It was Christmas in Venice. The illustrious Rialto Bridge arched impressively over the glimmering water of the city’s main waterway, the Canalazzo, or Grand Canal. A chivalrous gondolier gently guided two lovers down a small side canal, as he quietly hummed a nameless tune.
In the city there was a flurry of activity. The Clock Tower on Piazza San Marco, Torre dell’Orogolio, announced the arrival of a new hour and hundreds of tourists braved the cold to relish a classic Italian lunch at the many side cafés that line the square. Street merchants offered a seemingly endless supply of seeds to young children who delighted in feeding the hundreds of pigeons that flock to the square daily. A multitude of tourists scuttled through the inner city streets to ensure that they arrived at the next must-see attraction on time.
We had looked forward to our trip very much so we defied the crowds and visited and marvelled at all the highlights the city has to offer. However, once finished we decided to take a leisurely walk towards the outskirts of the city. As we continued to stroll, the number of tourists diminished with every new side street we turned into. It wasn’t long before the city was remarkably transformed. We felt as though we had Venice all to ourselves.
Pricey tourist shops made way for local convenient stores, delightful delicatessens, quaint cafes and enchanting Christmas markets. The tourist crowd changed into sauntering students, bustling businessmen and ordinary Venetians busy with their daily activities.
We stumbled across a wonderful and welcoming local eatery in a quiet little side street and decided to stop for lunch. Although an unassuming place, which hosted a colourful shop at the front and three modest tables at the back, the pasta was purely delectable, the house-wine unsurpassed and the staff friendly and efficient. All at a price we fervently returned for the following day.
For the rest of our holiday we roamed the quiet alleyways of the outer city, admired the myriad of glinting Christmas lights and quietly browsed through the multitude of alluring local shops.
When next you find yourself in Venice and have glanced through all the obligatory tourist attractions, remember to take a stroll to the outskirts of the city and you will see the real Venice magically unfolds before you.