Venice is best seen when it isn’t packed with crowds or dripping with rain. During this 2015 trip, we encountered very high crowds, and in 2005, we were surrounded with wet and misty gloom. That said, if you are there on a nice, sunny day, and you visit San Marco Square either early or late (avoiding the cruise boat traffic), and spend the day getting lost in all the super cute alley-like streets, you are likely to come away with a lovely impression. Venice is not about the major sights, instead it is about the charm of the narrow streets and canals.
Sunday, June 21, 2015
Our morning began with a train ride from Florence.
Last time we were here, it was rainy, gray, and gloomy. This time around, it was quite the opposite. Much better!
We decided to walk to our hotel, rather than take the ferry (don’t ask, long story). It was a very LONG walk and I regretted the decision. There were lots of bridges with steps instead of ramps, plus lots of cobblestone, neither of which were any fun with the bags.
On the other hand, the city is beautiful, and we got to see more of it by walking. It really is quite large, but since it is mostly a pedestrian city, the streets are fairly narrow, which gives it the feel that you are walking from one cute alley to another. The bridges, while difficult to maneuver with bags, add to the charm.
Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco and Other Afternoon Wanderings
For lunch we had a seafood salads that Jeremy described as “random sea creature salad,” and while I failed to identify everything in the salad, it was quite good. Apparently, the stranger the seafood, the more likely it is to be local. Fortunately, the boys ordered pizza, or they may have walked away hungry.
We spent the afternoon visiting the Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco, which was a first for us since it was closed when we were here last. While expecting something from the Renaissance era, we were a bit surprised to learn that it was a medieval style. Still beautiful, and in very good condition, but unexpected.
While there are a lot of nice areas that are overrun with tourists, Venice is best when you get away from the crowds, wander, and get lost. So we did just that for most of the afternoon.
After resting at the apartment for a while, we decided to take the boys on a gondola ride. It was a bit nerve wracking to hand them our camera while in a tiny boat, but they had fun.
A bit overrated, but as long as you don’t have ridiculous expectations, it is an expensive experience worth having. Expect about 80EUR for a 30-40 minute basic tour. If you add an a singer or accordion, the price is likely to be closer to 200EUR. As long as there aren’t long lines of people waiting for a ride, talk with your guide a bit before you agree to go. You want to make sure you like both his personality and his English. Our guide was quite pleasant and informative, so we were happy even though he brought us back after 30 minutes instead of the promised 40.
Our Tour Guides
After being stuffed from lunch, we decided to get random quick food for dinner. An assortment of cannolis, crepes, and pizza were excellent!
The rest of the evening was spent in following the boys around. We told them that they were our tour guides and had to get us home by following signs that said “Per S. Marco” or “Per Rialto.” We ended up a little further east and south than we intended, but once they got us to San Marco Square, James was able to lead us to our apartment. And with no car traffic or motorbikes to deal with. A delightful way to enjoy Venice!
Monday, June 22, 2015
In the morning, we woke up and found a cockroach in our sink. Yep. We’re in Venice. In 2005, we had one walk across our breakfast table. Add in toilet seats that won’t stay on the toilet (both in 2005 and 2015), despite the fact that we weren’t staying in super budget accommodations, and I was less than impressed. Venice is one of those cities that I really want to love, but the reality of living in a very old and wet city is often more than I prefer.
Fortunately, the breakfast was much better than in 2005. We had both delicious food and lovely seating on an outdoor terrace. The lack of cockroaches was a bonus. After finishing, we packed up and dropped our bags at the front desk, then went out for more wandering.
Secret Passageways and Canals
The boys were still delighting in being our tour guides, so we decided to oblige them. John loved leading us down “secret passageways,” that were actually just tiny alleyways that twisted and turned to the point that you never knew where you were going to pop out.
Add in the lovely canals, bridges, and churches, and we had a really good day.
I particularly liked looking at all the shops, bakeries, and restaurants. The boys got some gelato. For lunch, we stopped at a place that was on a cute, bustling street that was far away from San Marco Square. The lasagne was delicious, and John decided that my calamari looked like curly fries and wanted to try some. He even liked it!
By late afternoon, we picked up our bags, took a water bus partway to the airport, then caught a taxi for the remainder of the trip to the airport. For 4 people, a taxi is often in the same price range as a bus, but more pleasant and less waiting. Our airport paninis were great!
On to Croatia!