Venice

Many bridges and canals
Venezia, Italy


Off again – back to Italy.

I was there only 5 months ago, but there are always more places to go.

And this time Venice! I’ve been looking forward to this trip for so long!

The flight left Gatwick on time at 4pm and we were soon skimming over the Alps and then over the Adriatic Sea, into Venice.

Getting through European airports are always so quick, within 10 minutes we were outside and hopping onto a bus into the city. Buying a ticket was rather confusing. I wanted a return airport bus and a 24 hour vaporetti ticket. But didn’t seem to be the easiest thing to achieve. And at EUR26 per person was rather ridiculously expensive.

The bus took just 20 minutes and we were driving across the bridge to the islands. Right next to the bus station was the vaporetti stop. And within 5 minutes it was pulling away. It was rather dark, so we couldn’t see out too much. None of the buildings were particularly lit up.

We stayed on the boat for 4 stops and got off at Ca d’ Oro. A quick hop across a few short streets, over a cute canal and we reached our hotel. All rather quick! After landing at 7pm, we were in the hotel by 8.15pm. Off to bed then…!!!

Saturday 28 February 2015

After a quick breakfast in the hotel, we headed outside to a lovely sunny day.

Venice is a UNESCO world heritage site and is made up of 117 separate Islands, divided into 6 different districts, 177 canals and 409 bridges. And I feel like we probably walked over all 409 bridges….

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I had made a semi plan for the day – heading to the outer islands this morning. Then I found out about the Rialto market. And I just love a fruit market! So I got up an hour earlier than planned just to fit that in as its only open until 1pm on Saturday! We’re only staying a 10 minute walk away. But almost as soon as stepping outside, I felt lost. So many options for streets and bridges and canals. It’s initially a bit confusing. But I soon got the hang of it and navigating was actually rather easy. We reached the Rialto Bridge – the most famous and oldest bridge of Venice.

Sadly there are lots of construction/renovation works taking place in the area, so all the surrounding buildings were covered in scaffolding and cranes. Bit of a shame. But the view from the bridge was pretty, the sun, still low barely reaching above the old shutter-clad buildings.

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The river was a flurry of activity; gondola men getting their boats ready for a day of floating around, produce being unloaded into restaurants and mobile stalls being walked into position for a day of hawking. The fruit market wasn’t as exciting as anticipated. There were lots of pretty fruit and vegetable stalls. But I see the same produce in borough market every day now. The only things that were different were the piles of red rucola and pretty purple artichokes!

Next to the fruit market is the pescaria – the fish market. Here since 1907 and full of squid, octopus and oddly massive scorpion fish. After our fill of the market, we made our way back through a maze of streets towards the Eastern side of the islands to the edge of the lagoon.

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The boats across to Burano leave from the Fondamente Nove stop every half hour and we made it just in time for the 9.40am boat. We drove surprisingly slowly. The journey, whilst only 7km, took 40 minutes (which its supposed to) so perhaps that’s just the speed limit of the boats around here! There wasn’t much to see along the way, just a few small islands with derelict houses on them.

Burano is a small island, East of Venice, in the Venetian lagoon. The island is famous for its lace making. And as soon as we stepped off the boat, we bumped right into a few lace shops! The other thing the island is famous for is its coloured buildings. Every house is a different colour! And being such a lovely sunny day, the water glowed bright blue and the houses were shining in their bright colours – it was so pretty!

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Apparently if the resident wishes to repaint their house, they must send a request to the government. We spent about 45 minutes wandering around the small streets, being so early in the morning it was lovely and quiet and we almost had the place to ourselves (along with a few locals and a few cats!).

We then jumped on the ferry back towards Venice and got off at another island – Murano.

This island is famous for its glass making. And every single shop here is a glass shop. Rows and rows of glass shops. I didn’t know at this time, but basically every single shop in venice is also a glass shop! We had a browse and just window shopped. All the pieces I liked were rather expensive! So no purchasing!!

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After we were bored of glass, off on another ferry, back to venice. By now it was 12pm and the ferries were jam packed. Every single one headed to Murano and Burano was packed, people standing and barely possible to squeeze another person on them. So pleased we went early; got seats on the ferries and able to wander around with almost the places to ourselves!

We stayed on the ferry for a few stops and got off at a random stop – Celestia. We ended up being in the middle of a residential area. People walking their dogs. Putting out the washing. Small local hardware and grocery stores and a small local bar. Such a contrast to the ‘touristy’ areas!

We were enroute to the Piazza San Marco. Getting lost down small streets. Bumping into beautiful handmade mask shops. Stopped for some amazing gelato. Stumbled across pretty canals with overflowing flower boxes. And really enjoyed the walk! As we got closer to the square, the streets became busier and gondolas were in traffic jams!

We bumped into the Bridge of Sighs – named after the prisoners who passed over it on their way from the Doge’s Palace to the prison. Gondola after gondola were passing underneath. Then we turned into the square and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people! It was packed!!

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On the eastern side of the square is the large Basilica di San Marco. Taking over 800 years to build and covered in mosaics. I was surprised at the queue to enter the Basilica. None. We just walked straight in. And it’s free! Of course if you want to go up to the balcony, you pay. If you want to go to the treasure rooms, you pay. Altar, you pay. But the large majority was free. The roof was golden (24 carat gold leaf covered mosaic tiles) and covered in a mosaic design. The floor was black, with similar mosaic designs drawn across it. The inside was surprisingly small, but it was pretty cool.

Just next door to the Basilica was the Torre dell’Orologio, a huge gold leaf covered clock. All cities seem to have a big clock, and whilst not as elaborate as those in Munich or Prague, I did like this one!

Next up, we headed up the Campanile. A 99m tall bell tower in the middle of the square. Sadly the steps are no longer functioning, only the lift. EUR8 each and just a short queue to head up and we were at the top of Venice. The views were great. And being such a sunny day, it was so pretty. Orange roofs, broken only by the large grey cathedrals, surrounded by bright blue waters. The rows of gondola lining the shores were swaying in the light waves and ant-people moving around the square. It was really pretty. And barely 50cm above our heads were huge, old city bells.

We made it down from the Campanile just before 2pm. And lucky we had – at 2pm the bells began to ring. I then realised we had been standing right underneath those bells just 5 minutes previously! Definitely saved our eardrums there!

Out on the water front the gondolas were lined up.

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Such a pretty view looking out towards the Campo San Giorgio, sitting just offshore. We wandered away from the main square into the San Marco district, getting lost down the small alleyways, passing over cute small bridges and every now and then coming into a small square, often complete with a church.

We stopped for a quick slice of pizza and carried on our explorations, popping in and out of small shops. And largely just window shopping! We finally popped out back by the Grand Canal and the Ponte dell’Accademia. From here the views along the canal were so pretty. Small motorboats and gondola moving up and down. The larger vaporetti leaving them behind in their wake. And the white domes of the Basilica di Santa Maria popping out on the side of the canal. A perfect Venice scene.

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We hopped on a vaporetti to jump just a few stops along the canal. Many of the vaporetti I’ve seen today have been absolutely jam packed. And it’s February!! However this one was nice and quiet – perfect for enjoying the pretty view of all the old buildings as we glided past. We were barely on the boat for 10 minutes before jumping off just before the Rialto Bridge.

We could have stayed on the boat until basically reaching our hotel, but walking is more fun! We weaved our way back through the small crowded streets towards our hotel. The numbers of people around is surprising – I was expecting February to be quiet. But quite the contrary – in some of the main streets you can barely move. I suppose in summer it’s a lot worse. We finally arrived back at 5pm. A long day of walking!

The hotel is pretty cool and does free drinks and snacks all day long! So a peppermint tea and kiwi were in order! And later on, some free wine and nuts…!!

We headed out to a local Trattoria for dinner. Italians eat late. Most restaurants don’t even open until 7pm. Greeted with glasses of mixed aperol/prosecco and bread. Disappointingly there are no vegetarian restaurants here – the local Venetian specialty being seafood. And lots of it. But there were a few vegetarian options. I had plain pasta with local vegetables, which were so tasty – artichoke, courgette, peppers and tomatos. We left feeling rather full and wandered back through the deserted streets and over the small bridges back to the hotel. Such a great day!

Sunday 1 March 2015

A bit of a lie in today and after some breakfast, we headed outside. The weather wasn’t as good today – cloudy. So the water didn’t shine quite as brightly and it wasn’t quite as pretty. We didn’t have much of a plan today. So just wandered.

We headed back to Rialto and crossed into a different district – San Polo. Here the streets were narrower and full of old shops. We popped out several times into large squares with churches. We saw Campo San Polo and Basilica dei Frari – two huge buildings. All hidden down small alleyways! And despite being a Sunday morning, the crowds were back out! Many of them being locals out to church. I had noticed that all the gondola drivers were men. I hadn’t seen a single woman. Until now! I was so surprised when I looked over a bridge and saw a woman driving!

The first woman was allowed to be a driver in 2010 and now there are only a handful out there. There are only 4 bridges crossing the Grand Canal. Between the Ca d’Oro and the Rialto markets, some gondola men run a mini taxi service. It takes about 1 minute to cross the river and they charge EUR2 per person. We gave it a go and it saved us a 15 minute walk around. Plus it was fun to be on a gondola. For about a minute.

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After picking up our bags, we slowly wandered back to the Piazza Roma, where the buses leave to the airport. Enjoying the last of the beautiful canals, mini bridges and cute shuttered buildings. This main thoroughfare was packed full of people. At every corner there was a souvenir stall. And every other shop still selling glass and masks. We had some amazing views of the Grand Canal from the Ponte degli Scalzi – and then leaving the canals behind – back by a road and wheeled-transportation!

Sadly my return-bus ticket didn’t work. So I had to waste another EUR6 per person buying new ones. So annoying!! The bus leaves every 20 minutes to the airport and we only had to wait a couple of minutes before we pulled away, back to the airport. The airport was pretty ridiculous. A long queue for scanning a boarding pass. Then a long, long queue for security. It took nearly half an hour. Which for a small airport really is a bit ridiculous. The shops were pretty good though!

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