6:12am and my alarm is screaming at me from somewhere in the dark. I open my eyes to be reminded, that I'm in Venice. Venice, Italy. This girl isn't up early to get to work, she' up early to quickly change and make her way to Piazza San Marco, before all of the people filled up the square. Staying at the Santa Chiara hotel, was a great position, but almost as far as possible from San Marco as you can get. What I was close to, was the train station, so I knew I had several options when it came to getting to the Piazza. There are signs throughout the city showing you which direction to take (San Marco -->), but you can go by crossing either the Rialto or the Accademia Bridge. Or find yourself a little traghetto (Gondola that you can stand or sit on), to take you across the canal for 2 euros.
I decided not to over think it and just to figure it out as I went, that way I could run into new alley ways, restaurants and shops on my way there. The hotel is positioned next to Piazzale Roma, the only place you will see a bus or a taxi while you're in Venice. This is where people are either coming in for day trips, arriving from the airport, or if you're up early like I was, you'll be walking into the center with all of the commuters! Think about that one for a second. These people must get to this square in Venice, then walk their way into their shops or restaurants or the hotels they work at. Venice truly survives off of all the tourism that they get. More on that another time!
So I fall in line with the people marching their into the town on their way to work. Up the bridge, down the bridge. You come to the end of an alley way and it's left or right, and the sign for San Marco Square is saying both ways, but my feet guide me left and all of the sudden I'm alone and the streets are quiet. I follow the main sign again and I'm going back to the right and into a small "campo" which is like a small square. The only sound is of the street sweeper, the sticks from her broom hit the ground harshly and the trash skids across the stone into the pile with the other debris. Even the brooms in Europe look medieval. Similar to what you think of when you picture a witches broom.
The sound of the sticks scratching falls into the background, as two mens voices come closer and closer. It's a group of construction men headed to work, the men are talking quickly and one over the other, I listen in as they pass me. Unfortunately, no good dirt this early in the morning, they are just talking about a TV show that they were watching. I glance at my watch and quicken my steps as well. I decide to take the way to the Rialto Bridge, to check one place off the list on my way in. Delivery boats passed slowly under the bridge as I approached it. Restaurants were still closed and the market stalls were boarded up as well. I wasn't the only soul around though, this is where I began to see other early risers out and about, others that were visiting the city. People with their cameras in their hand and their eyes at the ready. Scanning the scene in front of them, where the sun was pushing it's way through the storm clouds, trying to bring us the light of the day.
I knew I was close to my final destination now, so I took off again and was basically taking the stairs two at a time, as I got more excited. Just when you think you know where you're coming from and about to see the main square- think again. I'm laughing even writing this. I've been to Venice about 10 times and each time I've walked into square, I seem to be taken off guard when I realize where I'm walking in from. This city will do this to you, one wrong turn and you're off to the other side of where you wanted (or at least were you expected), you just keeping wandering and your feet keep going and going. I see some empty bottles on the platforms, that stand at the ready for the acqua alta, if the tide decides to roll in. I'm at the side of the basilica now, standing in front of the lion statues. One of which is occupied by a little girl, begging her mom to take a picture of her! These are statues you won't get yelled at for standing next to or sitting on. My eyes are now looking to the back, then to the side, then to the other side of Piazza San Marco. I feel a grin forming on my lips and I'm staring, staring at how dang pretty and huge this place is. Then it's as if I've forgotten how tall the Campanile is, just touching the clouds. The views from the top, are indescribable.
I casually walk over toward the grand canal, passing slowly in front of the basilica, it's like I nod up to it and say, long time no see, old friend! We may be both getting older and older, but I'm definitely someone that is becoming more and more of a fan of this unique city, as time goes on. This basilica is hands down, one of the most interesting and particular churches that I've ever been in. It's too early to enter, so I go toward the water, where the wind is blowing in from. I can see the gondolas lined up, bobbing up and down with the water, they are elegant and sleek, each seat decorated differently from the other. An exemplary and symbolic symbol of what Venice is and what the old Venice really used to be.
I'm now standing on the bridge and leaning on the railing, looking down the canal that leads to the Bridge of Sighs. Not something that is very old in Venice, but it's stories will live on and on of why it was built and how it's earned it's name.
I encourage everyone to do their reading before they go on their holiday, about wherever you are headed. If you don't have the time to research, there's these things called "tour guides" (noun - a person employed to show tourists around places of interest), in fact, I happen to know a few of them. Their sole purpose and passion for their career, is to share with you the little details your eyes might not and most likely won't pick up on. And for those of you reading this and thinking, "I don't need a guide!" Then maybe you're not curious about the stories, because I travel for the stories; to learn about the- when, what, how, and the where?!
Of course there's then the 'who', but that's something I'm still working on. I can barely remember the name of some of my neighbors, so maybe in time that will come as well. Be curious, be invested and research your butt off before your trip- or hire the researcher to guide you through a city. Aka? A tour guide. Look you learned something new today!