Travel: Anyone for Venice; James Carr Takes a Cruise around the Waterways, Lagoons and Islands of the Bride of the Adriatic
Byline: James Carr
THERE is a way of taking to the waters which flow around historic Venice which doesn't involve overpaying a passing gondolier.
The active way of visiting the city and the islands which surround it is self-drive cruising, which offers you freedom to tie u p and stroll ashore whenever you want to explore.
There are 34 islands on the salt-water Venetian lagoon, which covers more than 200 square miles. Cruisers are not restricted to the lagoon either: inland Padova and the Po Delta just south of Venice are other possible destinations.
Those with experience of cruising the Norfolk Broads know you don't need a license to take the helm. With a little tuition, anybody can learn.
Even negotiating the locks was not nearly as difficult as we feared.
Should accidents occur, expert help is just a phone call away.
To start our trip, we flew into Treviso, a few miles from our operator's base and their large fleet of cruisers.
Although the vessels are not luxurious (showering, for example, requires a degree of flexibility), the boats are comfortable. The range of models from the basic three-berth u p to the eight-berth Magnifique, caters for most tastes.
After dropping off luggage at our temporary floating home, we made the short journey back into Treviso t o explore.
Rebuilt after heavy bombing at the end of World War II, Treviso is the home of clothing giant Benetton and is booming. Historic and cultural attractions are complemented by the town's character and intimate layout.
Tranquil canals lace around romantic restaurants and designer shops on the narrow streets.
Next morning, we opened our cabin curtains to find sunshine glistening on the water. After breakfast on deck, we cast off.
Cyclists have the opportunity to follow the course through the varied rural scenery down the sinuous river Sile, which after a few hours took u s out into the Venetian lagoon.
We tied up on the island of Burano, where residents have honed their expertise in lace-making and fishing through the centuries.
Exploring the narrow streets, ducking under drying laundry, visitors are well advised to take plenty of colour film to capture the beauty of the pastel-painted houses.
If you are lucky, you might be treated to an impromptu singing performance in the main square from a fisherman taking a break from net repairs. Insiders will also tell you that the island's annual masquerade festival is far more intimate than that attended by the throngs in the Piazza san Marco in Venice.
Close to the Burano mooring is a wooden bridge linking the island t o sleepy Mazzorbo, the home of a leaning tower which could have been inspired by architecture in Pisa. Cruising brings a sense of liberation. You have the option of mooring just to visit a market, admire the view or have lunch. …