Magic in Italy: Visiting Venice

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Trip Report Index:

Introduction
Getting There
Hotel Review: St. Regis Rome
Hotel Review: Hotel De Russie
Visiting Rome
Hotel Review: The Westin Europa & Regina
Visiting Venice
Hotel Review: St. Regis Venice San Clemente Palace (previously reviewed)
Driving around Lake Garda
Hotel Review: Hotel Sirmione
Day in Sirmione
Dinner in Sirmione
Hotel Review: Hotel Ideal
Night in Verona
Lake Idro
Lake Iseo
Lake Maggiore
Hotel Review: Sheraton Milan
Retrospect

Venice is an incredible city to visit, and one of the most well-loved tourist destinations. The entire city of Venice and its lagoon have been classified as a World Heritage Site.

If driving into Venice, the closest and most convenient parking garage is at Piazza Roma, the first one you come to. The cost is 26 EUR per day. There may be a bit of a line in high season but usually the wait time is less than 30 minutes. Note that there are also parking signs that lead you to the new parking complex by the cruise terminal which is a lot further away from the Grand Canal and more inconvenient.

The world’s only city where there are no cars for transportation, you can walk everywhere in Venice but it may be more fun to occasionally take a water bus or water taxi. Whether arriving at Marco Polo airport or driving in from another city, tickets can be purchased for the vaporetto (water bus) at Hellovenezia or ACTV offices.

There are also ticket machines available even when the offices are closed, and tickets can be bought onboard as well. One way tickets for adults are 7 EUR each and the tickets are good for 60 minutes on just about any line as long as there isn’t a return trip back. Children’s tickets are 7 EUR round trip, and those under 6 travel free.  There are also 1 day, 2 day, 3 day and 7 day cards that might be more economical depending on how often you will be going back and forth. The approx. two mile trip to the famed San Marco square by vaporetto is a great way to introduce yourself to the city.

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Because people move on and off the vaporettos at each station and I am usually on for several, I choose not to stay towards the front of the boat.

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Just like with other forms of public transit, there are diagrams showing the different stops along the way.

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For my most recent trip, even though there were rows of available seats inside the covered area of the boat my favorite place is in the very back. Since I happened to be one of the first to board, I bounced towards the rear and was lucky to get one of the handful of seats there which are not covered by the overhang. This meant that I had a full view of the waterways when turning to the side and could also enjoy some sunshine and fresh air. I took out my camera and watched the scenery go by.

After just a few stops, all the back seats were taken and the lady seated next to me was doing the same by just tilting a little to the side to take pictures and enjoy the views. Then a rather large man from inside the boat opened the door to the back area and suddenly squeezed himself in between my seat and the seat of the lady next to me. He wrangled himself against the railing which meant that I was no longer able to take in the view. Instead, I had a rather disappointing view of his behind. Oblivious to our discomfort the man seemed pleased with his prime location and snapped away with his camera. I considered moving, but all the good seats were taken and people were standing on either side so I tried my best to lean away and just ignore him. After several stops he looked down and acted surprised to see us sitting there.

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On the way to St Mark’s Square we passed sun-baked terra cotta colored buildings, and plenty of striped mooring poles. Just like our loading/unloading, handicapped and no parking zones, some of the colors were often used to denote private “parking” for important aristocratic families.

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The waterways of the Grand Canal were once full of boats carrying merchandise along. It wasn’t hard for me to watch the buildings drift past and imagine a time in the not-so-distant past when fishermen were busy traversing the marshy canals with their wares.

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Today residents and tourists use boats just as anyone in a big city would use wheeled vehicles, so there is a combination of large water boats, smaller taxis, and privately owned boats.

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Along the way to St Marks we passed the Casino. Venice Casino has been welcoming gamblers since 1638, and the building also has a museum commemorating composer Richard Wagner.

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Even though Venice is usually busy with tourists, people were lined up to watch the festivities of the Regata Storica, and the vaporettos didn’t run as often or as far as usual.

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Every space was taken on some bridges with especially desirable views.

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Soon enough it was my stop, at St Mark’s Square.

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Even off the Grand Canal, Venice is situated on a group of over 100 different small islands, so there are over 400 bridges that connect all the areas. This makes for a fun day exploring the city.

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I started in St Mark’s Square, where St Mark’s Campanile is situated. The Campanile is the bell tower of the Basilica, which rises over 300 feet tall into the sky. Originally there were 5 bells, each for something different. One signaled the start and end of the work day, one for council meetings, one for sessions of the Senate, and the last was gulp…announcing executions.

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The Campanile sits right in the heart of St Mark’s Square, which is a wonderful place to sit for a while and take in the beauty of the square.

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We dropped into a couple chairs and it wasn’t long before a waiter appeared to drop off a menu and inform us that the Coperto (cover charge) for sitting there would be 6 EUR each, to cover the cost of the classical music performance. Opened in 1720, Caffe Florian is a piece of history as Italy’s oldest Cafe. The day was wonderfully warm with a light breeze and this seemed like the perfect place to sit and reflect on the Square’s history so we stayed.

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The menu was extensive and offered everything from breakfast to drinks to snacks and desserts. We ordered a couple of drinks and the well-dressed waiter complete with bow tie was back lickety-split with a silver tray to give us the impeccable service that the Caffe prides itself on.

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The orchestra under a shaded canopy played classical music, and I enjoyed a refreshing peach drink with some snacks while my husband had an espresso.

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Originally the square held fruit trees and had a canal running through it and later a market, but today it is a place where pedestrians and pigeons walk through an area unfettered by shops and buildings.

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The entrance to the church is found here as well.

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The archway under Torre dell ‘Orologico otherwise known as the astronomical clock of St Mark’s built by a father and son in the 14th century beckoned to me, as I could see a tiny street zigzag into the distance. Finished with our drinks/snacks, we decided to explore the city.

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We wandered along, passing by shops selling masks, Murano glass items and trinkets.

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Carnevale is a popular event in Venice, and even if you aren’t there during the festivities you can still get your own disguise or pose with one.

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Window shopping was fun, and I had to laugh at a sign I saw in a window. Many places in the world now take credit cards, but this wine shop was not one of them! I always have some local currency on hand just in case.

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There were shops filled with pasta of all colors and styles.

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I saw market stalls with fresh fruit and vegetables.

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There was a stall that offered cold drinks, but after I took the picture I realized the proprietor hadn’t appreciated my taking a picture of his store since he had stuck his tongue out in it!

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Some streets were thronged with tourists.

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Others were the type of quiet cobblestoned streets that one dreams about when they imagine Venice and Italy in general.

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For history and museum buffs, there is more than enough to see in a day. Gallerie dell’Accademia is a great place to see some famous paintings and frescoes. Tickets are typically 9 EUR per person but on the first Sunday of each month through the end of 2014 admission is free. Click here for paid tickets or more info.

Even if you don’t go to a museum, artists through time have made their mark around the city. It seems that around every corner is a historical statue. I came across one that looked interesting but I wasn’t sure what its significance was. Thanks to Wifi back in the hotel later, I was able to type in “man holding stick with globe on either side”. It took quite a few searches more than that to get the answer, but I was glad for Google. Above the sarcophagus is a bronze statue of Tommaso Rangone who was a physician, expert on hygiene, astrologer, philologist and patron of the arts. He had originally wanted his monument in St Mark’s Square but it can be found above the door of the church of San Giuliano. Thommaso had a lifelong interest in learning, and his statue shows him pursuing it for all time.

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As the shadows deepened the streets got a bit quieter and restaurants prepared for dinnertime. Apertivo time around the foot of the Rialto bridge looked popular as locals and tourists had some cicheti and drinks.

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The gondoliers also got ready for evening rides, which are memorable but quite expensive even more so than during the day. Prices start around 80 EUR for 40 minutes. Beware that if you haggle the price they may lower it but then also cut your time short. Click here for more ticket pricing. After a long day of walking in the dusty streets, a gelato followed by a hopefully short wait in the gondola line was a good transition into dinnertime.

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Some gondoliers sing, and if you take a gondola ride the early evening can be a beautiful time to take a tour through the quiet back canals. The gondoliers use only one oar since the canals are so narrow, and the ride is smooth rather than choppy. The golden lamplight bounced off the reflections, and the only sound was the gentle slapping of water against the wooden platforms.

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Dinner in Venice sounds like it would be amazing, but unfortunately the restaurants tend to be overpriced and touristy. After a disappointing meal at a random location, I decided that the next time I go to Venice I’ll return armed with some good recommendations! Any ideas from my readers?

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  1. Jay
    Reply

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/dal-moros-venezia Freshly made pasta that comes in a chinese takeout box, sold out of a window. Gotta eat the pasta asap before it gets mushy (as the servers reminded us at least 5 times after we got the food). Delicious! We sat in front of a closed shop after we got the food (can’t sit on the bridges or risk getting fined) and gulped it down before it cooled. Cheap too! Less than 10 euros!

    • Melinda
      Reply

      That sounds delicious Jay. I’ll have to give this a try next time I’m there. Thanks for the tip!

  2. David
    Reply

    My wife and I visited Venice in September. We ate at several wonderful restaurants. Al Covo, Il Covino, Da Rioba and Antiche Carampane were some of our favorites. All were around €100-120 for 2 people with wine. We usually ordered an appetizer, one or two primi, a secondi each and split a dessert. Not bad prices for the amount of food that we received. Venice is a magical place and I highly recommend it to anyone.

    • Melinda
      Reply

      It is a magical place David! Thanks for the restaurant recommends. Now I’ll have several places to try!

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