Today we started exploring Venice! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we started with a hotel breakfast. We were ready to have to pay for Kristin & Justine to partake in the buffet (including cereal, breads, eggs, sausage & waffles) because, as you may remember, four people ar wot allowed in our four-person sized room. However, no one seemed to care if you were even staying in the hotel and we all just went in, ate & left. It was a wonderfully full & delicious meal!
We then caught a bus right in front of the hotel. It took us straight to the edge of Venice. Venice is Europe’s best preserved big city. It is made of over 100 islands laced together by 400 bridges and 2000 alleys. Unlike any other large city, there is not a single car in Venice. Instead of roads, the city is filled with numerous canals. Surprisingly, very few people fall into these canals…we checked… The city was born 1500 years ago from marshy islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. It is hard to understand why they chose this location to built a city. For many years Venice was the most prosperous city in Europe. In the Middle Ages, it was the centre of the East-West trade route between China & the Ottoman Empire and the rest of Europe. The importance of Venice fell when new overseas trade routes were discovered. Today Venice exists as it did in the 1600’s and is continuously facing conservation and preservation efforts to protects this city for the numerous tourists who flock here every year.
From the bus stop we crossed over the Grand Canal for the first time. We were suddenly overwhelmed by many wonderful shops! The Grand Canal is the main street of Venice. It is 2 miles long, 150 feet wide and almost 15 feet deep. Today it is busy with water buses and taxis, workers, delivery men, ambulances and the many gondolas. The edges of the canal are lined with palaces from the days when Venice was the richest city in the world. We meandered through the streets doing some major window shopping. Venice has no street signs (which is typical of an italian city) so you navigate using landmarks. They do have signs pointing you in the direction of the the cities biggest tourist stops.
Halfway to our destination we came to one such stop: the Rialto Bridge. This bridge is one of the most famous bridges in the world. The white stone crosses the river elegantly with a single arch. The bridge is lined with shops on the inside and an arcade of tourists on the outside. A bridge has been on this location since the 1100’s and the current bridge dates from the 16th century.
We continued amongst the shops and narrow alleys until we reached St Mark’s Square. St Mark’s Square is the main central square of Venice. Filled with pigeons and tourists, the square sits very close to the edge of the lagoon and the entrance to the Grand Canal. Because of it’s proximity to the water, this square is flooded many times every year. This square is filled with tourist sights. Rick Steves said you could spend an entire day just visiting the sights in this square.
The elegantly domed St Mark’s Basillica sits along one side next to the Doge’s Palace. This palace was where the Venetian government was based for the 400 years of Venice’s glory days. The square also features the bell tower that replaced an early lighthouse and the clock tower with the worlds first digital clock. The sides of the square are lined with the New and Old office buildings which are connected by a wing built by Napoleon (this guy got around!).
We had planned to see the church but since it was Sunday, we could not enter during mass. Instead we walked along the Grand Canal and crossed at the Academia to reach the south side of the city. From here we were able to walk to the southern point for many great views of more beautiful churches and St Mark’s Square.
We crossed back over the Grand Canal to find lunch. We stopped at a restaurant in one of the many open squares littered throughout Venice. There was only one open 2-person table in the sun, otherwise the tables all sat back in the shade. The weather was not nice enough to sit in the shade where the wind could hit you and create quite a chill, so we moved to find another place. The waiter was rather determined we come to his establishment though, so he packed up a table from the back and hauled it out front to match up with the open one. Justine & Harvey stuck out into the square a bit, but they still really enjoyed their spaghetti & meat sauce. Kristin had a sweet & spicy spaghetti & chili sauce and Bev had a capresse salad. It was all fantastic, especially when paired with a liter of red wine.
Once we’d finished eating we just sipped our wine and critiqued the fashion choices of the people strolling by. We also watched Gondola Man a lot. Here’s a picture m posed in a perfect Gondelier pose for us 😉
We walked back to St. Mark’s Square and along the southern edge of the city beside the lagoon. This area is lined with tourist shops and tour groups…so many swarms of people chasing one person holding up a tacky umbrella. Connecting the two wings of the Doge’s Palace we caught a glimpse of the famous Bridge of Sighs. This bridge was slightly anticlimactic as it was covered in scaffolding but we still couldn’t resist sighing at it’s sight. The bridge got it’s name because palace prisoners crossing the bridge would get one last glimpse of the city and sigh at the glory of Venice before being led to their fate. Today, local legend claims lovers will be assured eternal love if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the bridge.
We took a break from walking along the shore where we watched the many tour groups waiting for their boats to return them to their cruise ships.
For supper we chose a place right along the Grand Canal next to the Rialto bridge…it really was a picture perfect place!
We ordered another bottle of wine and all went for the 3 part meal deal: a first/pasta course, a second/meat course & a side. We also got free bread and along with the buns came fresh baked, mini bread sticks. Harvey ate about a million of them…and this is after he had 9 of the long, skinny, packaged breadsticks at lunch! This is the way his face looks when someone mentions breadsticks:
To start Kris, Justine & Harv all had spaghetti with clams. It had a deliciously simple oil sauce so the taste of the fresh pasta & seafood was on full display. Bev had vegetable soup that she decided was some of the best she’s ever had. For her second course Bev had coletta, which is basically Weinerschnitzel, with French fries as her side. Harvey also had the coletta but with salad. Justine did the fish (we’re not sure what kind but it tasted great) with salad & Kristin had calimari with salad.
We then walked back to the bus to ride home. The streets of Venice are often skinny and after dark they can be, well, dark. We also weren’t sure we were going in the right direction. But, after much wandering, we found our way! Yay! We were greatly helped by the numerous signs on buildings pointing towards the main sights. And to end off the post, here’s a little preview to get you excited for tomorrow (or today as we seemed to have fallen day behind…the old people keep us out too late!):
Love, Luck & Luigi the Gondola Man…we don’t know his name is Luigi but we needed an L-word that related to him 😉
K&J + B&H