Venice (In Italy, pronounce it: veh-neh-tsyah) This page is sort of a quick overview/summary of how we spent our days in Venice. We hope you enjoy!
We stayed near Saint Mark’s Square in the San Marco Region. In my opinion, it was a great location. James knew how to avoid the touristy crowds during the day, and being just a five minute walk away, it allowed us to enjoy the square in the evening.
You must spend a few nights in Venice to really appreciate this strange little place with its watery streets and boats for cars. I loved getting lost in the back streets or alleys during the day finding neighborhood trattorias with local wine and fresh pizza and hidden communities far from the traditional, touristy sites. I can still smell the fresh laundry draped across the little balconies, hear the children playing in the alleyways, and see the brightly colored geraniums lining every windowsill. We just held hands and kept on walking…experiencing a life so unlike ours in America.
And oh, I’ll never forget the day we were so far from the city center that we stumbled across a lovely giardini (means garden in Italian). It looked like nothing we ever expected to find in Venice. Elderly people sat on benches, kids road their little tricycles on graveled paths, pets sniffed around marking their territory, and not a tourist was in site. Well, except for us. We walked forever on that day so we just sat to rest on a bench, taking in all the sites and sounds of a Venetian Park. We later found out there was an easier way to get to the park, but I’m glad we didn’t know it at the time because we discovered so much on that day about Venetian life and about ourselves…
And the colorful markets with fresh produce….”Non Toccare!” It means don’t touch. Italians do not like you to touch the produce because it’s not sanitary. Just point and they will get it for you.
The back streets are also good places to find the department stores or the Venetian version of “Wal-Mart” This is where we stocked up on shaving cream, sunscreen, and other liquid supplies we couldn’t take on our carry-on luggage. We even found a travel iron and a blower dryer tiny enough to fit in our bags. Since Venice was our first stop, and we had a month to stay in Italy, we needed a few things to last throughout the month.
And the back neighborhood canals have no Gondolas and hardly any traffic at all…just still waters reflecting the afternoon light and private owned boats tied to mooring posts while their owners stayed inside taking an afternoon siesta.
And when we were all puckered out, we slipped into a little neighborhood trattoria for a drink. And guess what? No servicio! (That’s a table service charge). In Italy, you have to pay a $2 or $3 service charge to sit at a table. I guess we were the only ones there so every table was available for free. The ombre’ was only $2 a glass, but the experience was worth $100 Euros!
Before indulging on delicious cicchetti, we decided to take a hike up the tower St Mark’s Campanile to get an overview of the city in the evening and take some sunset photos.
We made it just in time to hear the bells ringing…
The views were spectacular as the Grand Canal started to settle…
and the island of San Giorgio Maggiore looked so isolated and quiet.
Piazza San Marco started to empty so we headed down the 323 foot tower for an evening stroll around the square to relax and enjoy the Venetian ambiance.
As the sun faded, the dueling orchestras livened up. We ordered our bicchierre di vino locali and found a free spread of happy hour snacks right on the square. Of course you can sit for a really steep price, but we didn’t because we liked the idea of the free food that came with buying a glass of wine and walking around.
You need to see the square at different parts of the day. It takes on a new personality from dawn to dusk to late evening. My favorite is at sunset and later in the evening when the ancient buildings surrounding the square start to take on a certain luster. St Mark’s Basilica really dresses up for the evening show.
As the sky turned shadowy, it was time for us to take a giro al’ombra. This is what the Venetians call a pub crawl. It literally means “a round in the shadows”, and it’s where locals stop at different pubs for cicchetti and ombra. Ombra is Venetian slang for a small glass of local wine, and cicchetti is small plates and snacks served for free. The idea is to serve this delicious food to get the patrons to stay a little longer. It worked for us because when we found a place with tasty, free food, we stayed a lot longer. We found some really good places near the Rialto Bridge. After our rounds we were so full that we skipped dinner that night. We just wandered the streets, with a gelato in hand, feeling the cool breeze blowing off the lagoon, and enjoying the distant sounds of Italian music.
The late night walk back to our room was both romantic and mysterious. The dark, still waters reflected golden splashes of light from the lanterns. The old plastered buildings stood illuminating the narrow alleys. Venice is at its best at night.
Getting up early:
We loved taking pictures of famous sites in Venice without any tourists. Seems near impossible, right? No, just get up early and the streets are empty. The cruise ships don’t start to unload until around 9:00, but we were out of our room by 7:00, some days earlier.
Today we were headed to St. Mark’s Basilica, but along the way we stopped to take pictures of the empty canals and bridges.
Not a single person in sight. The bridges are so much prettier without people crowded on top.
This is picture of me with the Bridge of Sighs in the background. You can only get on this bridge through the Doge’s Palace.
It doesn’t take long for folks to start their gondola rides.
For lunch that day we stopped by da Piero snack bar, and I discovered bruschetta in Italy to be as good as pizza. It’s just an appertivo, but for me it was a meal.
We were the first tourists to enter the Doge’s palace one morning. As you can see, the courtyard was nearly empty.
We walked up the golden staircase alone. It was if we had the whole palace to ourselves. There was one tour group nearby, but we managed to stay a few steps ahead of them. Room after room I took pictures with no tourists around.
In my opinion, early morning is the best time to visit the palace. We were the first in line and it was worth it. Out by 9:30 and ready for a tour of the Grand Canal by vaporetta.
We used our vaporetta passes to cruise the Grand Canal, getting off at stops along the way. (read more about vaporetta tickets on James’ transportation page). Here we are taking a picture of us taking a picture of our reflection in the glass on the vaporetta.
The Ponte dell’ Accademia is a bridge that links the San Marco district to the Dorsoduro district where the Accademia gallery is located. From this bridge you can take great photos of the Grand Canal.
It was difficult to get the full shot of the bridge because of the way we were positioned on the vaporetta. Notice the red striped mooring poles and no, they are not barber poles. There are many colors of poles in Venice, and at one time, the poles actually represented families of aristocracy. They were painted to mark the family’s parking places!
The next site was the most famous bridge in Venice, the Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto). It leads to the Rialto Market.
And the next day we are off to Murano Island to the glass factory.
After a long day at Murano Island, we are back near the square. I didn’t get to take many pictures of James, but here’s one I begged him to let me take. And, In my opinion, he is a really nice looking fifty-two year old. I hope he doesn’t read this or I’ll never get to take another one. (Thank God that he’s bad about not reading my posts.)
The next day we left early to catch the train to Cinque Terre. Good Bye Venice. I will miss you, but I will return…