If anyone keeps an eye on the instagram you may already know I’ve just come back from a lovely long weekend in Venice! It was a special trip as I took my mum on her first trip to Italy, one of my favourite countries, and Venice was a first for both of us.
I love city breaks. As much as I love going to a beach and doing very little, I get more out of the stimulation of a city. I also like to have a shorter break as I feel better about leaving my dog behind. However, with city breaks comes a lot of walking, and since having arthritis I have noticed it harder to do a city break properly, as I get frustrated when I can’t walk as much as I want to.
In addition, I like to dress for a city, and not like I am on a walking holiday. When I am at home (London) I dress to please myself, and I like to look stylish and not like I am going for a hike, and I want the same to apply in a different city, more so in somewhere like Paris or Milan. So city breaks have become a bit of a battlefield between practicality and aesthetics, but I like to think that by now I am at least well practised.
My top tips for city breaks:
- Do your research. The amount of walking you can do is limited so see it as a precious commodity that shouldn’t be wasted trying to find a decent place to eat. That’s not to say you can’t be spontaneous, but it’s good to have an idea of where you’re going to be at a certain time and what’s good in those areas, especially in somewhere very touristy like Venice that has a lot of crap restaurants. At least take a map.
- Dedicate suitcase space for shoes. Many people will extol the virtues of packing light, but they don’t have arthritis. That’s not to say you should pack your wardrobe, but if you know you might need that emergency pair of hiking shoes then take them.
- Pack smart with your clothes. Having packed shoes, you probably won’t have that much space left. Stick to a simple palette for your clothes and brighten up with accessories.
- Don’t try to do too much. It can be tempting to cram as much in as possible, but you don’t want to be miserable. Listen to your body, and if it needs a few hours rest in your hotel then take them. It’s better to miss something than to do it with a resentful body.
So, for Venice I packed my trusty white Birkenstocks, my new Clarks Trigenic Alexia to test-drive and a pair of Marni Fussbett sandals as my super special shoes (Italy requires Italian shoes, right?). I also travelled in the Golden Goose superstars, as I needed a closed shoe as heavy storm showers were forecast (I think I am some sort of rain deity as I make it rain whenever I go on holiday, including drought-stricken California).
Trainers are great for flying as airports inevitably make you walk for miles to your gate, and they can cope with your feet swelling on the flight. The Golden Goose are my most comfortable, and they look great with everything. I also wore some Banana Republic cropped trousers, which worked well as they don’t crease horribly and they sit quite low so don’t squash your tummy on the flight. Also, I ended up going straight out for dinner in them and didn’t feel like I looked a mess.
The next day I walked the length and breadth of Venice. As my mother had managed to fall over and badly twist her ankle the day before our flight, and was walking with my old walking stick, we took it super easy, stopping at numerous cafes and bars for coffee, aperol spritz and little plates of cicheti, which has to be the best way to explore Venice – sarde in soar is delicious! For this I wore the Trigenic Alexia, which I talked about here, and I was not disappointed. They were amazing! So much better than my Birkenstocks, which didn’t get worn the entire trip.
The Trigenic shoes manage to combine the support and cushioning required to pound the pavements (and climb over bridges), but with flexibility in the sole which put very little strain on my ankle, and the lightness stopped my legs getting weighed down and tired. They were perfect! Also, despite having a sporty sole, these went really well with a classic black dress and scarf, and the next day with a flowy chiffon skirt and t-shirt. I didn’t feel like my shoes were dragging my outfit down. Win. Win. Win.
And Venice itself is just an amazingly beautiful place, it was like being in a dream. I can understand how artists and poets have been inspired by the place. The vaporetto water-buses make it easy to get around if you can’t face walking, though uneven pavements and bridges do make it difficult if you have severe mobility issues. That said, my mother coped with her stick very well, and she mostly wore a pair of light Merrell trainers that she recommended for anyone with painful joints.
It can be a bit of a tourist trap, but if you’re smart about where and when you go you can walk down near empty streets finding endless delicious food and beautiful canals of emerald water. Everyone should see Venice and, as for shoes, everyone with painful ankle and foot joints should try the Trigenic, I can’t wait to see what Clarks are going to bring out next in the range.
I love the Alexia so much, I can’t wait to wear them again. Hopefully the UK will warm up soon as my bank account won’t take another mini-break hit for a while. I will let you know how I get on!