It was mid-September, summer was practically over and autumn term was fast approaching. With two weeks left until the big university move, we chose to book one last spontaneous flight to Venice (the cost of one flight was the equivalent to a coach journey to London thus we had no reason not to). We agreed to arrive in Italy with small backpacks, no expectations and a very tight budget.
Our plane landed at an airport 31 km outside of Central Venice at 10 pm on Sunday. There were no buses or trains running at that time which could take us into the city, so we decided to wander around the rural areas of Treviso Airport. The closest McDonalds happened to be on the motorway which we had no access to, and our current area featured a petrol station amongst some fields.
The only open hotel situated directly in front of the airport was charging 50 euros per night; and since we were on a budget and 50 euros almost exceeded the price of our flights combined, we declined the offer and returned to the airport.
“We took our bags and made camp under the escalators on the ground floor”
The place was very compact and no flights were scheduled overnight, and most lights were switched off. The last cleaning staff member left at around 2 am, leaving us alone in the dark. We took our bags and made camp under the escalators on the ground floor, guarding our hideout with some café chairs – a ridiculous but immensely amusing task.
When the airport reopened at five am, we changed clothes in the toilets, brushed our teeth, and took a 40-minute coach to Venice at seven o’clock. When we arrived, the city of Venice was only awakening as we strolled across the ‘Ponte dell’Accademia’ Bridge.
The sight of boats and gondolas passing under the bridge became a relaxing attraction; we had gazed at airport ceilings for the past 12 hours and were exhausted so everything sparked novelty. We found a cheap quiet restaurant and ate pizza for breakfast (a Margherita with fresh tomatoes) until noon.
The temperature rose and the morning turned into an encouraging and sunny day. One of nearby tour guides gave us a map of the city, and although we attempted to follow it, we found ourselves completely lost within Venice lanes.
Following a crowd of tourists led us into the longest queue for Gelato ice-cream in Salizzada San Lio, after which we took off on another detour. The intriguing thing about Venice is that you could easily escape the busy tourist environments and discover places of untouched architecture within a few steps.
We wandered through tight lanes between old eroding buildings and canals until we reached a deserted square, where the sound of a playing piano filled in its silence. The place itself was quite serene, as was its architecture.
We later discovered a supposedly haunted property nearby, referred to as ‘Dark Venice’- the Palazzo Dario, famously known to have brought misfortune to all of its inhabitants. The day consisted of a rather unorthodox exploration.
Later that day, we found a cheap hostel outside of the city with shared rooms, swimming pools, outdoor Jacuzzis, and a dining bar which (conveniently) turned into a club at night. ‘Camp Jolly’ ran a constant shuttle bus service to Central Venice and charged £9 per night, and its location gave us the opportunity to scout local Italy.
We met many interesting people (some of whom were English and gave us free tickets back into Venice) and came across some cool urban places. We also took pictures at a graffiti wall with inspiring artwork and spotted the phrase ‘J’existe’ written on walls and lamp posts across the neighbourhood (which we’d later notice on our journeys into central Venice also).
For our three days in Italy, we’d unwind by the pool in the morning, explore local areas and bars, then curiously prowl through Venice lanes in the late afternoons where we’d deliberately get lost amongst costume shops, eccentric buildings, and secret alleys. Overall, we spent under 100 euros each and managed to demystify Venice in three days. However, the existential and somewhat insurgent ‘J’existe’ signs that are written around outer Venice, remain a thoughtful mystery.
Featured image: Moyan Brenn via Flickr
Article images in order:
Moyan Brenn via Flickr
Pedro Szekely via Flickr