Venice – the city made of 100 small islands and connected only by canals has no other transport except what runs on water. Just the name conjures images of romance, of gondolas and charming bridges, of narrow alleys and mysterious allure and of a nightlife truly intriguing. You can’t make a trip to Italy and not visit Venice and that is exactly what we did. It was our last stop in Italy, as we were flying to Paris from here.
First things first, the accommodation was done through AirBnb. We got a luxurious apartment in a beautiful neighbourhood of Mestre which is the mainland connection of Venice city. It is about half an hour by bus to Venice. The host was gracious and even provided us pickup and drops from train station and to airport for a nominal charge. The bus stop was down the street. The tickets for the same could be bought from the tobacconist down the lane. The bus dropped one right outside the Venice city.
You can either walk across Venice city or buy a full-day ticket on the local water transport which are called vaporetti or water buses. It makes a lot of sense to do so as they are cheaper and you can cover many more islands than on foot. But do indulge in some walking to duck into low-on-traffic alleys that may reveal unexpected charming aspects of this wonderful city. Some islands of Venice lagoon like Lido, Burano, Murano and Torcello are only accessible by these so plan well.
We were in Venice for two nights and made most of the time. You can sit by the beautiful canals and watch the ferries, boats and gondolas go by. You can see the play of waves and the changing moods of the sun. Watch the buildings kissing the water and wonder what happens at high tide. The bridges are gorgeous. Venice is quite a unique experience. We really enjoyed it.
Like everyone else, we visited St. Marks Square which has the magnificent St. Mark’s Basilica, one of the oldest churches in Italy that dates back to 9th century. St. Mark’s Square is a popular tourist destination with a large square that is home to hundreds of pigeons framed as it is by pillars on 3 sides. This is Venice’s living room where people gather to chatter, stroll or meet friends. As you walk all over, you can have a look at the church or sit by the Grand Canal.
St. Mark’s Basilica has a bell tower that had collapsed and was rebuilt completely just like the original in 1903. You can get a bird’s eye view of Venice if you climb to the top. Doge’s Palace which is an elaborate palace is also in this compound.
Wandering aimlessly in Venice can be an exhilarating experience as you can leisurely go around seeing the beautiful architecture of the wonderful buildings and churches, immerse yourself in the hustle bustle of crowds, explore the intricate chain of canals with beautiful bridges and just absorb the spirit of this city which is like no other.
The Grand Canal is the widest canal in Venice which is almost 3 kms. long and is an ancient waterway that runs through Venice. We took vaporetto #1 that took us on Grand Canal from start at St. Lucia station till St. Mark’s which is the end. It gives you an opportunity to explore this ancient waterway and the life around it at leisure. It was a thoroughly enjoyable journey. If you can, have an audio guide with you so that you can locate the popular sights or just observe and enjoy. There’s a lot of fun in that as well.
The Rialto Bridge is quite a splendid sight. It is a stony arch across the Grand Canal. It is also the place for grocery shopping for most Venetians. If you like markets, you can give this one a try. Seafood and meat jostles with fresh fruit and vegetables to be bought. Markets in any city of the world have a charming quality to them. This one is no different.
You may be wondering why I have not mentioned the famous gondola ride. Well, they are famous for sure but way overpriced. And frankly, Venice is so crowded at all times including the waterways that one wonders if any quiet, romantic experience is ever possible. So we ditched trying for it.
Do not forget to visit these other islands in the Venetian Lagoon which are less crowded and quite enjoyable:
Lido: This is the beach of Venice. A small island with a beautiful clean beach, this is a small distance from the Venice island. You can take a vaporetto to get here. We found some lovely eateries that served wonderful pizzas and some delicious gelatos. Do spend some time at the beach as well.
Murano: This a small town which has a series of islands and a population of just 5000 people. It is about 1.5 kms. from Venice and is considered a part of Venice lagoon. You can take a vaporetto to reach here.
There are quaint, pretty houses painted in vibrant colours. And it is famous for its beautiful glasswork. You can do a tour of a glass factory and also buy some exotic glass articles or jewellery here. It is a small island, and you can easily cover it on foot.
Burano: This small island is widely known for its lace artifacts. But these are generally very expensive and a number of ripoffs are also sold so be cautious. The houses are bright and colourful. It looks like no colours are left out when painting the houses. It is a cheerful experience just walking along them. This island can be easily covered by foot. You can explore this for a different experience.
There are others churches and museums that can be explored but we were satisfied with this sightseeing. Venice is crowded with hordes of tourists and is very expensive. It is also intriguing and a unique experience. Thus came to an end our precious two days in Venice that gave us a lifetime of memories. Do visit Venice if you get an opportunity.
Do read my other posts on Italy, here.