of mass tourism – we went to Paris instead, alas.
However, despite all of my concerns, we fell in love pretty much from the first moment that we set foot in the city after enduring a choppy ferry journey from the airport across the lagoon. Venice was everything that I could possibly have hoped for – and some. It was beautiful, mysterious, enigmatic, crumbling, rich with history, fascinating, charming and magical. We had gone there hoping to find some vestige of the beautiful vistas painted by Canaletto and found that it had somehow, miraculously, barely changed at all since the eighteenth century so that it still looked almost exactly the same. I loved it. We spent our days exploring museums, alleyways, gorgeous old churches, palaces, galleries and winding narrow streets and our evenings getting delightfully lost and enjoying wonderful Italian food and the best super cheap house rosé wine that I have ever had in my life.
To be honest, the fact that we had decided to go in January probably added to the success to our visit as Venice was quiet and although there was a little bit of bustle around the centre, we often felt like we had the place completely to ourselves – even the Doge’s Palace was practically empty when we visited and we had no problems at all getting tables in the most iconic cafés and nicest restaurants. There was even a little bit of sunshine, although it was rare and most of the time the weather was gloomily overcast, not that we minded as we were having such a nice time.
I think my most favourite memory of Venice was from our very last day. We’d actually just had a bit of an argument but then made up and went off to visit the church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, where Titian and Canova are both buried in enormous, amazing tombs on either side of the nave. Best of all though was seeing Titian’s wonderful Assumption of the Virgin over the altar – a true masterpiece that actually brought tears to my eyes as it was so beautiful. And if that isn’t amazing enough – the church also houses his Pesaro Madonna, which is just as lovely.
By the time we left, I was head over heels in love with Venice and although lots of people have expressed surprise that we were so charmed by it in the winter and said that we would have had an even better time in the summer, I am so glad that we opted to go when we did as I think that we really did see it at its best. I can’t wait to go back one day but in the meantime, there is even more of Italy that I want to explore!