"The art of creatively immersing ones self in another culture in order to have an experience that will at best teach you something new about life, and at worst be bloody good fun."
Immerse yourself in Venice!
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMMERSIVE TRAVEL EXPERIENCES IN VENICE
Venice is a Romantic City haunted by a glorious past so if you aren't visiting the city with a lover you should probably try and pick someone up on the plane. If you've got children with you then simply pretend that you are using them as a cover for your clandestine affair. Now you're ready to have a Venetian experience.
Your Immersive Travel Challenge should you choose to accept it is as follows:
DRINK BELLINI'S AT HARRY'S
You have to have a Bellini at Harry's bar. If you're going to do it make sure you get a seat at the bar, it's the coolest way. But there is an alternative. Go and get some Cava and Peach juice and mix your own Bellini back at the hotel. Fill up some water bottles with it and surreptitiously hang around near Harry's bar swigging from the bottle. Then you can tell everyone you had Bellini's at Harry's!
MAKE YOUR OWN CARNIVAL MASK
Get down to the Carneval Mask shops and have a good look around. Buy a plain, white one; buy a few decorations. Find a quiet café where you can decorate your mask while having a coffee. Find as many opportunities to wear the mask as possible over the course of the day. Perhaps stand in the street pretending to be a statue.
Obtain some sort of art materials and head for the Rialto Bridge. Go up to the middle of the bridge and look down the Grand Canal. Set up your paints and paper and spend half an hour making your own piece of art of the view of the Grand Canal. Join in the grand tradition of painting images of Venice.
If you have enough black clothes then dress from top to toe in black regardless of the weather. This is a highly respectable Italian thing to do and the Venetians will give you approving looks. If you have time to prepare then bleach your hair two or three times with strong bleach. In Renaissance Venice everyone in the city did this.
Go to the Gallerie Accademia and seek out the painting of the bridge fight on the Ponte di Pugli. This was an annual event in the sixteen hundreds where two districts would meet at the bridge to fight. Round up some fellow tourists and arrange to meet at the bridge to re-enact the fight in the painting. Have someone film it.
FALL IN DOOMED LOVE
Pretend that you are in love with someone of a different social class, preferably your existing partner, and communicate with them only through furtive glances and passed notes. In fact, wear the masks so no one can tell it's you walking by the Riva degli Schiavoni at dawn while the precious moments you have together slip away.
BREAK A HEART
When you realise that your love can never be and you must part it's an ideal time to get lost in the back streets of Venice cast adrift on a dark sea of emotional despair. Find a quiet spot to attempt to recover by composing an Ode to the death of love in Venice in the style of the poet Lord Byron. Byron broke many a heart in these streets and perhaps his spirit will enter your biro.
COUNT THE LIONS
While you are lost in Venice you can play the cats game. It is arguable whether there are more cats in Venice than lions. See how many fat, contented Venetian house cats you can see strolling around living the cat dream and compare with how many images and statues of the noble lions of St Mark you can find.
Now you are totally lost in Venice you must ask a Venetian for directions. They will probably say 'Sempre Diretto' and wave vaguely ahead. This is actually a cunning Venetian joke. In mediaeval times when crusaders passed through Venice they asked the locals for directions to the Holy Land. Venetians would always say 'straight ahead' and point East. It was for a while a kind of folk motto meaning 'Always keep going!' Now it's become an amusing way of gently mocking tourists.
If you've sufficiently recovered try to eat something. Venice is the home of Cicetti, a cross between Italian food and Spanish Tapas. You must eat some as you can only eat it here and that is therefore a truly Venetian experience. Eat al fresco (outside) by a canal and drink Venetian wine as the water and passing boats seduce you back to life.
EAT ITALIAN ICE CREAM
Don't take desert in the restaurant. Seek the nearest Gelateria and promenade while you eat fine Italian ice cream. Italians have perfected the art and theory of a social phenomenon known as the Passageata. Come the night, seek out the Passageata zone, every Italian city has one. You'll recognise it because everyone in town will be there. Then simply walk incredibly slowly up and down the street in the early evening and talk loudly about life stopping only to talk to other people and perhaps eat more ice cream.
DRINK COFFEE AT FLORIANS
(JUST BECAUSE EVERYONE WARNED YOU NOT TO)
Never mind the money, have a coffee. Who cares if it's ten euros for a cappuccino you'll probably never be here again. But you must order a Turkish coffee. Historically, Venice is the bridge between Turkey and Rome. If you've never drunk Turkish coffee do it now. It's as thick as black mud and just as bitter. Make sure someone is on hand to take a photo of any Turkish coffee virgins taking their first gulp.
Now locate a real local Venetian in St Mark's square and ask them about the horses on top of the cathedral. If you're lucky, the Venetian will launch into a special Venetian joke about the horses. Highly entertaining. Then try to convince him or her that you are a direct descendant of Napolean and you have come to buy the horses and take them back to Paris.
PRETEND TO BE GALILEO
See if you can get hold of a small telescope and head for the Campanile bell tower. Try and time it so you get to the top of the tower on the hour. The bell will go off creating great amusement for you and your party. Now take out the telescope and offer to demonstrate this marvellous new science to other tourists. This way you can literally re enact a pivotal moment in science history, demonstrate your knowledge of Galileo's work and crack people up simultaneously.
FREAK OUT OTHER TOURISTS
While you're in the big queue for the Doge's Palace you can look out for tourists wearing extremely brightly coloured clothes. Call them over and warn them conspiratorially that they could get into serious trouble with the Venetian Fashion Police. Explain to them that sumptuary laws are in effect here that prohibit how many colours a man can wear and it's punishable by prison or exile. Say that you saw a man in a tie dye tshirt being evicted from the square on a traghetti. OK it's not actually true anymore but it was true that Venice had strict sumptuary laws. You're helping your victim to have a living history experience.
MASTER THE VENETIAN SCHOOL OF PAINTING
Once inside the dukes palace you have to find the right moment to drop the following bombshell phrases. When you're appreciating certain paintings and there is a crowd around try these.
"AH VENICE FOR COLOUR, FLORENCE FOR DRAWING."
"GIORGONE YOU SAY? CAN WE REALLY BE SURE IT'S NOT TITIAN?"
"YOU CAN REALLY SEE THE FLEMISH INFLUENCE HERE."
"YOU CAN REALLY SEE THE MANNERIST INFLUENCE HERE"
"AH TINTORETTO! THE LITTLE DYERS BOY."
"I PREFERRED HIS EARLY WORKS"
Also see if you can find the opportunity to sit at the foot of the Golden staircase and mentally re enact the last moments of Casanova's escape from the Ducal Palace. Feign absolute resignation to the wheel of fortune and after a few moments pounce at the door and run for the canal.
DO THE BLOODY GONDOLA IF YOU MUST
Finally you must engage in some form of waterbourne adventure. For the rich and romantic there is the inevitable Gondola ride. But for this to qualify as a genuine Immersive Travel experience you should propose to your partner or at least sing an aria. O sole Mio or la donna e mobile would be ideal tunes to sing. You should obtain recordings of these and learn the words before you go to Venice. But if you haven't bothered then the chorus of O sole Mio is as follows. (Music cue)
There is another option for the non-cash-rich. Take a Vaporetto from Piazzale Roma to Venice Lido. The boat will be crowded but you can still either propose or sing an aria only with a bigger audience. And you'll get to see all the gorgeous canal front palaces on the Grand Canal!
THINK OF YOUR OWN!
In travel you have to be able to turn on a sixpence. Step lively and think on your feet. How can you have the most immersive experience of Rome? You must explore the possibilities for yourself. Can you earn the hugely prestigious and career advancing 'Pioneer of Immersive Travel' sew-on badge? We doubt it.