‘Play it again Sam.’ – Bond, Moonraker
With more than 20 million tourists visiting each year, Venice is undoubtedly a city that will be on most peoples bucket lists. However, aside from the Gondola rides and the welter of photo opportunities, is it really worth the pilgrimage? The lofty prices? Is it worth the hype? Here’s ten reasons for and against.
The James Bond Tour
Not its official title but there are some instantly recognisable landmarks if you’re a James Bond fan. The entire final act of Casino Royale and large parts of Moonraker were filmed in Venice. For the price of a peppercorn you can get a tour of the glorious Torre dell’ Orologio, also known as St. Mark’s Clock Tower, where Roger Moore threw a henchman (Chang) through the clock face meeting his demise, nose-diving through a piano below. You’ll learn the film actually used some poetic license as the clock face is made of wood and bricked up from the inside.
With no cars polluting the city, one of the first things you’ll notice upon arrival is just how fresh and breathable the air is. Especially on the canals and on the water taxis and in the more exposed areas between the islands in the lagoon.
Only a couple of places in the world can rival some of the collections that Venice has to offer. From the infamous frescos that adorn the majestic ceilings of the Doge’s Museum, to the current Tancredi collection in the Guggenheim museum. An artist often compared to Van Gogh for being a troubled genius who shared the same tragic fate. The Correr museum in St Marks Square also gives the history of the MOSE project, an $8.8 billion dollar project designed to temporarily separate the Venetian Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea when unusually high tides occur.
For one of the most touristic cities in the world, Venice houses some of the best authentic Italian restaurants, perhaps only toppled by those in the villages of Tuscany and of course, Sicily. It’s safer to book ahead, especially in season, but the portions are often generous and most restaurants offer a courtesy dessert wine or course, mainly to persuade you into leave a glowing review on TripAdvisor. Still, a freebie is a freebie.
Opera in Your Living Room
The Musica a Palazzo is a travelling opera show and each act is set in a different hall of one of the most fascinating Venetian palaces: Palazzo Barbarigo Minotto. Depending on which night you attend you could see one of three performances. The most popular being La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi which has strong links with Venice. During the first scene the small audience are actually playing the role of the Violetta’s guests (Traviata): she drinks a toast with them and among these she will meet Alfredo.
If you’re heading over to Murano to see some of the Murano Factories then you’ll need to ensure you’ve got there on a week day as they are closed for the weekend. The island itself is beautiful and the outlets along the canal are festooned with innumerable chandeliers and glass-shaped trinkets, cups and gondolas. However if you’re just in Venice for the weekend the Murano Factory tour won’t be on the itinerary.
The Endless Photo Taking
It will be an arduous task to negotiate your way around Venice without accidentally photobombing someones perfect holiday snap. The Rialto bridge is not only book-ended with the homeless and selfie-stick vendors, but possibly the most congested spot for tourists looking to get that ultimate romantic selfie.
The shops in Venice are predominately leather bag shops, Murano Glass souvenir outlets with the odd clothing or quill and pen atelier. If you’re just looking to have a nose around, you’ll find the majority of shop assistants are eager to close any deal, like they’ve been binge watching episodes of The Apprentice. Typically the exchanges will be pressurised and uncomfortable, especially if you’re merely just window shopping.
If you have plumped for an apartment as opposed to splashing out on a hotel on the canal, then you’ll be forced to find your own breakfast like you’ve somehow magically been transported back to the Jurassic era. Venetians don’t do breakfasts, they do coffee. You’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere that will be able to satiate your desire for some simple eggs and bacon.
You’ll Get Lost
The maps for the water taxis are slightly convoluted to say the least. It’s like looking at a map of the subterranean London if you’re slightly inebriated. The city itself is poorly signposted and you’ll only recognise Per Rialto, so if you’re heading there, then you’re sorted. That said, there are worser places to get lost in.