2005 Letter from Venice: In our last letter we were in Verona. Getting to Venice from Verona was no problem. We opted for a campground on the mainland in a town called Fusina across the lagoon from Venice. A ferry ride of about 25 minutes takes you to the city. Having bought a three-day ferry ticket, we parked our RV, plugged in the electricity and left for Venice about three o’clock.

We can’t describe this jewel of a city without sounding like a tourist office. Winding through it is the Grand Canal, the main drag here. It still looks much the same as Caneletto painted it in the 1700’s – changed only here and there with a few newer buildings. Except that in his scenes the water is serene and calm. That is not the current scene in Venice. There are no cars, but there is a lot of traffic. Vaporettos(bus-boats), traghetti (special gondolas that only go across the canal where there are no bridges), gondolas, water taxis, ferries, garbage boats, delivery boats, mail boats, private motor boats and sailboats, yachts and cruise ships. The crowded traffic on the water moves constantly in all directions because there are no traffic lanes.

Everything on the water bounces up and down due to the wakes of the boats moving on the water. The vaporettos pick up and drop off people at bus stops consisting of oblong floating docks. Getting on and off the bus is no easy task because both the bus stops and the boats are continually moving up and down in uncoordinated fashion. Adding to this sense of constant and chaotic motion are hordes of tourists that tramp the streets between the canals.

The first afternoon we walked to St. Mark’s Square through narrow streets and many bridges – all of which had a lot of stairs – first going up and then coming down. Tourists were everywhere – and you heard every language spoken. It was a long walk but we got there eventually and it looked just like the pictures you’ve seen. There were people and pigeons everywhere. All the buildings on three sides facing St. Marks Basilica had shaded porticos on the street level. On the fourth side was the Basilica, a Byzantine gem of a building exhibiting lots of gold and mosaics. Above the center entryway were the fabled four bronze horses stolen so long ago from the Eastern Church in Constantinople that the details of when and how the horses were fashioned are unknown. Actually the horses on the outside of the Basilica are replicas. The originals are inside.

By the time we got there we were in dire need of refreshment. We decided that we had to have coffee in St. Mark’s Square and look out at the crowd. So we sat down and ordered coffee. Just coffee. But these two cups of the brew set a personal record for us as the most expensive we ever have had the privilege of drinking. The tuxedo-clad waiter presented the bill. With the tip, the bill came to 17 Euros— a little over $20. And you know what? We did not begrudge the price. We were very tired so we sat for a long time in a very beautiful setting and took a picture of the two of us with the Basilica in the background. That is, a Japanese/Chinese couple there on their honeymoon took our picture. Despite the good feelings we took away from that particular coffee break, I think we can live our lives without the need to have a similar experience in future. After coffee we walked around some more, feeling considerably lighter than when we arrived and then headed back.

On our way back to the boat we found the only bargain in Venice. A single scoop of gelati for one euro. And is it good! We got back to the dock at about 6 for the 6:30 ferry, and found ourselves so far back in the line that we were afraid that we’d get left at the dock until the 7:30 boat. Luckily, we did get on and went back to the campground, but some people behind us in that line were not so lucky.
 
There were perhaps two hundred people on that boat, and very few went to the campground. Apparently that town is a favorite way to get into Venice. You can only bring a car into a few places in the city itself – in the industrial area where there is a big parking garage and at Lido Beach at the other end of the city. So if you want to see Venice, you leave your car in a place like Fusina and take the ferry.
 
There were also hundreds of people around the area of the boat dock – sitting and lying on towels on cement walls – sunning themselves. We didn’t see a pool. They just came to tan. Makes one wonder about the incidence of skin cancer!
 
We stayed in Venice for three days. As usual, we walked a lot, but we also figured out the system. We bought a 24 hour pass for the "bus", and went everywhere by water. By getting onto the bus at the first stop, we were even able to get a front seat outside the cabin so Ron could take pictures. Our only "inside" venture was when we waited in line to go into the basilica of St. Mark’s. We even paid a modest fee to view the rest of the treasures (besides the horses) that the 13th century Crusaders had stolen from Constantinople. The rest of the time, we just walked around or rode through a Canaletto painting.