Here’s an unpopular opinion for you: Venice stinks.
It absolutely reeks. The turquoise water can appear inviting from the inside of your gondola, I’ll grant you that. But wander down some of the hidden streets away from the open squares of St Mark’s and those eggy wafts are inescapable.
Sure, the city is breathtaking. But it’s holding that breath that seems to be the main challenge.
After a night out, I told a friend about this. We’d had a few glasses of wine and began to reminisce on our favourite travels, and her response to my Venetian anecdote shocked me.
“But Venice is stunning! How can you be so ungrateful? I’d love to have gone!”
This is the thing, though. I adored Venice from the first moment I glimpsed the Grand Canal between the commuters dodging around Santa Lucia train station. I loved the haphazard flowerbeds hanging precariously off of windowsills; the dilapidated yet picture-perfect facades of the shop-fronts; the canopy of TV satellite dishes topping each house that feel like the most absurd anachronisms (they kind of ruined my charade that I was in 15th century Italy).
But that doesn’t mean that I had to adore the sulphuric smell too – I wouldn’t love that smell if it was in my back garden, so why would I love it now?
One of the problems social media has created for the world – and especially for travel – is that no-one is ever supposed to say or show anything bad about their holiday.
It simply wouldn’t do to show Frankie*, your high-school ex-best friend who you haven’t spoken to in years, that there was a flaw in your “idyllic” holiday.
Even when famous travel bloggers encounter a problem on their holiday, they’re sure to cover up the dilemma with a giggle and a round-up of their outfit details.
Never mind that the problem exists – just make sure no-one realises you’re having a shit time. That’s the cardinal rule. It’s not glamourous to say that you’re staying in a glorified shipping container on a campsite just outside of Venice because it was only seven euros a night and you couldn’t afford to go there otherwise.
This shipping container, however, for the two nights we stayed in Venice, gave us some of the best laughs of the holiday. Searching for bugs under our mattresses a la Kim and Aggie with only our iPhone torches to light up the critters was hilarious. I have the video of my friend crawling around on all fours and yelping at pieces of dust she mistakenly thought were spiders to prove it.
I’m not going to lie – I myself am guilty of embellishing my holidays. When people only listen to your travel stories for approximately a minute before growing bored, you want to make sure they’re getting a good picture. For me at least though, it’s so much more enjoyable hearing the little details of other people’s trips, those best-laid plans that went so drastically awry, or the unexpected high of stumbling across a secret corner of a tourist-saturated city.
Of course, it would be unrealistic to expect everyone to suddenly confess their travel mistakes to the world. But would that still be more realistic than the dream holiday we’re constructing for everyone else, and even ourselves? I honestly don’t think so.
The word adventure is defined as an “unusual, exciting or daring experience”. It’s the charming quirks of a city, just like in people, that make us fall in love with travel and I think there’s a lot to be gained in accepting the good, the bad and the ugly in a holiday.