wandering venice

The Soul Citizen of Venice Finally Lives Out Her Dream

I’ve had this recurring dream throughout my life where I get lost in the alleys of Venice. This dream started sometime in my early twenties, and I have no idea why.

Was it a movie or a picture that triggered it? I can’t be sure. Maybe I was born with this soul connection that made me an honorary citizen of Venice. A soul citizen, if you will.

things to do in venice

You see, my dreams have been vivid for as long as I can remember—I was the creepy sleepwalker kid that punched my sister if we shared the same bed. I’ve met people in my sleep and never remembered it.

On a positive note, I have seen and felt the most incredible fabrications of reality. And I have a silly habit of “swim flying” in the sky, which is an interesting way to get around.

The only time my dreams were tame was in college, when I was seeing a therapist who doped me up with antidepressants. But those drugs stole my dreams away, left me lost in a fog of apathy instead of the exquisite alleys of Venice.

venice italy travel

When I first met Mr. H, he said: “You’re not depressed. Why are you taking those?”

I said: “I have anxiety.”

He said: “You can beat it without that shit.”

And, he was right.

summer in venice

I got off antidepressants and my dreams returned—sometimes they were night terrors that sent me sprinting across the room in the middle of the night, sometimes they were unconscious explorations that inspired my first novel, and sometimes they were magical and nonsensical, like wandering Venice without purpose.

Yet the crazy dreams were mine, all mine, sensations and visuals my brain conspired to create just for me.

Beyond the dreams, this other Venice thing happened at my wedding over 11 years ago. For those of you that don’t know this fun fact about Britt and Mr. H, we got hitched in Vegas.

Imagine my surprise when my dad gave us a wedding present that we could enjoy right after the ceremony—a gondola ride at the Venetian.

the venetian

Still, we never thought we would see the real deal and we settled for the sparkling chlorinated Venice canals from our wedding day.

Most people would kill to see Venice. As I mentioned in my first Italian travel post, I just didn’t have the bug like everyone else.

venice for couples

When we randomly decided to go to Italy, we did our best to avoid the typical American race across a European country by limiting our stops.

It was a showdown between Cinque Terre and Venice for a day trip from Florence, and Cinque won.

get lost in venice

I had heard negative feedback from other people I knew that went to Venice: It was touristy, pricey, the food sucked. These are all things I later found to be true, including eating overpriced frozen food as our last meal before boarding the train.

Except this espresso didn’t suck…

coffee in venice

And, this chocolate orange cannoli definitely didn’t suck…


But I also feel these things—crazy tourists, high prices, mediocre food—are a given when you go to one of the most fantastic places in the world in the summer.

Hands down, these were the most expensive cappuccinos I’ve ever purchased in my life. The people-watching and live music were pure perfection though.

cafe in venice

That’s why I’m taking the high road with a whimsical perspective on the city so many have visited before me. Because at the end of the day, Venice is TOTALLY a tourist trap.

Exhibit A…

venice clock

There are truly as many pigeons as there are tourists, and sometimes they join forces. Like this young bird woman with a pigeon on top of her hat (crapping on her head, no doubt), dutifully documenting the whole affair with her selfie stick.

Because who would believe her otherwise?

pigeons and venice

But if you really want them, I can sum up my Venice tips right here:

  1. To Avoid Tourists  Don’t visit during peak season. Or, spend the night since the crowds thin out after the last train leaves for the day. But be ready to fork over some bucks for a hotel!
  2. To Avoid Overspending  Don’t go to Venice. Kidding, use the vaporetti (water buses) to see the city the way it’s meant to be seen, and wander around (wear comfy shoes!) for a day trip.
  3. To Avoid Sucky Food  Don’t forget to pack your own food. There is too much portable deliciousness in Italy to play the victim here—plan ahead. Unless money isn’t an option and you can dine at the fancy pants restaurants.

venice canals

Anyway, I’ve never been one to ignore my dreams and I felt a quiet pull inside knowing that Venice was within reach as soon as we arrived in Italy. I felt it strongly in Florence, and even stronger in Cinque Terre.

Fate called on the tour bus back from Cinque, after a long day of hiking and swimming, sunshine and seafood. One of our tour guides was giving Venice tips to pretty much everyone but us.

His advice was always the same: “Just get lost. When you go to Venice, that’s what you do.”

romantic venice

Mr. H turned to me and said what we were both thinking…when will we ever have a chance like this again? The pull was so strong that my heart was ready to explode.

Fortunately there was room on the train the next morning and we saw the fabled place I had dreamed about.


Instead of repeating the gondola ride from our wedding, we splurged on a private water taxi. There wasn’t a huge difference in the price, since both options were astronomical.

The main reason is that we were fortunate to have an amazing opera singing gondolier during our Vegas/Venice trip on our wedding night, a memory we didn’t want to taint in any way. The real-life gondoliers don’t exactly serenade you, and you probably don’t want them to try.

gondola ride
Because Venice is meant to be savored from the water that is slowly reclaiming its earthly beauty, we decided the 15-minute private water taxi ride to St. Mark’s Square was worth the (gulp) 65 Euros.

Truly, it was worth every penny.

water taxi venice

venice water taxi

venice taxi

venice in a day

Sometimes we are linked to a place in the world and there’s no need to understand it. So why not take the chance and see what happens—if anything happens at all.

Nothing spectacular really happened to me. I’m just happy to be a soul citizen of Venice who finally got to live out her dream.

venice alleys

Are you a soul citizen of any place? Or, is there a place you visit over and over for some reason?

P.S. This post wraps up my Italy travels and I hope you all enjoyed coming along. Be sure to check out Rome, Florence, and Cinque Terre if you missed them! Next time, I’ll be back to American Britt. 🙂

51 thoughts on “The Soul Citizen of Venice Finally Lives Out Her Dream

  1. Les Petits Pas de Juls says:

    Love, love, love reading you every time! Aaaaah Venice… One sure had to live her dreams and I hope it still was worthwhile and didn’t disappoint you in spite of the touristy drawbacks. Good advice on when and where to go, though. I loved going there last February, even though lots of people were still there.
    It sure is whimsical and the eerie touch of your pictures is lovely.

  2. Zen A. says:

    I’m going to be staying one night in Venice! Got some tips from a Venetian, and he too said that I should avoid most restaurants in the city as they have crappy food. I laid out a whole route for us through the city, and the one place I’m looking forward to visiting the most is this super cool bookstore: http://www.cookiesound.com/2013/12/the-most-interesting-bookshop-in-the-world-libreria-acqua-alta-in-venice/

    Leaving on Thursday, and I’m going to be using all your Italy posts as reference! 😉

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Glad a Venetian backed me up! We really didn’t see much of a local food representation there, besides barging into someone’s house and paying for a home-cooked meal! 🙂

      Can’t wait to hear all about your trip, hon. You’re going to have a blast!

  3. Gallivanta says:

    Oh I used to swim fly for years and years. It’s the best way to travel in dreams. But I have never dreamt of Venice or even wanted to visit. I suspect my soul city may be Edinburgh. Have you ever been there?

  4. Andrea Stephenson says:

    I’ve been to Venice twice and yes, there were those bad touristy experiences, but it has a beauty and mystery unlike anywhere else. I would really love to go in the winter when it’s dark and misty and the Venice that I have in my dreams 🙂

  5. danniehill says:

    You post are bring back some of my old dreams, Britt. You and Mr. H make the perfect beautiful couple who know how to do a town the right way. I’ve always, from the time I was a little boy, dreamed and was fascinated with Asia. Having been lucky enough to live there for over 12 years only leaves me with wanting more. I’ll be returning– for an extended visit– soon.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Happy to bring back some dreams, Dannie! Yeah, you definitely are a soul citizen of Asia. Can’t wait to see you reconnect with your place in the world.

      And, thank you for the kind couple compliments! 😉

  6. Browsing the Atlas says:

    I LOVED Venice! It was the highlight of Italy to me. But if I had to describe myself as a “soul citizen” of a place, it would probably be Brussels. Probably because I’ve been there 11 times now, know the city well and have favorite spots and friends to visit.

  7. Roy McCarthy says:

    Lovely post Britt. That movie was surely ‘Don’t Look Now’? It’s haunting enough to leave a lasting impression.

    I’m hopelessly drawn to Cork, Ireland but that has much to do with my ancestors.

  8. Carrie Rubin says:

    Venus is touristy, no doubt, but it’s a city worth seeing. Loved reading your take on it. You two are high on my list of favorite couples–love your pics! Looks like you had a beautiful day for it. Hopefully you remained pigeon-poop free!

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Totally agree, doll! Going in, especially in freaking August, I knew that Venice was going to be cuckoo. Luckily there are so many nooks and crannies to escape to, and any place on the water always calms me.

      Aw, shucks. Mr. H and I are blushing! xo

      P.S. Pigeon-poop free and proud. 😉

  9. Clanmother says:

    I loved Venice – the colors, the smells, the parks, cafe’s hotels, vaporettos, the steps, the streets. Thank you for taking me back to a city that embraces its brilliant history and welcomes travels from all parts of the globe. Your thoughts reminded me of Winnie-the Pooh quote: “I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.” Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!!

  10. joey says:

    Well…that was thoroughly predictable in reporting, but completely unique in its Britt-ness 🙂 You always tell a good tale 🙂 I’ve heard all the same things about Venice, and I’ve no desire to go. I feel like I probably enjoyed your chocolate orange cannoli, cappuccino, couple posing on the waterfront photo (LOVE!) more than I’d actually enjoy visiting Venice.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Haha, Britt-ness! Thanks, hon. That cappuccino and cannoli were well-timed in the afternoon, believe me. They helped ground me when I was going through a mixture of emotions about the place.

      But, it truly is gorgeous and unlike any other place I’ve ever seen. Glad I went once! 🙂

  11. Ana Matiella says:

    Beautiful post and photos, nice job! Love the content about the dreams, Joseph Campbell said dreams are our mythology…or something like that…
    Thanks for this.
    Ana Consuelo

  12. Sheila says:

    I feel the same way about Venice so that must be my soul citizen place – or maybe any place in Italy is. I loved just wandering and getting completely lost in those passageways, and I loved how those passageways kept ending unexpectedly. It felt like it was full of surprises. I’m glad you get to experience those flying dreams too – those are the best!

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      I agree that any place in Italy is worthy of soul citizenship. Those passageways were truly magnificent, like being lost in the most beautiful maze. So many times we would squeeze ourselves down a slender corridor, not knowing whether there was an exit at the end. So neat!

      Flying dreams are pretty rad.

  13. diannegray says:

    Thanks so much for taking me along with you on this fantastic trip, Britt (and it didn’t cost me a cent) woo hoo! I’m so glad Mr. H showed you how to dream again. What a lovely man xxxx

  14. Ally Bean says:

    Lovely photos and thoughts here. Live your dreams, eh? And by all means, enjoy life while doing so. I’ve never wanted to visit Venice, but maybe I’m missing something wonderful…

    [Also, in a strange aside, I went to a wedding about 10 years ago where the bride wore the same dress you wore. Very pretty. Kind of trippy.]

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Haha, yes. Live your dreams…and all that jazz! You know, hon, I do think Venice is worth seeing once in your life—if it makes sense. I certainly didn’t make a special trip just to see it, but it was on the beaten path. I think we would have regretted not going.

      That is so crazy about the dress! I’ve never seen it on anyone else. It was a cheapo from David’s Bridal, but I loved how funky it was with the red accents.

      • Ally Bean says:

        The wedding was in winter and the groom wore a kilt. The red trim on the gown picked up the red color in the tartan. The couple looked cool standing together. Most memorable.

  15. The Snow Melts Somewhere says:

    Interesting post, especially that recurring dream! I, for some reason, keep dreaming of being stuck in a metro (subway) after the last stop and ending up in the service area. I’m actually dying to see what the service area would look like in real life, having dreamt of it so often!! 😀

    I didn’t think Venice was touristy at all during my first 2 visits – during winter – and for a Finn, Italy isn’t even expensive. But I do avoid tourist trappy areas and restaurants because I don’t like the atmosphere, and generally I buy all my food in supermarkets, bakeries, and little cafes when I’m abroad. Venice in the summer, however, was slightly touristy, but I did think Cinque Terre was much worse in that aspect. Though beautiful, too. That’s just how it is in this Instagram day and age, everyone travels and most places are touristy… 🙂

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      That metro dream is an interesting one. Wonder if you could ever get service area access one day? Maybe you can say you’re doing research for a book. 😉

      I would love to see Venice during the winter. I think that’s truly the way to go! Our tour guides in Cinque said we lucked out because there weren’t any cruise ships that came in that day. Otherwise, I’m sure it would have been packed. I usually travel places during the off-season to enjoy more of a local feel, but I made an exception for Italy in August. So glad we went!

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