The would be a 7-hours day trip for us to the city. It was bright and beautiful and already over 25 degrees at 10:30 when we pulled into the train station. Off to the side we could see 2 cruise ships docked so we knew it would be a busy day.
We caught the water bus (#1 – the slow one that makes a dozen stops) and thoroughly enjoyed a 20 minute ride down the Grand Canal. The architecture is marvelous and no two houses are the same. The grandeur is evident from a time when Venice was the financial capital of Italy in the middle ages.
Our first stop was the beautiful domed Santa Maria della Salut church at the end of the Grand Canal. It is magnificent and filled with priceless treasures. Bonus, the 6000 cruise ship tourists were on the other side of the canal swarming to get a shot of the Bridge of Sighs beside the Doge’s Palace.
So where was our next stop can you guess? Across the canal to get a shot of the Bridge of Sighs. I wiggled my way through the throng, climbed the stairs, held my camera high over my head (lucky I’m 6 feet) and got a decent shot of this famous little bridge linking the justice courts in the Doge’s Palace with the prison across the canal. It is said you could head the inmates moaning as they were marched over the bridge to be judged.
San Marco Piazza, the San Marco Bascilica and the Doge’s Palace are all here together. This was the main business district of Venice back then and everything about it is massive. The Bascilica is free to tour but no photos allowed. Too bad, since it is truly stunning with the interior completely covered with mosaics made of small 1″ pieces of glass, gold being a prominent color.
Feeling a bit crowded and hungry, we slipped into one of the many little streets and found a quiet restaurant for some lunch. I had the anchovy salad ☺. The waiter was hilarious with a dry since of humor.
Back into the piazza to tour the Doge’s Palace. The Doge was the leader of Venice in the day and his palace is nothing short of the most magnificent display of wealth and power. Room after room of richly carved woodwork, frescoed ceilings and walls, marble floors and hand crafted furniture. It is a gorgeous museum that gives a glimpse into Medieval nobility life. The tour takes you across the Bridge of Sighs and into the prison. What a contrast from one side of the canal to the other…from having everything to having nothing.
From there, we strolled through streets with souvenir shops toward the Rialto bridge. I didn’t get a good shot as the entire zone was packed with tourists…streets literally packed. From 1000 feet up, it must be quite a sight with the streets “flowing” alongside the canals. Nevertheless, we managed to have a gelato icecream in the midst of it all.
Next we visited another church, Santa Maria Gloriosa del Frari. Built in the mid 1200, it’s size rivals that of San Marco and it’s art treasures perhaps exceed it with works by Bellini, Titian and Donatello. Plus it is dark and cool inside.. a wonderful retreat from the heat and crowds.
The afternoon was waning and soon we would need to make for the train station. The shots I most wanted of Venice never happened. I was looking for quiet little cul-de-sac streets with a courtyard at the end shared by several families and a marble fountain in the center. I know they are there somewhere and with more time, I would have found one. But we did get some nice shots of the canals with no people blocking the view so, I’m good with that.
It was a beautiful day… almost magical. I hated to leave but was glad to escape the crowds… and looked forward to our night destination, Verona.