Our good friend Harvey didn’t get the most successful introduction to the van life as we took a few wrong turns on the way back from the airport to get lost within ten minutes of picking him up. I had decided to brave it and go without the satnav to get back to the campsite as it seemed a relatively simple drive to get there but the trust I had in myself was misplaced as we noticed we didn’t recognise a single thing about where we were. I would usually back my sense of direction and normally can get back to where I began no problem, so I’ll have to put this scenic route down to distractions of an extra bloke in the van and a confusing road network. As unimpressive as our taxi service was, Venice itself more than made up for it with its labyrinth of canals and its incredible infrastructure. Bani was so impressed by the grandness of one of the 127 squares of the city that he even invested in a selfie stick, which lived a rather short life. The pole did come in handy to squeeze in one more person and also worked as a good back scratcher, a far less cringeworthy use of the device. It did manage to take some good shots of various canals, palaces and St Mark’s Basilica, the grand monument of the square with which it shared its name. It is said you could visit the floating city 10,000 times and discover something new on each visit, which is probably true but the trio of us would’ve struggled to achieve that as navigation around the street and canals proved rather difficult for us, so we were quite happy to eventually find the Basilica and try out Bani’s new purchase. Another famous Venice related place is Venice beach, which is in California (a fact I’m not sure Bani was aware of) but we trusted the name and headed for the coastline for a quick paddle and ice cream. The beach in the real Venice wasn’t as picturesque as the American version with the slightly dirty water of the lagoon not quite matching the blue waters of the pacific coastline but it was warm and had waves so it was good enough for us.
Water, after all, is what makes Venice so remarkable. Being built around lagoons and intertwined with a web of intricate canals gives the city its famously unique style. The spectacular water systems also provide a lovely breeding ground for any camper’s nemesis, mosquitos. Considering we were set up right on the water’s edge with no deterrents at all, not even any sprayable repellent we were in a rather sticky situation. My van isn’t designed to sleep three people and we had left the structure for the gazebo in Barcelona. Luckily, we had the sides still in the van, a lot of rope and a lot of pegs so with some good resourcefulness we constructed a makeshift shelter stemming from the side of the van and I was rather proud of my tent engineering. I shouldn’t have been. When I woke up the ‘gazebo’ was no more than a pile of sheets drooped over my friends, an unrecognizable pile of green, a covering of panes. If the failure as a structure was bad, then the failure as a mosquito defence system was astronomical. I emerged from the catastrophe relatively unharmed, however the bodies which rumbled out from beneath the entrapment of the fallen walls looked like victims from biblical plagues or apocalypse movies. Covered in the red irritation from bites, they rightly moaned about their disastrous slumber, which Harv declared to be the worst night sleep ever, another mark down for the van life.
The next night he slept like a baby due to an interesting night out in the town of Jesolo. Venice isn’t known for its nightlife, particularly its nightlife for a group of 18yr olds so we were redirected to the next town along the Italian coast. We ventured through the night market looking for a good bar but guessed we were too early so settled for a few drinks on the beach whilst catching up with each other’s summers. By the time we had gotten through whatever beverages we had bought from the local shop we once again returned to the main road to inspect the nightlife situation. This time it was quiet because we were too late so we decided to rethink over a pizza, which is when the night got interesting. Somehow, asking some locals for advice for our night escalated into a slice of pizza flying into our advisors from the direction of a chuckling Bani, leading to some understandable anger and hostility. Our trio was in stitches but our Italian counterparts were not so happy, either cos of their overly foody outfits or the waste of their local cuisine but whatever the reason was they were very keen for revenge. So, there we were, Harvey trying to talk down some angry Jesolians, Bani wielding the remainder of the offending pizza whilst I just laughed throughout. Harv was eventually successful in his peace talks and negotiated a truce whilst we all learnt an important lesson, don’t mess with Italians about pizza. The next interaction was significantly more successful as a pizza free incident found us a new tour guide to take us to his favourite club. He was very keen for us to enjoy his town and tried hard to entertain us on the walk, so hard in fact he became so engulfed in selling his home that he lost track of time. So after not finding a bar, drinking on the beach and having a food fight, when we rocked up to a club that was closed we decided to call it a night, stumble back to the van and squeeze in for the night.