Before arriving in Venice I wasn’t sure what to expect. Pam had visited many years ago and the city left a great impression on her that continues to this day (she made it a point to visit Venice so I could see the floating city for myself). Stepping onto the steps of the train station and seeing boats and water instead of cars and street caused my jaw to drop open and hang there for several moments. Venice is a city with irresistible charm and deserves its place as one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations.
Venice is the type of city that changes the way you think an ideal city should be. When so many conventions are different or downright missing you begin to imagine that whoever planned the city must be a genius or insane.
Far above the canal on one of the many pedestrian bridges you can watch the many boats speed past. We enjoyed how captains navigate traffic in the crowded waterways – being stuck in traffic on a boat is actually enjoyable as opposed to being stuck in rush hour traffic. At the same time, taxi prices and transportation costs were unfortunately much higher in Venice.
In the heart of Venice is the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari or just the Basilica dei Frari. Inside there are several works of Titian where he is also interred. The entrance fee is three euros and can be well worth it to spend an hour or two in the church.
There is always something to see or take a picture of in Venice – even the parked boats. The rhythmic bobbing of all the gondolas was soothing to watch.
From the Rialto bridge you can get one of the longest stretches of the Grand Canal in one shot. The shops and restaurants revolve around the Grand Canal, with so many tourists walking about it’s easy to spot shops selling all types of souvenirs. However, you can still buy a reasonably priced ice-cold beer at the Co-op grocery store (enjoying a beer sitting by the Grand Canal is an experience not to be missed!)
The idea of building a city on over one hundred small islands takes some getting used to, you could find yourself falling into the ocean right outside the front door. Waves constantly lapped at the sides of buildings and sounded like ambient music generators set to “soothing ocean”. The low-frequency hum of boats passing added to the atmosphere.
We needed to experience Venice floating down the canals but didn’t want to spend 80 euros for the gondola rides where prices can be even higher in the evenings. And that’s how we ended up on a 75 minute water bus tour route around the city. You can find a map of water bus routes here, just make sure not to take the same line twice since the 75 minute pass is only good for one direction.
Riding along with several dozen other people on the water bus may not be as personal as a gondola ride but you can see much more of the perimeter.
Saint Mark’s Basilica is one of the most famous churches in Venice and all of Italy. It can be seen up close and the square in front is very crowded. We caught a glimpse of the marble columns while on the water bus.
As evening fell on our last night in Venice we looked out on the Grand Canal one final time – porchetta pizza and bottle of wine in hand. And found that Venice is as magical as cities get, stepping onto the train back to the mainland, we knew that this was a moment we would never forget.