We Share the Sights in Venice only the Locals Know
Have you ever wondered what it is like to be Venetian? To be on the other side of Venice, the non-touristy side. A special place that tourists don’t often experience. This city will surprise even the most seasoned traveler when they see it the ‘See Italy’ way. From hidden bars to fascinating workshops, the cozy streets of local neighborhoods are transformational. Like the ancient waterway connecting to Padua! Seeing Venice, the real Venice means boarding a magical gondola where you leave behind the “tourist” name badge and arrive as one of the locals. In essence, to become Venetian. Are you ready to take that journey with us?
Cross the Canal to the Other Side of the River
Why not… When in Ro… Venice, Right?
Being a mixed generational group with varying ideas about what is fun or exciting can be trying. But you’ve been given a unique opportunity to unlock an activity you all will enjoy. You announce that it’s time to head back to Cannaregio, but you provide no details as to why, just that it’s a surprise. Having spent some time there the day before, you feel confident you know where you are going. After momentarily questioning your location, you assure your companions, take a deep breath and pass through a secret door. A hidden courtyard opens up before you. It is as if you’ve entered another world where fire and furnaces take center stage.
Local artisans move harmoniously with the dancing flames, creating timeless masterpieces out of glass. As your senses absorb the heat, smell, and noise, you cannot help but notice that these artisans are multi-generational, just like your little group. A family who has been crafting glass works of art for generations, since the 19th century, actually. Inside the cozy studio, viewing the process of melting glass and assembling mosaic masterpieces is wow-worthy. But that is just the beginning because now it’s your turn to try mosaic craftsmanship.
The creative process of building the mosaic together is so immersive. Your kids take it seriously, eager to be authentic Italian mosaicists themselves. They study prepared sketches, and begin to try different materials and techniques. They are thrilled to have creative decision-making regarding the materials, methods, and color combinations. Even having input on which rules they will follow. Everyone is collectively focused, so focused, in fact, that three hours have flown by.
Three hours were filled with interest, laughter, learning, and rule-breaking. Even you broke your traditional role of the parental observer by becoming an active side-by-side participant. And now, it is time to reveal the fruits of your effort. The masterpieces are ready. Praise and applause abound. But more importantly, a family memory has been seared in your hearts and minds. One whose flame will always be stoked when you gaze upon your “Made in Italy by my own hands” souvenirs. The day you became one of Venice’s glass-blowing artisans.
It’s a *yawn* new day! And your Venetian transformation is almost complete. The activities you have made are paying off. Your travel planner was right; to connect to a city’s heart, one has to be willing to embrace its people and lifestyle. You’ve eaten with them, adopted their retelling of the day’s event over food, and done a little work with a family of artisans. What more is there to do to complete your adoption? Well, to be a true Venetian, you must do what every one of them regularly does.
What’s that, you ask? Why get out of the city? The place is flooded with tourists! And that means boarding a traditional wooden boat and enjoying a leisurely cruise along the Brenta River. Your destination? The crowd-free gem of Padua. Home to many Ancient Roman, Medieval, and Renaissance marvels. The greenish water of this ancient waterway connects Padua with its sister city Venice.
However, you are more fascinated by how it elegantly reflects the magnificent facades of noble villas dotting its shoreline. Like the Italian aristocrats who have gone before you, you take a sip from your glass of wine. Closing your eyes, you imagine sailing to the luxurious comfort of your country residence. The boat passes beneath low bridges, through green tunnels of coastal forests, and past the docks of impressive palazzi (palaces) until you arrive at the elegant city center of Padua.
Your eyes behold a unique atmosphere that no photo can fully capture. Having heard whispers that Gallileo Galilei used to live here, you become excited to see the country’s oldest University. Time passes quickly as you stroll through the lush Botanical Gardens, marveling at well-planned labyrinths and a picturesque greenhouse with rare plants. From afar, you see a large building with mesmerizing beauty. Its domes, columns, and arch-shaped passages fascinate all of you. Upon approach, you discover it is the Basilica di Sant’ Antonio, and you cannot help but learn about him. You have seen so much today. The Palazzo della Regione, the Prato della Valle. Perhaps, Giotto’s fascinating frescoes, and as an art lover, the Capella degli Scrovegni.
Tired but brimming with all the memories you’ve made, you finish your day sitting in the sunny piazza at the historical Caffe Pedrocchi. Stendhal, a famous French writer, once wrote, “It was in Padua that I began to observe life in a Venetian way…. Cafe Petrocchi is the best in Italy”. Sipping the cafe’s extraordinary espresso while making observations about life, you realize just how Venetian you’ve become.