Saturday, August 13, 2016


Venice! Venice is such a neat city and probably my favorite city out of the four Italian cities we visited (Venice, Florence, Pisa, Rome). The top tourist draws in Venice are San Marcos Cathedral and San Marcos Square and seeing the canals (including the Grand Canal) and famous bridges. There are also lots of historical buildings and museums to see as well. My favorite thing to do in Venice however was just walking around the city. I loved how cute and quaint it was, and since there are absolutely no roads, just canals, it is much quieter outside the tourist areas than a regular city because... no loud stinkin' cars!

Just your typical, quiet Venetian neighborhood. Everyone gets around on boat or by foot. Our hotel was outside of the tourist area in a quiet neighborhood like this, but they offered a complimentary speedboat shuttle to San Marcos square. We ended up taking the shuttle to San Marcos square twice, and then walked back to our hotel so we could walk through the city. We got to see a lot of the city that way, so we also walked a ton! I think we had about 25,000 steps on our one full day there (we had a red eye flight in our first day, so we only had about a half day to sightsee, then we had one full day to explore Venice, and then we left for Florence the next day. It was a busy week) 

There were lots of Catholic churches, really old Catholic churches, all over Italy and even all over a small city like Venice. We chose a random church to practice some light painting.

Venice was built on over 100 small islands that are connected by bridges, so that is why there are canals all through the city, every canal separates an island. To get to the city from the airport we took a 45 minute waterbus through the lagoon. I didn't realize it before we went, but Venice is right on the ocean (a "duh" now that I think about) so it has kind of a beach city feel to it with the ocean right there and plenty of seafood, although there are no beaches in Venice (there are beaches on some of the other islands in the lagoon though.) 

Dinner at a restaurant pier on the Venetian Lagoon. Lots of seafood on the menu in Venice.

The history of Venice goes waaaay back, to 421 AD (or earlier) when farmers got tired of being attacked and moved out to the marshy lagoon for protection. They built houses by pounding long wooden pile-ons into the mud, and by the 13th century Venice was one of the most important cities in Europe. For over a thousand years the ruler of the Republic of Venice was called the Doge, who was elected for life. While we were in Venice we visited the Doge's Palace, which includes the Doge's apartments as well as the rooms where the Republic's governing bodies met.

The Palace also housed the Venetian judicial courts and is connected to the prison by an enclosed bridge called the Bridge of Sighs. After a prisoner had been sentenced to jail they conveniently only had to be lead across the bridge to the prison. It is said the bridge got its' names because the prisoners would sigh as they got their last glimpse of Venice through the stone bars of the bridge. If you look closely at the picture below the last bridge you see is higher than the others and enclosed. That is the Bridge of Sighs. More from the inside of the bridge later.

One of the major sites in Venice is St. Mark's Basilica, so named because according to legend in 828 AD two Venetian merchants stole the remains of St. Mark where they were in Alexandria and brought them to Venice where a new Basilica was built to house the remains.

St. Marks Basilica at sunset with crowds of tourist

St. Marks Basilica at sunrise with almost no tourists. We got up early the day after we got there and walked through Venice at sunrise to get to St. Mark's Square when it wasn't too crowded. 

 Inside the Cathedral. St. Marks tomb.

 Pala d'Oro, the altarpiece from 900 AD that is made of gold, silver, and gems.

 The Cathedral is famous for it's stone mosaics. This is made out of tiny stones!

After we visited St, Mark's square in the morning nothing was open so we walked around Venice, picked up some pastries for breakfast and sat down to eat them while we watched the boats come in from the mainland with people and families commuting into Venice for school and work. We crossed the Grand Canal and walked out to one of the very end points of the city and visited another basilicaSanta Maria della Salute. This basilica was just opening when we got there, so we were the only ones inside.

Grand Canal in the morning

Robert with the Grand Canal. That is the church in the background we are walking to, but to get there we had to go inland and walk past it to find a bridge that crosses the canal since there are only four bridges that cross the Grand Canal. It's pretty easy to get lost in Venice because the walkways zigzag and dead end all over the place. You can't just walk in a straight line to get from point A to point B.

The two pictures above are inside the Doge's palace. I'm guessing the top picture was part of the Doge's apartment (but I honestly don't remember). The lower picture was a way for people to anonymously report each other.

Rick Steves briefly explains more about the Doge's Palace if you are interested in more information.

This is the view from the Bridge of Sighs, heading over to the prison now. 

Taking in the "view" from the prison. All you can see is the side of the Doge's Palace.
Back outside to the canals.

Remember there are no cars or trucks in Venice, so everything you think of to transport needs to go by boat. The stores were restocked by boat as seen here, even the laundry was taken away from our hotel by boat.

The largest of the bridges that crosses the Grand Canal is the Rialto Bridge built in the 1500s. The inside of the bridge doesn't even look like a bridge. The bridge is lined with shops so when you are walking down the street it feels like you walk up some stairs on a hill and then back down, you can only see the Grand Canal from the very top (and when we were there they were doing renovations and had that part blocked off too).

"Gondola, gondola, gondola!" That's probably the most common phrase heard in Venice because the city's 400 gondoliers are constantly yelling it to get people to ride on their gondola. Gondola's are the traditional mode of transportation in Venice (most locals use motor boats now). They have flat bottoms to navigate through shallow canals and are built slightly titled to one side so the gondolier can steer the gondola using only one oar on one side. Yup, we did take a gondola ride down the canals of Venice.

Mostly we stayed on the small canals and passed regular local homes. But anywhere in Venice is old so we also passed the homes of Cassanova and Marco Polo.

 We ventured onto the Grand Canal just long enough to get a view of the Rialto bridge. The Grand Canal is too busy for a leisurely boat ride like a gondola ride, too many large boats and too crowded. The small canals can get crowded with gondola's though and it's crazy how the gondoliers can steer around each other with just one oar- and legs and arms to push off the buildings.

While walking down a quite Venetian walkway I stopped to take a picture of a random coke can. Robert though it was funny and took a picture of me taking the picture.

I loved wandering around these little alleyways.

These last pictures are all from the top of San Marcos Bell Tower in San Marcos square. We were all prepared to climb to the top, but when we got to the front of the line to go up we realized it has an elevator inside!

View of Venice

St. Marks Basilica from above

A closeup of the cities rooftops.

Oops, not from the top of the Bell Tower, this is from a museum, but I thought the old books looked cool.

I tried to figure out what this says in Italian, and I think it means: Galileo Galilei, with his telescope, from here on August 21, 1609 broadened man's horizons in the fourth centenary. Not quite sure what it means about the fourth centenary (a 100 year anniversary), but in the 1600's Galileo demonstrated his telescope for the Doge of Venice from the top of the bell tower.

The end of St. Mark's square, the Grand Canal on the left, and a view of Venice.

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