So yes, we went to Venice. No we weren't overly excited about it, no we didn't have any great need to ride the gondolas, it was more so just a place we would explore since that's where our cruise left from. We had 48 hours in Venice, so what did we do?
We DID walk through an amazing city (some because we wanted to, and some because we were utterly, hopelessly, lost). We DID have some of the best seafood we have ever eaten. And we DID gain an unexpected appreciation for Venetian culture.
1. We walked through the beautiful city of Venice.
The hype is real, people! Venice is an absolutely stunning city, unique in its lack of the huge swells of people and the awful sounds of car horns. Instead it was a mostly quiet city where you could expect to see unleashed dogs happily strolling with their owners, an extraordinary amount of shops selling masquerade masks, and many quaint sidewalk restaurants.
2. We had some amazing seafood.
Contrary to popular belief, not everywhere in Italy is famous for pizza and pasta. Contrary to popular belief, traditional Venetian dishes are mainly seafood based. While we were there we were able to try some staples like Sarde en Soar (a fresh sardines, greens, tomato, and cooked onion dish that was surprisingly delicious) and Bacala Mantecato (we were so-so on this crushed cod dish). We also got to have some octopus salad, razor clams, scallops, calamari, and some other unbelievable plates.
3. We fell in love with the outdoor culture
Normally when we think of cities we think of concrete jungles where everyone hates each other and no one has time to even take a breath. In Venice, while it was crowded in some areas and clearly had some clashing between locals and tourists, the fast-paced nature-clashing lifestyle did not seem to be prevalent.
This beautiful and historic city seemed to stick to its roots of family tradition. We experienced this most notably while waiting for a restaurant to open for dinner (unlike the US restaurants are not open just because you're hungry, and a dinner later in the evening is more common). We sat on a bench in a residential neighborhood where there was a large courtyard. Within it, several families and individuals all relaxed together. The children of several families played, and every time a neighbor went past everyone said a friendly hello.
The adults chit-chatted enjoying the night air, and we felt unexpectedly peaceful in the middle of such a busy place. As we walked back to the restaurant, we took notice of the outdoor tables located along one of the smaller canals. Just a simple change in venue made our whole dining experience different. Rather than being surrounded by walls we were surrounded by buildings, a small bridge and canal. Instead of AC we felt the breeze and smelled the smells of the city. We have always loved and appreciated the outdoors, but sharing that appreciation with those in a much more urban environment was eye-opening.
Do we regret not trying the pizza, the pasta, or riding the gondola?
Nope. Not For One Second.
Why try what every tourist tries (and pays way too much for) when you can go the way of the locals? They go to the restaurants and they go to the restaurants they go to for a reason. If you're in any city, don't go where you see other Americans or other Canadians or anywhere that fits your comfort zone! If you're going to travel the world why bother having something you can get at home?
If you have someone you can communicate with (or better yet can't) that is a local, ask where their favorite place to eat is. You will never be disappointed. What you will get is an unadulterated taste of the local life; away from the pushy up-sales, away from the crowds, and normally away from the price.
Be. A. Local.
And if you go to Venice- get the seafood and eat it outside. You won't regret it!