Venice; the ‘Floating City’. Hundreds of canals flow through this beautiful place and separate it into 118 little islands. The city has been the film set of many movies and it’s a very popular tourist destination. We thought that Venice would be expensive, knowing that exploring the city by gondola costs € 80 for just half an hour. But we enjoyed this wonderful place for free including a boat tour through the whole city!
gondolas waiting for customers
From the moment we started planning our trip through Europe, Venice was on Niko’s bucket list. Before my life as a traveler, I lived and worked for years in Bruges, a city called ‘the Venice of the North’. Of course I had to see the real deal!
It was a foggy morning when we arrived in Venice. After an intense week of long waiting hours to find rides and misadventures (a red wine box exploded in my bag as the cherry on the unfortunate pie; seeing it in a positive way: my bag became a lot lighter to carry) we weren’t very surprised that the weather wasn’t cooperating either. The mist was thick and we could barely see the road 50m ahead of us. It didn’t look like we would see much of the city. We even had a good laugh about it. Oh well, there isn’t much you can do about the outer circumstances, you can only control the way you deal with it!
The moment we got out of the train station and walked into the city we were mesmerized by the many boats floating on the Grand Canal. Although there was a lot of mist, the visibility of the water traffic was good. It even gave it a mysterious touch!
We crossed one of the bridges over the Grand Canal and started wandering through the streets. One of my friends advised me to just enjoy the beautiful architecture, to get lost in the many little alleys and see where they would take us. His advice couldn’t have been better because it led us to a magical meeting!
Love how the laundry is drying in the alleys
Near one of the many little bridges a man was rowing his gondola towards me. His reflection on the water was so beautiful I just had to photograph it. While I was trying to capture the moment with my camera (which turned sadly enough out as a blurred image) the man called out to me. He asked me if I wanted to come along for a ride. I looked a bit stunned, asking suspiciously how much he charged. Nothing. He said it was his hobby and he loved taking people along showing them his city. I still couldn’t believe it. I looked over to Niko, who also had a big smile on his face. Let’s do this!
A free ride through the city by boat!
The boat turned out to be a sandolo (a brother of the gondola). The man, Felipe, rowed us through all the canals. We spent more than an hour on his boat, enjoying Venice from the water. We cruised on the ‘highway’ of the canals, which even has traffic lights, and along the many little ‘roads and alleys’. Felipe even taught Niko how to row the boat (not as simple as it looks like). The smile on our faces grew bigger and the mist disappeared. This was definitely the highlight of our trip through Italy and changed the energy of our misadventures back into a positive flow! This meeting might have been random, for us it was magic! So if you ever want to visit Venice, look out for this man. You’ll find him rowing his little boat between the islands, preferably in the small streets. Wave to him and he’ll be happy to take you along! Hitchhiking a sandolo is possible!
the man himself: Felipe
The mood for the rest of our day was set! We walked all happy around Venice, visiting the many islands, the beautiful historical houses and places. No wonder this was the home of many geniuses and artists (Leonardo Da Vinci, Vivaldi, Casanova,…).
If you ever happen to find yourself in Venice we not only suggest to you to wander around in the numerous streets but also finding your way towards following places which are worth a visit and guess what, it’s all for free!
This article from ‘The Guardian’ gives you a nice overview: Top 10 free things to see in Venice
Two old lovers enjoying Piazza San Marco
The only thing we paid for was accommodation and a train. Camping wasn’t a possibility this time. We had to rent a room for two nights. After doing some research on Hostelworld (a website with cheap hostels and hotels) we found a cheap hotel called Giovannina. A private room with bathroom en suite for only €30 a night for both of us. Not bad at all! It wasn’t exactly a five-star hotel and the staff was a bit grumpy but the room was clean, the beds were comfortable and when you’re in Venice, you don’t want to spent the day in your room! The hotel is located in Venice Mestre, the city next to Venice St Lucia (where it all happens). A train ticket to St Lucia is only € 1,25. The train goes every 10 minutes from early in the morning until late at night. It’s a really good price and you wouldn’t find anything cheaper if you would stay in Venice St Lucia itself!
Venice was the highlight of our travels through the North of Italy. It’s a romantic city you can visit for a few days and still not get enough of ! And look out for our friend Felipe! Hitchhiking is fun, definitely when it turns out to be a boat in Venice!
Join us for a visit in Venice: