Ciao Italy: Venice

Hey guys, long time no blog. I’ve been struggling to write this post about Venice due to the sheer amount of photos I took (over 1000!) and all the things I did there. In order to make things a bit easier, I’m splitting up my post on Venice into two. I’ll be focusing on the main island of Venice here and in the next post I’ll tell you a little bit more about my adventure to the smaller islands nearby.

I actually left Milan rather late, giving myself plenty of time to grab a typical Italian breakfast and meander over to the main train station. The long trip over gave me plenty of time to listen to podcasts and watch the Italian country side go by.

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For such a tourist metropolis the main train station for the island of Venice is actually rather small. I had a short pause at the station while I sorted out some of my tickets and cards which I will detail in the tips section later. I was a little bit apprehensive about finding the water bus, or vaporetto from the station, but as soon as I walked out I was greeted with a waterfront view and all whole rank of boats in front of me.

After putting down my suitcase at the hostel and recollecting myself for a brief moment I continued to freak out at the beautiful views and headed straight to Saint Marks square. I knew that Venice was beautiful but nothing could have prepared me for seeing it real life. Not only was the waterfront gorgeous, but the buildings were also either incredibly ornate and lavish or quant and full of character. My photos cannot do the real thing justice.

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I quickly hurried over to the Doge’s palace before it closed for the day. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were no lines to get in and that once inside it was miles away from the crowds of people outside. You think that by now I would have gotten over my initial exhilaration at palaces and of the like, but I was still impressed by everything on show. I was particularly enamoured with the richly coloured frescos. I also really enjoyed leaning about the history of the palace itself and Venice whilst I was wandering through the halls.

Like every other tourist, I also had to snap a quick photo of the bridge of sighs. In popular history, this is known as the bridge where prisoners would have their very last glimpse of the outside world before wasting away in jail. Although the veracity of this is highly dubious, I couldn’t help but be caught up along with it.

With little else to do, I was more than happy to wander the through the cobbled streets. I popped into a few churches and got lost despite my best attempts at following the google maps directions before finally sitting down for an incredibly filling dinner of pizza, vegetables, and a spritz.

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My next full day in Venice was packed with museums, churches and even more exploring.

I decided to start my day nice and early, almost too early for anything to be open in fact! I took a slight detour towards a tiny little island with the Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore on it. I had admired the stunning white temple like church on a few boat rides across the channel and figured that this was the perfect opportunity to give it a visit.

It was refreshing how still and peaceful the whole island was. The art installation inside the church was also one of the most modern and interesting I had seen. Despite its modernity the scale and religious tone made it seem like it belonged in the church. I took the lift up the bell tower and took my time with the stunning view below. Not only could you see Saint Marks square and all the famous Venetian landmarks, but the other views were picturesque blue water, boats and leafy green islands. I could have spent hours up there just enjoying the view. If only they served refreshments!

Seeing as I was already on this island I decided to check the whole thing out. I wandered through a lovely Austrian glassware exhibition and a traditional Japanese tea house installation.

After that respite, it was time to tackle the throngs of tourists in Saint Marks square. Museo Correr  was another pleasant surprise. In spite of the lines outside all the other attractions in Saint Marks square, this was fairly empty. Although not as grand as some of the other dwellings, the Museo Correr had lovely delicate feminine touches, such as in the Murano blown class chandeliers.

Like the responsible adult that I am, I decided that gelato would make for a fantastic lunch. The chocolate cheesecake and amarena (cherry) gelato at La Mela Verde proved to be the start of a long love affair with amarena flavoured gelato. Honestly, can you get a better backdrop for some gelato eating and wandering?

The Venetian arsenal is not accessible to the public but the gates were impressive enough to warrant a quick look. From here it was a short walk to the less touristy part of the island. Apparently, the tip of Venice near the gardens is where locals tend to live. On a weekend afternoon it definitely didn’t have the same hustle and bustle of Saint Marks square and the surrounding shops. In fact, most of the shops were closed and the streets almost deserted!

As for Venice garden this proved to be another great place to relax and watch the world go by. There’s a biannual exhibition that goes on in the gardens and the remenants of this can be seen in the various pavilions dotted around. I was pretty happy to sit down and watch the cute dogs that everyone was walking before heading off again!

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On the other side of the island is Santa Maria della Salute. I kept confusing this imposing looking building for various other important churches just because of how grand it looked. There were a lot of people sitting on the steps, sunning themselves and looking at the beautiful view, but not so many people actually in the church.

Just a short stroll away, down another secluded ally is the Peggy Guggenheim collection. The collection of modern art is housed in a really interesting building, right onto the Grand Canal. It was a pleasant change to see some modern art and take a break from all of the more traditional religious art.

Having said that, I still managed to squeeze in one more round of religious renaissance art at the museum di belle arti. To be honest, at this point I was really tired and although everything was so rich and painted with such skill I was more interested in wandering through the actual building itself and admiring the architecture.

For dinner I had the best meal that I had in Venice: pasta in a take-out box! Dal Moro’s fresh pasta to go is pretty well known amongst tourists but the service is speedy and always friendly. You get to choose your pasta and sauce for a really well priced 6-8 euros. The challenging part is finding somewhere scenic to sit whilst enjoying your pasta!

Once again, left at my own devices, as all the attractions were closing for the day I wandered through the streets, looking at the stores and getting lost even with the help (or rather unhelpful advice) of google maps. It doesn’t really get any more beautiful than these views.

Venice. Oh, Venice. I kept wondering to myself what could I possible write about this city that hasn’t already been thoroughly detailed by the throngs of tourists that have come before me and who were with me in the narrow laneways and grand canals. Even if you do get bogged down by all the crowds and the overpriced overtly touristy stores it is impossible to deny to Venice is a beautiful and unforgettable city.

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Tips:

I stayed in Generator Venice. This is located on Giudecca island which is pretty much straight across from Saint Marks square. The closest vapporetto stop is Zitelle station. Boats do come here at almost every hour but it’s not the most popular stop so there may be a bit of a wait late at night or earlier in the morning. The hostel itself is a bit crowded with waits for the bathroom in the morning and evenings. However, it is well priced and bustling with young people hanging out in the evenings.

I also bought the Rolling Venice youth pass which gives you a discounted transport and attraction pass. This meant that I could travel almost everywhere on vapporetto without worrying about the costs adding up. I feel like it is a necessity if you’re going to be staying off of the main island or looking to travel to the other smaller islands.  I picked this up at the train station. There was a bit of a line but everyone spoke English and was very helpful.

When I went the famous ponte rialto (Rialto bridge) was under some serious reconstruction. I couldn’t even see the bridge, and instead it was covered by advertising and a picture of what the bridge was meant to look like. This happened a few times with a few notable landmarks while I was in Italy. Although constant refurbishing and maintenance is something that is a necessity for the longeviety of these sites, it can be disappointing to not be able to see them in full!

Google maps in Venice can be highly inaccurate. I often found that it tried to tell me to walk across water when there was no bridge. So take its advice with a bit of caution.

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Please look forward to my next travel post about the islands around Venice!

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