Rialto Bridge in Venice, Italy

Yes, Venice is beautiful, but that didn’t make my experience worthwhile.

Visiting Venice — alone — in the winter is decidedly more miserable than being stuck in the middle of a lake without a paddle during a snow flurry. I was there in January 2008, and it rained almost every day of my stay. People don’t flock to Venice to stay indoors, so it certainly wasn’t the highlight of my three-month European adventure.

I spent my days exploring and people watching, discovering that everything was overpriced, the food wasn’t as good as on the mainland and the locals designed the island to run like a Disneyland-esque tourist attraction. There was no authenticity. I tried to find it by dining in what seemed like nondescript restaurants, but to no avail. Many seemed to cater to wealthy honeymooning couples. When I got sick of waiters asking why I was in the world’s most romantic city by myself, I bought pre-made salads from the grocery store to bring back to my hostel. It was cheaper anyway, and it gave me a chance to browse my guidebook and plan my escape.

I pre-booked a week in that horrid dungeon (the hostel, that is) and didn’t enjoy a single aspect of it. Warm water never flowed from the showerhead, the unpleasant male owner would talk to guests about other guests like a gossipy 12-year-old girl and the complimentary breakfast promised on the hostel’s website was as real as food in Never Neverland. (Excerpt from travel journal about my first impression of the hostel.)

Perhaps when I’m older, I’ll decide to return to Venice with my husband, stay in a luxurious hotel, lounge on Lido Beach and become enchanted by its romantic atmosphere. But right now, all I have is the memory of a week spent wishing I was somewhere else, and some damn interesting stories because of it.


Not Your Everyday Wake-up Call
A short story about how one hostelmate freaked me out in the middle of the night.


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