Venice was my first stop in my two week Italian adventure. I had been so looking forward to touring Venice. Venice was actually built on a series of islands connected by bridges. Why someone built a city here, I’ll never know. We had a wonderful aerial view of it as we flew into the airport the day before.
We stayed in Padua rather than Venice because it was supposedly difficult to get in and out of the water taxis with luggage. So early in the morning of our day trip to Venice, we boarded the Eurostar train, sitting in 1st class. Only a 20-minute trip, but the seats were very comfy.
When we got off the train, we exited to a canal – the Grand Canal, which runs through the heart of the city. Boats are the only vehicle, otherwise you walk on land. We took water taxis to the Piazza San Marco (Plaza of St. Mark).
The water taxis were great – gleaming wooden boats which seat 8 or 9 persons inside and ride low in the water. The taxis bob in the water just below the dock, and the wake from boats passing by moves the taxi toward and away from the dock, making it difficult to step onboard gracefully. A couple of people sat on the deck and slithered down into the boat. Hence, not staying in Venice (try that with a large, overstuffed suitcase).
On the Grand Canal
There were so many boats and gondolas on the canal it looked like rush hour. There were boats carrying supplies and garbage too. The seating in the boat was indoors, but our stellar driver invited me out front with him to take pictures, so we got to see the sights unobstructed.
We saw wall-to-wall buildings with water lapping at their doors and boats instead of cars parked out front. It was a sight you don’t see every day. See the bottom of this post for more pictures of Venice from the Grand Canal!
Piazza San Marco
The Piazza San Marco is named for the St. Mark’s Cathedral, very gothic. The plaza contains the cathedral, the palace and the Campanile (clock tower). Unfortunately, it was a very high tide so water was flooding the plaza.
They set up elevated walkways for the tourists to get to the Cathedral, some of which wound through the streets and passed shops we were salivating to stop at. We kept losing each other and our guide for the day, Matteo, in the crowd. At one point, we were asked not to stop and take pictures but just keep walking so we could all keep together. I think not!
We got to go into St. Mark’s briefly. The ceiling was ornately decorated with gold. St. Mark’s is where St. Mark’s body was brought after death. It is several hundred years old (1300s? 1500s?). I don’t know, Matteo spoke very softly and was hard to hear.
After that, we went to Doge’s Palace next door, which was decorated somewhat as ornately as Versailles.
I wasn’t sure what a Doge is. I found out later a Doge is a Duke. We crossed the Bridge of Sighs after visiting the adjoining prison.
The bridge is nothing more than a short walkway where prisoners got their last view of Venice before getting to prison.
At this point, we went to a Murano Glass factory to view a demonstration of glass blowing. Murano glass is named after the island of Murano, which is knowing for its glass making. The blower quickly made a vase and a horse. It was quite interesting – especially the horse.
Then we climbed six flights of stairs (my friend griped about it the rest of the day) to their store, where we listened to a long discourse on Murano glass and what we can buy there, then got very little chance to actually shop. They rushed us through so we could go down and look where we were going to meet after “free time”. My friend griped about that too as we like to shop and the store looked like it had a number of unique items.
Directly after the tour, we had 1 ½ hours of free time for lunch & shopping. My friend and I skipped lunch and just shopped at all the charming little shops in the winding, narrow streets. We shopped for Murano glass, lace, leather & cameos. I bought a Murano glass pendant and Murano glass vase. My friend purchased a cameo. It was quite fun and most all shopkeepers spoke excellent English.
We met up with the rest of our group (many of whom went on a gondola ride in the light rain), then got to walk to (in “20 minutes”), the Accademia, a museum. Everywhere we walk is “20 minutes” away, but is actually much longer, and our guide set such a punishing pace. Up and down streets, over bridges over canals. I would’ve preferred to shop more than go to a museum.
At the museum, we were forced to stand in one place for 10 minutes while Matteo lectured about a work of art so softly I only caught half of it. One tourmate didn’t even attempt the museum and another toured it carrying a chair. By the last couple of room if there were places to sit, we filled them like we were playing musical chairs. There were a number of rooms where paintings were grouped by themes (such as Madonna & Child, Miracles and St. Ursula’s life) and many were commissioned by the brothers at the Accademia, which I think used to be a private home monastery or something – one room was a former chapel. I learned people who commissioned the painting frequently were put in the painting (looking out at us rather than in at the scene being enacted) and soon I started seeing the same brothers popping up in pictures. Another interesting fact: The museum had the original drawing/writing of Leonardo Da Vinci’s human form, the one on the back of the 1 euro coin. One more fact (I guess I was listening even through my exhaustion), in Venetian art, St. Mark is typically represented by wearing red & blue robes.
Then we took water taxis back to the train station. It was very rough water as a big cruise ship went through & the dock bobbed and moved away from the boat so it was difficult to climb down into the boat.
It had started raining heavily off and on by about noon, although it mostly didn’t affect us as we were so excited to be there. Also by afternoon, the waters in the Plaza had receded so we could walk through it.
As I mentioned earlier, some tourmates took a gondola ride, $144 per boat per ½ hour, music (singer & accordion) extra. Seems like a cheesy tourist thing now. While crossing a bridge, we did see a boat with a singer & accordionist. I enjoyed the water taxi enough and it’s much cheaper.
What precipitated the title of this post? One of our older tourmates referred to it as such. We were swiftly marched for 11(!) hours through Venice in order to see everything we could in a day. We were tired, hungry and cranky at the end. That being said, I did like Venice and would’ve liked to have seen more. Maybe next time!
More Photos from Venice