A trip to Venice is something that has always captured my imagination but hearing how expensive it is, this seemed a good way to get a feel and see if it lived up to expectations.
Naturally, the whole place is pedestrianised, I can´t imagine in the maze of tiny streets squeezing in a car, let alone a coach!
Once there, what did we see? Of course, all the highlights.
A private boat took us down the Grand Canal and we eventually disembarked a short distance (4 bridges to be exact) from St Mark’s Square. It was then a guided walk to the heart of the city, St Mark’s Square. Lining the square are several historical sites. St. Mark’s Campanile (the bell tower on the corner) has a lift where from the top, you could, I imagine, get some great panoramic photos. Next, the Basilica di San Marco, probably the most famous church in Venice, but only visiting for a day meant giving these a miss as the queues to get in went on for miles. Instead, we took photos from the outside and vowed to return in spring or autumn.
St Mark’s Square is also home to a number of cafes, making it the perfect spot to enjoy a coffee. It is one of those experiences you won´t forget, but with many tours starting at the piazza, it is always busy and therefore very expensive. We walked a couple of streets beyond the famous Piazza San Marco, to Ristorante Cantina Canaletto where a 2-course lunch including drinks cost just €15. Similarly if you hope to pick up a souvenir, walk a few streets from the square and you will find the same more reasonably priced.
No visit to Venice is complete without a trip on the canals and where there’s a canal, you’re likely to see a gondola. I was told it could cost upwards of €200, more if the gondolier sings! Yet somehow, our tour organiser managed to arrange a 30-minute trip for just €22 per person. What nobody warns you about though is the getting in and out. I’m not the most balanced person and as I wobbled back and forth, I had visions of grabbing whoever was next to me and taking us all overboard. Fortunately, with a long stride and just a bit of a tremble the feat was accomplished. I even managed to balance the gondolier on my head as you can see in the picture!
From the Grand Canal, we saw the Rialto Bridge, which has been there since 1181. This area is the centre for tourists and of course, you are standing on the bridge so the only way to get a photo is from a distance (or as I did – buy the postcard!).
Then the Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs, which connects to the palace dungeons. Casanova was the most famous person to cross the Bridge but the prison wasn´t to his liking and he escaped with help from a monk. Again, the amount of tourists at this spot can be a drawback to getting a decent picture, but if like us you wait until later in the day, you can, if lucky get a good un, especially if a gondola is passing underneath.
Final thoughts on Venice – It certainly has a lot going for it, lots of bridges, lots of canals and LOTS of people but it’s one of those places that’s touristy for a reason. It’s absolutely beautiful.