A marvellous thing happened just before I arrived in Venice: I dropped and broke my camera. I was devastated at the time, of course, because it was one of those “return it to the manufacturer” scenarios that you can’t deal with when you are travelling.
So what did I do, and why was it marvellous? Well I bought one of those disposable things that you probably can’t get any more because everyone has a camera on their phone, in their pocket. It was a cheap and nasty camera with a crappy plastic lens… that created divine effects with the reflections on the watery canals. People pay a lot of money for those cheap plastic lenses, these days.
I do love my photos from Venice, but there aren’t too many because I became enchanted with the place and forgot to take pictures.
Here are my top five tips for how to enjoy Venezia:
1. Do some research and get in the mood before you go.
Venice is dense and can seem impenetrable, even while looking so lovely, so it’s good to be primed. I recommend the book Venice by Jan Morris as a way to learn about the character, history and influence of this intriguing city. The film The Wings of the Dove (based on the novel by Henry James) will whet your visual appetite for the city of canals, the Katharine Hepburn film Summertime is a charming treat, but I found the film version of Death in Venice to be a huge snore.
2. Don’t be too concerned about your accommodation.
Everywhere is amazing, location-wise, and you won’t want to spend time in a hotel anyway, you’ll be too busy wandering the alleys and piazzas. I stayed in a shared hostel room and was woken during the night by the song of a church choir drifting across a piazza. The sound was magical and it blocked out the smell of old socks drying on the radiator.
3. Take your time.
This is a tourist town at risk of becoming a theme park. Many people rush around, filling spaces, taking ostentatious photographs, talking loudly, scaring the birds. HOWEVER, if you spend a few days simply meandering, observing and quietly absorbing the unique details, you will begin to really appreciate Venice.
4. Choose gentle transport.
Motorboats and cruise ships are slowly eroding the foundations of this amazing city. Walk, row or seduce a gondolier (their rates are exorbitant).
5. Be inspired.
There is a lot of art for sale in tiny boutiques and much of it is gorgeous… but why not make your own? Take a sketchbook or notepad and let the labyrinthine lanes give you lots of ideas. While I was there I started designing puppets and masks… None of which were ever made but it was a pleasurable rush of creativity at the time.
In a nutshell, if you are travelling to Venice, don’t let it get you down if your camera is broken. This unique city doesn’t need another harried photographer traipsing around, trying to capture the quintessential Venetian postcard shot. And you will find that if you approach this old town slowly, with care and consideration, it will reveal its stories and secrets in a much more satisfying manner.