Venice was the first city I set foot in on my first trip ever to Italy, and it’s still one of my favorite cities on earth. I think I’m stealing this line from another Venice fan, my friend Christine Cantera, but I have an enormous crush on Venice.
To me, Venice is like the high school bad boy – y’know, the impossibly gorgeous one – who tempts you with promises you know he can’t (or won’t) keep, who breaks your heart every time he pays attention to another girl, and who you’ll still give another chance (and another, and another) even though you know you probably should just walk away and find another boyfriend.
If I’m being perfectly honest, I’d actually prefer to have a huge crush on a different Italian city. When people ask me, “What’s your favorite place in Italy?” I’d really rather not sound so cliched when I reply, “Venice,” but there it is. Sure, there are lots of places in Italy I love dearly, and several which I think I’d actually live in before I’d take up residence in Venice, but I have yet to visit an Italian city that makes me swoon or forget myself so completely as Venice does.
I’ve written about Venice often over the years, usually starting from the premise of helping people get past the things about the city that make some travelers return with stories of how much they hated it. For years, I’ve almost taken it personally whenever someone told me they’d had a bad time in Venice, and I would try to do anything I could to get them to reconsider, try again, change their mind. I still begin with the assumption that it’s simply a lack of good information that stands between any human being and a deep and abiding love for Venice, but over time I’ve become a bit less forgiving with the people who refuse to meet Venice at least (if not more than) halfway.
In other words, Venice travel advice-seekers, if you’re not prepared to put in a little effort, then you might wanna think twice before you ask me for help.
I know what it takes to love Venice, and I also know perfectly well that Venice doesn’t always make it easy. Remember that bad boy in high school? He wasn’t easy to love, either, but you did it anyway. You made concessions, you overlooked faults, you ignored the warnings from family and friends. Of course, he finally did break your heart one too many times, and you eventually did find another boyfriend – one your mother could love, too – but you’d be lying if you said a piece of your heart didn’t still kind of pine for the bad boy.
(Am I revealing too much? What were we talking about? Oh yes. Venice. Ahem.)
Venice takes effort. Venice requires that you look beyond the crowds of people shuffling like so many sheep between the Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Square (and the cheap, crappy trinkets sold by nearly every shop along that route). Venice demands that you take a back road or two (or twelve) in order to find good food. Venice asks you to part with more of your travel budget than you’d really like to, especially for a city so small.
In a nutshell, Venice is work. But it’s worth it.
Will you visit Venice, check it off your list, and then make the decision to turn your back on the bad boy in favor of nicer boyfriends in the future? Maybe. But if you do Venice right the first time, I defy you not to pine for it years later.
And when you find yourself sighing in that way only a beloved ex can make you sigh, come find me. Then we’ll talk.
Many moons ago, a version of this piece ran on my friend Valerie’s now-extinct blog. These days, she’s putting her heart into My Bella Basilicata, your go-to travel resource for all things Basilicata. Huge thanks to Valerie for letting me republish it here; it’s always been one of my favorite “fun” Venice pieces, so it’s wonderful to be able to share it with a new audience.