I had a conference in Udine at the beginning of this week and since I hadn’t been to Italy before I thought I ought to fold in some tourism. Udine is quite small (but not unpretty) though, and Venice is a couple of hours away by a cheap train so the choice was obvious.
I arrived on Saturday evening, walked across the town and caught a Vaporetto to the southern island Giudecca where I stayed the night in a buoutique-ish hostel. (Boutique hostels might be the paragon of millennial contradictions; making a unique instagrammable experience affordable by sharing a dorm with 19 other people.) In the morning I got up early for a walk around the island, went back to the hostel for breakfast and caught another Vaporetto back to the main island and all the way up the Grand Canal—the non-rich person’s substitute for a gondola tour—to drop my bag at the station for the day.
Venice is an enormously popular tourist destination and if you want to go into any attraction of note you either have to book it weeks in advance or queue for ages. I did neither. Instead, since I only had one day, I just walked the streets mostly at random for 8 hours. It really is the most gorgeous place, not in its grand buildings (impressive though they are) but in its details and overall aesthetic. It’s one of the few places I have been that feels consistent, as though it were designed. It’s a bit uncanny valley, like a video game level. I had a strong urge to climb things.
In the end I think this way of seeing Venice was actually pretty good. The attractions seem nice, but none really jumped out at me (I did go up the bell tower in St Mark’s square, but that’s 15 minutes of activity at most). I can imagine going again and staying a few days, but only with another person. Venice is a better backdrop than an object of investigation in its own right.