By Andrea Arredondo

During my time in Italy, I wanted to visit the city so many of my friends, family, and classmates had seen and fallen in love with. So one Sunday I decided that I would wake up early and see the city for a day. Unlike other Italian cities completely attached to land, Venice is composed of a small collection of islands that are connected by path or require the help of a gondola to reach. Small in size, these islands are rich in history and sites to see.

One of the first things I noticed on the train ride to the central station was an incredible oceanic view. Yet the serenity I felt on the ride to the island quickly vanished once the train pulled to a halt and thousands of passengers all of a sudden got off. I have been in crowded areas in Los Angeles, Paris, and Rome, but the amount of people that were standing, walking, eating, and posing for pictures outside the station was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Just barely over five foot, the five minutes that it took for me to leave the station area consisted of me pushing through crowds and trying not to fall.

Eventually I made it through the masses and found myself in a little piazza-like sitting area. Already sweating from the intense humidity, I decided to take a few minutes to drink some water, reapply sunscreen, and plan what I would do in the few hours I had there. As scheduled, I soon commenced my walk throughout the islands. Not even ten minutes into the walk, I noticed a small little store which would alter the course of the rest of my day.

The Merchant of Venice is a small perfume shop that will capture the hearts and noses of any perfume lover. In Venice for decades, the bottles that line the fragrance house bring to life different elements of Venice and the maritime trade routes that ran through Asia and Africa. Uniquely designed, the bottles give the store a Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory appeal. Being a perfume lover, the story quickly pulled me in.

Bottle after bottle, the Merchant of Venice was my version of an adult Toys”R”Us. Like a cloud of perfume, I floated around the room. Soaps carved into roses and flasks of concentrated flower oil, I didn’t want to leave the beautiful store. But at last, my stomach commanded my attention and I floated over to the gelato stand right in front.

I spent the remainder of the day walking around Venice. When roads are narrow, it can easily take some time to get anywhere. After my initial plan was cancelled, I realized that just walking throughout the city was an even better alternative. That way I was able to explore Piazza San Marco where I found Caffè Florian, the second oldest cafe in the world. In the same area, I was able to find a tour service that offered discounted gondola rides!

In a small touristy area, it is easy to get caught up in stores and tourist traps, but it definitely is possible to visit Venice without spending a ton of money. Prioritize what you want to see from what you need to see and start with those places. Most importantly, if you plan on going to Venice remember to be on the defense. Venice is wonderful, historic city to visit, but during peak tourist season there are so many strangers around you that you never want to let yourself be injured or taken advantage of. Enjoy your time, but remember that you are in a foreign country.

Where else did I go in Italy? Check out my other posts to find out!

Andrea Arredondo studied abroad in Florence in Summer 2019.