So here’s the 2nd installment of our holiday adventures this Autumn. Read about the first week here.
Our little family trip to meet a couple of friends in Venice is the major highlight of that second week and that is what this whole post will be about cos there isn’t room for anything else ;) AND… it will be in picture summary, otherwise i could go on and on and on and on…
Now sit tight and enjoy the whirlwind version of our first time in Venice:
It was a very rainy 6-hour drive into Venice. The Italian expressways actually have minimum speed limits – you have to drive at a certain speed to drive in certain lanes. i thought it would be very unsafe but actually if everyone followed the rules, it seemed to work well and kept the traffic moving quite efficiently. Oh, and the tolls… wow! When you drive on Italian highways, be prepared to pay and it helps to have coins. And watch that you get into the right lane when passing through the toll gates – they have specific ones for those with passes and those without and those needing to pay cash.
We finally get there and park on the parking island – no cars allowed on the actual islands of Venice. You can find out more about getting to Venice here.
We catch the very little train (sort of like an LRT for my Singaporean readers and like a small tram for my Swiss readers) into the main bus station on Venice. Buses only go up to that point and then they turn around and go back to the mainland. So our first glimpse of Venice was of the industrial area.
We found the “hotel” and discovered that it was not a “hotel” or even a bed and breakfast – it was a very enterprising Indian man (he is quite nice) renting out rooms in different apartments which he owned. The room was nice and big and comfortable so no complains there. i only wished the insides of the cupboards were a bit more dust free. We shared a toilet/shower which was clean and nice, and to my surprise we didn’t meet with much time conflict with regards to it’s usage with other renters.
The view from our small balcony was of the rooftops of Venice, which i found very interesting and i could imagine people of ages past running across them to get away from whatever or whoever they may have offended – oh, intrigue!
We got settled and decided to wander the streets and find some dinner. Walking is the thing to do in Venice. The other option is the Vaporetto – water buses. Our advice is to wear good comfortable walking shoes and buy the Travel Cards so you can hop on and off these water buses anytime you want to.
Of course, we crossed many canals and bridges and i LOVED all the different types of bridges, wooden ones, bricks ones, ones with iron railings etc…
We settled for a family-run Trattoria, the grandmother did the cooking – it was simple fare but yummy! And didn’t break the bank.
i have read that eating out in Venice can be expensive and unsatisfying – we have found that while there are the expensive Ristorantes, there are also other options such as a simple Pizzeria or a small cafe which can serve decent food at a fairly reasonable rate. Oh, do note that in Italian there is such a thing as a cover charge and a service charge. Most places have one or the other, BUT some have both, which can make the final bill high.
See the above picture of the casino with it’s very own jetty – those are the places where people don’t even think about how much the bill would be… they arrive in Venice and get driven around in private boats! We saw a lot of Chinese tourists in private taxis.
Here are the sights of the Grand Canal as we took the water bus to San Marco’s Square. i so enjoyed being on the sea again! It was interesting watching the Gondolas navigating around the faster boats and watching some Gondoliers in training.
This is the very famous San Marco Square – there are loads of pigeons everywhere and even a geniue “bird-lady” – she reminds me of the one in Mary Poppins who sang the song “Feed the Birds”. It was also nice to sit at one of the cafes (yes it was a bit pricey) and enjoy the live music. We concluded that the different bands must coordinated with each other so they don’t play at the same time cos the music does carry across the square.
We visited the Doge’s Palace and oh my, what opulence! There was an interesting clock in one of the rooms where a part of the adminstration met; the clock only have one hand. We couldn’t figure out how it works. The armory was also quite interesting.
This is the view from the Bridge of Sighs – it was a prisoner’s last view of the outside world. The bottom picture (in the above collage) is taken from the outside, looking at the Bridge of Sighs.
We walked through the prisons and noticed there were lots of different types of cells, some with wooden beds, some are small rooms and others are just huge empty rooms with nothing but rock walls and floor. The ticket into the Doge’s Palace also gives you entry into 3 other museums at the Square. But we didn’t do the rest cos there was a bomb scare that day and they closed those museums. i do believe our tickets were valid for another few months but i can’t confirm that.
i thought the water-bus-stops are very interesting. And i’m constantly amazed at how the buildings are really built right up and into the water itself. The above are views of San Marco Square and the area around it from the water-bus.
We visited Lido – the only island which has a beach – which i thought was strange for a group of islands. But we didn’t get to it cos it was a long walk from where the water-bus stops you and at the time we went, all the shops were closed. It seems that between 12noon and 3 or 4pm, the store-owners all decided to hit to beach – hehheee ;) Anyhow, we abandoned the walk to the beach cos we really didn’t know how far away it was. i only found out that we actually made it halfway when we were on our way back.
The other interesting thing to do in Venice is to wander through all the narrow alleyways and find little glimpses of everyday life. We wandered upon a Montessori pre-school one time. And another time, we saw a whole group of little children on their way to school – they gathered along a canal-way and seemed to waiting for what Tobias called their ‘School-boat’ to take them to school. See the left picture above, see the Hebrew words, that’s the start of the Jewish Quarter or better known as the Ghetto.
i concluded that people come to Venice to see the charm of a city that is sinking and crumbling. Everywhere the walls are peeling and you can see water damage on doors and wooden beams holding buildings up. It must be difficult to keep up with repairs with the sea water eroding away everything and as you can imagine, fixing a floating city isn’t an easy task.
We also visited another famous site – the Rio Alto Bridge. It is full of people trying to get the classic shot of Venice. The bridge also houses some interesting shops, all very touristy of cos. But quite interesting to browse through.
One of the amazing things we found in our wanderings is in the above picture – see the camera and various tools – guess what they are made of… they are made of chocolate! And the shop smelled so amazingly delicious! i can still smell it… i don’t believe i could eat such beautiful creations.
And speaking of creations, the lovely island of Murano houses all the glass-makers of Venice. And they make wonderful things. There is also a Glass Museum – unfortunately it was under renovation and most of it was closed when we were there.
Tobias was so taken with their work, he stood and watched for a long time. He even bought a handmade glass unicorn with his pocket money. There is no need to pay to watch these men at work. You just need to walk the island and there will be a few open doors where you can just watch. Don’t follow anyone who says he will guide you to the best one. Those usually come with hard-sell sales pitches.
We also visited Burano – this island is known for it’s lace work and its very colourful houses. Aren’t they pretty? Not a lace person myself, i didn’t really shop around.
But we did find a tiny little shop where the owner is a glass-maker (certified Murano glass-maker) – he makes the cutest glass food and prettiest bracelets etc… Tobias spent so long watching him, he decided to have a photo taken with Tobias, who was, of cos, thrilled!
Oh, last but not least, we had the most yummy Gelato ever! Our friend had found the recommendation off the web and we set off, wandering through the many narrow walkways and streets of Venice to find it. And it was well worth the long walk and the extra 0.50Euros! Here’s the address: Salizzada San Lio, Castello, 5727, Venezia, Italy – YUM!
Now i leave you with more classic shots of Venice! Ah… i miss those waterways already – we’ll be back Venice, we’ll be back ;)