it's not easy driving in venice. for one thing, there's lots of
traffic. and the areas of town called the "campos" are what you
use to navigate - not the street names. but the main reason why
it's difficult to drive in venice is that most of the roads are
under water. venice is a city of canals.
not all the roads are under water. we found out that the way to
get to venice is to drive over the ponte della liberta bridge to
the first of the islands that venice is comprised of. we went to
the piazzale roma, where we could park our car and either walk or
take a boat ferry or gondola. since the piazzale roma is the only
place that we could drive, it's quite busy.
we followed the signs to a parking garage, where we planned to
leave the car overnight. the garage was very crowded, and we went
up and up until there was some space on the fifth floor. since we
didn't know where we were staying, we left our bags in the car and
walked downstairs and outside. since none of us had been to venice
before, we were a bit worried about how we were going to find a
hotel for the night. but we got lucky: right outside the garage
was a kiosk with a big "venice hotel information" sign.
we asked allesandrja for two rooms in a hotel within walking distance,
since we didn't want to have to figure out how to load our luggage
onto a gondola. so allesandrja, acting like she was doing us a huge
favor, started calling hotels.
the first hotel only had a single room available, and allesandjra
tried to convince us to take it. we weren't convinced. so after
rolling her eyes a bit, she called a second hotel. this one had
two rooms, but one of them didn't have a bathroom. again she tried
to convince us, and again we weren't convinced. we began to think
that maybe venetians and americans viewed service a bit differently.
allesandjra said there were no more hotels within walking distance,
but this didn't convince us either. so eventually she got back on
the phone, and called the santa chiara hotel, which had rooms available.
and even better yet: it was only one block away.
so we agreed to take the hotel, and allesandrja charged our credit
cards, and even gave us a brochure to look at. then she asked for
4,000 lire cash as a "processing fee". the good news is that 4,000
lira is less than $2. the bad news was that we didn't have any lire
- we had just driven down from austia, and hadn't exchanged any
money. allesandrja wouldn't accept foreign money, and she wouldn't
accept a credit card. she didn't have a solution for us, either.
so we asked where we could find an atm, and she pointed one out
to us (one block away), and she took back the brochure and map from
us when we left to go there.
the smallest bill the atm gave was 50,000 lire, which was small
for us, but too big for allesandrja. she said we needed smaller
bills. and again, she didn't have a solution for us. eventually,
when we asked how to get change, she recommended that we go back
to the parking garage and get change from them.
that was an interesting suggestion: the guy in the change booth
looked at the 50,000 lire note, and looked blankly back at us. i
asked for change, and he just looked at me. finally, he asked what
i wanted, and i said i needed smaller notes. then he got it. again,
more eye rolling, and he gave me five 10,000 lire notes. i thanked
him, and he muttered "basta!". such good service in venice!
so back to allesandrja. she was able to cash the 10,000 lire note,
and gave us change. then she gave us back the brochure and receipt,
and told us that the hotel offered parking for free, and that we
didn't need to leave the car in the garage. then, as we were leaving,
she told us that when she travelled, she reserved her hotel and
got her money exchanged a month in advance, so that all was organized.
it was our problem, and not hers, that we had difficulties. not
that this made us feel bad: if we had no problems, she'd have no
job. so we shrugged this off, and went back to the garage to rescue
the guy who gave me change was not happy to see us again. when
i gave him the ticket, i again got a blank look. finally, he asked
what i wanted, and i said that i was leaving. more eye rolling and
muttering under his breath, and then he stamped the ticket, and
sent us up to the car.
since it was the fifth floor, we decided to take the lift. we
got in, but as the doors were closing, somebody forced them open
again, and a couple squeezed in with us. it was a very small elevator,
and we were crammed in pretty tightly. this time the doors didn't
close. so we stood there looking at each other, waiting, pushing
the close door button again and again. still the doors stayed opened.
finally i noticed a red light blinking on the button panel, and
realized that there were too many people inside, and the elevator
had a weight sensor. so i said "too many" to the couple, and showed
them the light. they understood after a bit, and as soon as they
got off, the doors closed, and we went up.
the car had been moved into a more longer-term itty-bitty spot,
and the guy who had just moved it was not very happy to see us again
so soon. we tried to explain that we were leaving, and after shrugging
his shoulders and sighing, we gave us back the keys to the car.
we drove down, and headed for the hotel. after circling the plaza
three times and making 2 u-turns on the bridge, we finally noticed
a little tiny sign "hotel santa chiara parking" underneath a huge
"do not enter" sign.
and we drove in, and we arrived in venice. and we were the only
ones who seemed happy about it.
btw: i've enclosed two pictures: the first one is from the hotel window.
it's the grand canal: the biggest one in venice. there are all kinds
of gondolas: whatever we have on land, they have on water. we saw
ambulances, police, buses, taxis, cranes, couriers, and even grocers.
the second picture is a market gondola - he was tied up on a side
canal, selling fruit and vegetables.