It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Yeah, OK, so I’ve stolen that from Dickens, but it also describes the last three months of my life. Ya see, in November I was told I was going to be made redundant, along with ALL of my colleagues. I won’t go into the icky deets, but basically, it took me three full months of job hunting 8 hours a day to FINALLY secure a fab new job.
Once I’d got all that shit together, it meant several things: a) that I would have a two week gap in between jobs to do fun things and b) that I’d have redundancy money AND a big pay rise to make my life easier. So what was I gonna do? TRAVEL LIKE A MOFO, OBVS!
My first stop? A three night solo jaunt to Venice. Yeah, you heard me…VENICE. The floating city, known to be the most romantic place on earth. Never one to let the lack of A Man to stop me doing anything, I decided that I deserved to romance myself. In fact, I think that everyone, even if you are coupled up, should take time out to romance themselves every once in a while.
Other than a few solo days tacked onto the beginning or end of weddings abroad, or work trips abroad, I hadn’t done a full-on solo trip since Malta, so I was SUPER BLOODY EXCITED about this. Mixed with a little bit of healthy anxiety too o’ course (I mean, c’mon…it’s me!)
True to form, I researched the absolute shit out of everything, drawing up a rough itinerary for each day and exact directions so that I didn’t get lost desperately trying to buy ‘Un Biglietto’ for the vaporetto or the airport bus. Yeah, when I travel solo I try and avoid getting cabs because it works out more expensive, plus it’s more of an adventure to try and navigate the local transport system.
Once landed at Marco Polo airport, I hunted out the ticket machine for the airport bus, and found it immediately thanks to my bad-ass planning. Hopped on the bus, and 20 minutes later I arrived at Piazzale Roma, which is a big old bus station, and is the final place that any wheeled transportation can go before having to transfer on foot or water to get into the city. I decided to walk partway to my hotel, and get the vaporetto the rest of the way.
I tell ya – when I caught sight of the Grand Canal for the first time, I lost my shit. I couldn’t quite believe that I was there, navigating my way along the Canal (thanks Google Maps!), watching the gondoliers and mentally clocking the names of the vaporetto stops so that I could try and get a sense of the geography of the place. When I reached the vaporetto stop I wanted, I knew exactly what ‘Biglietto’ I needed (again….AMAZING PLANNING CRONIN) so I bought a 48 hour pass for 30euros. A lovely chap from Taiwan asked for my help buying his own ‘Biglietto’ and I was OVERJOYED to help. I love the feeling of helping out other travellers, it’s a nice way to meet people, plus it’s a reminder that actually, yes, you do know what you’re doing!
Feeling smug-as-fuck, I boarded the boat and proceeded to take a shitload of photos before realising that actually….I had got on the wrong bloody vaporetto hadn’t I! It was no real biggie, and as I saw us zip by the ‘San. Marco Giglio’ stop that I needed, I figured that I’d just see where I ended up, and would walk back on myself to find my hotel. And I did just that.
My hotel was pretty cool. It was decked out in traditional Venetian style, with the faint sound of opera trickling out of the speakers in the lobby and in the bar. On arrival, I asked for an upgrade. Now, travelling solo, especially as a woman, I have found that you can wangle certain things. I smiled my sweetest* (read *creepiest) smile and attempted some broken Italian, and that seemed to do the trick! I got a Queen room with a private terrace (which I actually didn’t use, ironically) and all for the sum of 200euros for 3 nights. Bargain Basement Cronin was thrilled!
Enough of the hotel shit though, I had stuff to see! It was only midday by this point, so I dumped my stuff and trekked out to find some of the key touristy shit that I had mapped out.
I went straight to Piazza San Marco (St Marks Square) to see the Basilica di San Marco and Doges Palace. NEXT-LEVEL STUNNING.
Because it had been raining so heavily in the morning, almost all of Piazza San Marco was flooded. CLIMATE CHANGE, BITCHES. The Piazza is the lowest point in Venice, and so this often happens during the rainy season apparently. They call this effect ‘Acqua Alta’. They’d assembled some temporary walkways on stilts, so people could pass through the square…the Venetians are clearly very prepared!
I took a swift turn to the right where I was greeted with the Grand Canal, looking like an absolute beaut, even in the grey cloudy fog. I wandered some more (you’ll notice a theme here…Venice is ALL about wandering) and stumbled upon a deli for some pizza….because I realised I hadn’t eaten since 6am and was starting to flag…and I had more shit I wanted to see immediately!
Next up was OBVS gonna be the Rialto bridge. I mean….WHAT A BRIDGE. It’s just stunning, and I loved all the little shops and market stalls flanking the sides of the steps. There was a shitload of people here, but t’was pretty easy to wrestle my way in and take some photos.
Now, when I travel alone, I have a special little ploy. I hunt for people taking selfies, approach them, offer to take the photo instead….secure their gratitude…and then ask them to do the same for me. I mean, I’m no oil painting but I do actually want to be in some of my holiday photos FFS!
I settled myself down by the Canal, looking at the Bridge, and ordered an Aperol Spritz. The Venetians are obsessed with this drink…because it originated in Venice. In fact, when you walk along the touristy areas with restaurants flanking the pavement, the waiters stand outside shouting “SPRITZ! SPRITZ!”…like, THAT’S how much they love them. They think all they have to do is scream “SPRITZ!!!!!” and we will come running. Well….I did! The last time I’d had an Aperol Spritz was in Malta, and I fucking hated it. It was repellent. But I thought hey, c’mon Cronin, you’ve gotta give it another go…plus I really wanted to call a waiter over and shout “SPRITZ!!” back in his face.
Well reader, it was amazing, Delicious. Turns out, these Venetians know how to knock up a bloody deadly “SPRITZ!!!!” Although they serve it with an olive, which is just wrong.
I was getting tired (and hungry again) so I wandered back to my hotel, via Teatro Le Fenice, which is Venice’s most esteemed theatre. I had tried to book to see an opera there, but it was too expensive sadly, so I made do with wandering inside its cute little gift shop and taking some photos of its exterior.
I then found Harry’s Bar, which is the most famous bar in Venice, according to my research. It’s renowned for its Bellinis, but at 20euros a pop, I wasn’t prepared to get sucked into that shit, so I took a photo of its entrance instead (which looks like a the entrance to a hobbit prison, not a swanky bar) and went on my merry way.
Once I’d scrubbed myself up and was ready for some evening romancing, I asked my hotel for a recommendation of somewhere to eat that was good value and had good ambience. I always do this when travelling, solo or otherwise, because you find places that don’t rip you off and serve you mediocre food. The dude behind the desk recommended “Vino Vino” and I was like, mate, that sounds right up my street. I cruised my way through the narrow, winding alleyways and found this place, which, it turned out, was totally charming, I had spinach and ricotta tortellini and a glass of Pinot Grigio for 16 euros – bargain! I also managed to ask for the bill in Italian, a phrase that was to come in very handy over the course of my four days! “Posse avere il conto per favore”! Plus, the service was amazing…Italian waiters really are smooth as fuck…but weirdly they get away with it not seeming pervy. But as charming as my waiter was, I still didn’t receive a “Bella”, which was my ultimate goal of course. Still, there was time for all that….on to Day 2…….