“Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.” ~ Truman Capote
Tuesday, 1 July 2014
We woke up in Rome (see previous post), ready to pack and catch a train to Venice. We organised a taxi to collect us at the apartment and take us to the station, as there was no way we were dragging 4 suitcases through the streets of Rome again to do the 2km trip to the station. The train journey was a bit more than three and a half hours, and we were looking forward to putting our feet up and relaxing a bit.
Anya and I watched ‘The Tourist’ as part of our pre-trip movie preparation, and we were quite excited to arrive at the same Venezia Santa Lucia Station where Johnny Depp so cleverly fooled the polizia into thinking he was not the sought after thief Pearce, travelling with Elise, but rather just Frank, an innocent maths teacher. Of course, that’s where the similarities ended, as we were definitely not staying at the Hotel Danieli! Still, arriving on the platform, I couldn’t help imagining policemen hiding behind the pillars…
We bought Vaparetto passes for 24 hours, which would enable us to use the water buses for the next day. A single fair is a staggering €7, so the €20 fee for 24 hours would be worth our while since we were planning on using the vaparetto at least 4 times. Allora, we made our way to the hotel, which was just across the bridge. Lugging our suitcases over the stairs, purposefully avoiding the offers by all the hordes of porters at the ready, because I did not want to haggle over fees for carrying our suitcases for 500 metres. I have been warned off so much about how expensive Venice as, that I was over-conscious about costs.
We checked in and decided to try and find some lunch close by, as we had a walking tour booked at 3:45. A quick search on Tripadvisor, and I found the reference to Bacareto Da Lele, an affordable place that promised to serve ‘some of the best sandwiches in Italy, for ridiculously cheap’. My type of place. And we were not disappointed. It is not a restaurant, but rather just a corner shop where you can buy a panini with delicious fillings and a tiny glass of vino or prosecco for about €1 each. We bought 6 paninis, a glass of prosecco and 2 cooldrinks for about €8!
Once we were physically rejuvenated, we were ready to tackle the vaparetto. There are 2 lines, a quick line (only stopping at some of the stops) and a slow line (that stops at every stop along the route). We took the ‘quick’ line 2 from the train station to Piazza San Marco. We ticked our names off the list for the walking tour (booked with Local Venice tours) and strolled through along the many outdoor shops selling souvenirs of every kind.
The walking tour was excellent and took us to places in Venice that we may not have otherwise seen, like the opera house of Teatro La Fenice (The Phoenix), which theatre has been rebuilt several times after it was destroyed by fire (the phoenix rising from the ashes). The tour guide (whose name, I am afraid to say, I cannot remember) recommended a visit to the theatre. I can imagine it will be a magical experience to see an opera production there…
On the way to the Teatro, we walked past Harry’s Bar, which featured in one Giada de Laurentiis episode, famous for inventing the Bellini and Carpaccio. One of its most famous patrons, Hemingway, is said to have spent a lot of time at this bar in 1949 – 1950, and mentions the bar several times in “Over the River and into the Trees”. Alas, we just walked past, but who knows, one day I may go back and try their world famous grilled cheese sandwich (which Giada made in her cooking show).
We walked along the Campo Sant’Angelo, with Venice’s own leaning tower and visited the Scala del Bovolo, a complex spiral staircase in a little enclosed garden of the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo. We walked along many little streets, crossed little bridges and admired the many historical buildings. I was fascinated to find out that there are often little tremors and quakes and that many of the buildings have to ‘rebalance’ themselves on a regular basis. We finally ended up on the middle of the large inverted ‘S’ that is the Grand Canal, with a fantastic view over the Rialto Bridge, which was finished in 1591, and is the oldest bridge over the Grand Canal.
We walked back to the starting point of our tour, where a few Gondola’s were waiting to take us on a 35-minute trip along the many water streets of Venice. It was a fantastic experience. The gondoliers are very experienced and ours was certainly very friendly, even though we were not serenaded…The many Gondolas are something to experience on its own. With the striped shirt gondoliers, they are a part and parcel of Venice that can be recognised everywhere.
After the tour ended, it was time for our daily gelato! I was very thirsty, so decided to skip on the gelato in favour of a granita but the girls kept up the intent to have gelato every day! Our feet were quite tired, and we sat down on the steps facing the Doge’s palace.
Afterwards, we walked along the Riva degli Schiavoni, admiring the Bridge of Sighs and then just followed the general direction of the Rialto Bridge, stopping often at all the little shops along the route, buying a few touristy things. We did (on at least one occasion) survey our surroundings and exclaimed that we were going in circles, but Google maps are fantastic and eventually we made our way to the Rialto Bridge.
We crossed the bridge (stopping for a couple of pictures) and found a little Trattoria on the other side of the bridge where we could have dinner. The girls had pizzas (Anya managed to find a pizza with pineapple or ananas) and we debated the meaning of the word prego (which we realised cannot mean ONLY ‘a pleasure’ as the waiter showed us our table with the expression ‘Prego’ as well…).
After dinner, we walked back across the river just in time to view the most magnificent sunset. We caught the vaparetto to our hotel and had an early evening.
The next morning after breakfast, we packed our bags and boarded the vaparetto in the direction of San Marco again. I had pre-booked tickets for Saint Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s palace. Which was a good thing, because the queues were VERY long. Even the queues getting onto the vaparetto was long, and we missed the first bus because we retreated to seats at the back of the waiting area and when the vaparetto arrived, it filled up quickly and we had to wait for the next bus. We had limited time, as we needed to catch a train to Florence that afternoon, so we could kick ourselves.
San Marco’s is really something extraordinary. The only unfortunate thing is that the entrance ticket is just that. An entrance ticket. Anything extra you want to see inside the Basilica is extra. But this was Venice. So, we retreated from the Basilica and made our way to the Doge’s palace. By now, both girls (and I) were a bit tired of walking, but we pushed through some of the awesome rooms, eventually crossing the Bridge of Sighs into the prison, looking out the little windows of the bridge onto the view that gave the bridge its name.
After our visit to the Doge’s palace, we started making out way back to the Rialto Bridge and the market, where I was hoping we could get something to eat. We took the vaparetto again to the Rialto Bridge, crossed the bridge (this time all the shops along the bridge were open, which was quite a sight). We found another little panini and vino shop, similar to Bacareto Da Lele, although not quite the same. My sandwich with truffle butter was delicious, but the girls did not quite appreciate the artichokes that much.
And, unfortunately that also signalled the end of our short but sweet visit to Venice. There were sooo many things we did not get to do and see. I have been to Venice many years ago and would have loved to take the girls to Merano island to see how they blow traditional Venetian glass. And then there are the islands of Burano with their multi coloured houses and beautiful linen. But I also itched to get into some of the lovely museums and galleries that Venice has. But, in reality, you can never do all that in a short visit. I, once again, vowed that I will definitely go back one day, for a longer period.
As we boarded our train to Florence, I reflected on our Venice visit. Venice was not part of the original plan, not because I did not want to go there, but because we only had a week. On recommendation of my friend, Annie, I decided to cut out a day from Florence and squeeze in a short trip to Venice. And I am so happy I did. Even the short trip was a dream come true for the girls and has reminded me why Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.