This happened quite a long time ago and so please forgive me if some of the details are vague, some on the other hand are still vivid to this day!!
About 15 years ago, hubby and I decided a long weekend break would do us the world of good. We found a great bargain at the local Travel Agents, 3 nights and 4 days in Venice including flights, 4* hotel, bed and breakfast. Great, that would do us just fine! It was January and it was bitterly cold but bright, sunny, blue skies and crisp walks along the canal were just what the doctor ordered.
A friend dropped us off at Manchester Airport (Northern England) late afternoon and off we set.
It was dark when we arrived at Venice Airport, we collected our bags and made our way to the meeting point, there was our rep calling for guests for the Hotel Giorgione and another hotel.
“Guests for Hotel Giorgione, please come this way, thank you” Great let’s go!! We followed the young lady in her delightful crimplene uniform out of a door. I have to admit, I don’t know what I was expecting and I hadn’t even considered how we would get to the City of Venice but I was blown away when we were ushered down a quay and onto the water taxi.
The water taxi itself was a real treat, we went down into the cabin, it had beautiful, twinkly lights and the softest, deepest turquoise, leather seats…it was fabulous! We were excited….so far so good. The taxi pulled away and drove off, down the equivalent of the motorway. I couldn’t see much as it was pitch black outside, however I was amazed to see traffic signs popping out of the water, it was reminiscent of a flooded town.
As we crossed what I now know is called the Lagoon we entered the city, the taxi reduced it’s speed and chugged along narrow waterways, the walls of the buildings and houses seemed so tall alongside the little motorised boat. It pulled up next to some stone steps….
“Hotel Giorgione” called the driver.
Hubby and I got out and climbed the steps. The driver pointed the way to the Hotel and off he went! The icy, cold wind whistled around our faces. We stood in a square on shiny,worn, cobble stones with our suitcases beside us. We picked up and headed in the direction we had been shown. We found the Hotel, it was down a little alleyway to one side of the square. We registered and were shown to our room, it was truly delightful. Beautiful, hand painted furniture and just sooooo Italian… we slept well.
The next morning. following a copious breakfast, we set off on our discovery of this fantastic city. We had decided our first stop would be St Mark’s Square, that way we could find our bearings. It was quiet, very few tourists, just the way we like it. We ambled along, hand in hand, it was perfect.
St Marks Square was beautiful, we found a good vantage point and sat watching the Gondolas bobbing up and down on the blue water in the lagoon. The wind was biting but we sat in the sun and just absorbed the atmosphere, just people watching. After a while, I realised Hubby was no longer by my side, I looked around and saw him some way off talking to a very typical Italian man, wearing one of those bottle green, heavy, wool overcoats. I should mention at this point that neither of us speak Italian apart from Grazie!! That’s the truth – I only just know enough to ask for two coffees!
I made my way over to Hubby and the man,
“What’s happening?” I ask.
“There’s a free trip to the Island of Murano, to see the glass blowing” replies Hubby.
“Oh let’s not go now, we can do that later or tomorrow under our own steam” I say.
“No Madame, it is free, you can go now, yes?” interrupts the man, in a very heavy Italian accent.
“Come. Come I show you.” he continues and starts walking toward a queue of tourists waiting to get on a larger boat.
“Oh, ok let’s go” I agree. Why not? We’re on holiday, let’s have some fun.
He hands us a couple of tickets and we join the back of the queue.
“No. No Senora, you come this way…..” and he leads us to a water taxi.
Very similar to the one we had arrived on. We were welcomed by the driver and got on board, this time we sat outside, at the back where we could watch the world go by. As the boat drew off and gathered speed it was exhilarating.
Then, the doubts starting surfacing, we had been warned not to take water taxis, they were expensive and the drivers preyed on foreign visitors. Why were we the only ones in the boat? Why was there no one else going to Murano? Where the hell was Murano? We had no idea where we were being taken and by who?
Hubby, bless him, decides that I’m the girl for the job, and pushes me forward….
“Just go and ask the driver how much this is going to cost!” he says.
“I don’t speak Italian!” I snap as I find myself already at the driver’s side.
and as embarrassed as I am to admit it but in true English tradition I just make up some words and add an ‘O’ and an ‘A’ on the end of each word!!
“Quanta Costa?” ” Whero isa Murano?” I tentatively ask…..surely that isn’t Italian? I’ve no idea…..the driver prattles on like a machine gun, but I did pick out the words, ‘tourismo, gratuito, and communite de venizio’
I return the five steps back to hubby and give him the answer…for what it’s worth!
The driver started to slow down, and we saw a warehouse, the windows were broken, there were no signs, no tourists and certainly no signs of any glass being blown…the hairs on the back of my neck were telling me something wasn’t quite right….
I could see a docking area with stone steps leading up from the water on to the island…stood at the top of the steps were three swarthy, mediterranean type men all wearing jeans and black leather bomber jackets but no one else in sight. By now I have goosebumps and a slight queasiness in the pit of my stomach.
The boat drew alongside the bottom step, I noticed that one of the men on the dock had a very large video camera on his shoulder. The shortest of the three leant forward and offered me his hand to help me off the taxi, I took his hand, I placed my first foot on terra firma and then as my second foot hit the stone, I was suddenly all too aware that if the driver left now with my husband I would be stranded. I don’t know what came over me but I jumped with both feet backwards onto the taxi….and started shouting like a mad woman,
“Take us back to Venice, take us back to Venice. NOW! Just go!!!”
The taxi driver was shouting at me, the men on the steps were shouting at me and Hubby was completely non plussed, who was this screaming banshee and what had she done with his wife?
I had now developed from shouting to screaming!
“Where are the tourists? Where is the glass? Take us back to Venice NOW!”
The driver decided it was probably in his interest to do as I said and he started up the engine. I was shaking – hubby by this time had realised that the mad woman was in fact his wife and was trying to calm me down but agreed with me that it was all very strange.
“Quick” he says,” get the video camera and film them.”
In a flash I turned on the camera and pressed play, I turned to look at the men and they had already disappeared, where did they go? I filmed the registration number of the water taxi along with the taxi driver who was now on a mobile phone shouting and screaming at someone on the other end!
As we approached Venice, I told the driver to stop “NOW” we then had a very strange conversation – he wanted and tried to insist on taking us back to St Mark’s Square but I wanted to be dropped off at the earliest opportunity, no questions. He did as we requested.
We got off the water taxi, we had no idea where we were! We walked for hours, fortunately we had a map and found our way back to the hotel. It was a very scary experience and even when we were back on dry land we felt as though we were being followed although we knew this wasn’t the case. It wouldn’t have been possible.
Have you ever seen the film ‘Don’t look Now’ with Donald Sutherland…..ooh I’ve just had a shiver run up and down my spine!!!
At the hotel we told the concierge what had happened.
“Ah you must be careful in Venice!” he says nonchalantly.
Ah well! We were safe and that was all that mattered. Maybe it was my overactive imagination, or maybe I had just saved our lives, we will never know but I certainly didn’t want the starring role in some snuff movie!!
The next morning we decided to go back to St Mark’s Square to see if the ticket tout was there again, surely if it was a bona fide deal, he would be there….guess what?