I’m typing this on my phone as we sit under the awning of a closed taverna, watching the elegantly weatherbeaten Campo San Giacomo da l’Orio* being further beaten by the current weather: a sudden, relentless downpour dramatically accompanied by rolling thunder and bursts of lightning. It’s about 6pm and trying for an early dinner is so un-Venetian we’re being cosmically punished.

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A couple of days earlier, the morning we were due to take the ferry from Pula to Venice, the ship was conspicious by its absence. A company rep arrived instead and told us that the Adriatic – doing its best millpond impression at that point – was too rough. They’d drive us to Venice by bus.

Five and a half dehydrated, hungry hours later and the best thing I could say about the journey was at least we could tick off Slovenia. We tumbled off the bus at Tronchetto, Venice’s ferry port, found an ATM to load up on euros and headed for the most likely looking water bus stop. We wobbled aboard the vaporetto and sat back for our first, slightly proletarian, trip along the Grand Canal.

It is exactly as you imagine. Dashing water taxis weave between vaporettos and barges; baroque palaces sit right on the water, their front doors opening onto private docks or even the water itself; barber-striped mooring poles cluster along the banks and every scrap of dry land is utterly heaving with tourists.

The vaporetto stopped just past the Rialto bridge and we were plunged straight into the morass of bodies between us and the hostel. We got there, inspected the mosquito-encrusted walls with furrowed brows and headed out to get our bearings. We made it as far as the Campo San Polo, eating a doughy slice of steaming takeaway pizza along the way. The bus trip had taken it out of both of us (odd how sitting still for so long will do that) so we found our way back to swat a few mossies and pass an otherwise uneventful night.

The second of the Bs in B&B Rota turned out to be a cup of coffee and a lucky dip pastry from a Chinese café next to the hostel. This was our designated Obnoxious Tourist day, so we joined the other visitors inexorably pushing Piazza San Marco into the lagoon by taking in the Basilica and ogling the rest of the square’s architecture. (Standing in line for the Basilica, my phone rang and I spent about a quarter of an hour and a fortune in roaming charges making an offer for a flat that was rejected a couple of hours later.) We dutifully shot a few photos of the Doge’s Palace and Bridge of Sighs, then repaired to a streetside café in which we got drunk as only tourists on an island free of motor vehicles can.

That night we went for dinner at 6, and paid the karmic price for it.

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The following day, I had a grand plan for us to take the water bus out to the cimitero on San Michele to check out the real state of death in Venice, but although we took the correct boat it happened to be going in the opposite direction. There followed an impromptu tour of the south-eastern tip of the city, passing by the Bond-villainous bulk of the Maltese Falcon berthed behind a prole-resistance cordon and finally ending rather anticlimactically back at Piazza San Marco.

We wandered around the Accademia area for a while, and I decided to tick off another box by visiting the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. I took in the Picassos, Magrittes and Dalis and emerged exactly as hopelessly philistine as when I’d gone in. I got more aesthetic joy out of reading The Elements of Typography over the last couple of weeks than I did out of my first Guggenheim museum, so I may well be doomed to forever under-appreciate modern art.

For our last night we walked over to Campo Santa Margherita in the Dorsoduro area. We had a couple of drinks outside as the light faded, moved over to a restaurant and stuffed ourselves with the sort of bog standard Italian food that tastes fantastic even though it’s basically just tomatoes and pasta. The dull tourist roar had been replaced by a pleasant local buzz, and it was a nice way to round off the trip.

It may sound a bit anticlimactic, but for a city quite so alluring to authors, artists and tourists alike, I can’t really recall any great ephiphany or occurence that suddenly opened my eyes to its appeal. What happened instead was that over the few days we were there, the place sort of seeped into my mind so that by the time we left it seemed to embody the archetypal European city. It’s ludicrously grand, with church after church of Renaissance friezes and burnished gold fittings; literal palaces are everywhere and even the most humble apartment building is warped with age and history. Then, to a greater or lesser degree, there is a universal patina of decay – if a building isn’t visibly leaning or fringed with lichen or exposed brickwork, another creeping inundation is only ever a few months away to help it on its way.

Venice is old Europe to a tee: grandeur, decay, culture, history, fashion and caffeine-heavy breakfasts in one handy package.

* In other news, the internet is now so bloated that it contains reviews of town squares.