My Venice Experience
Venezia!.. Just the sound of it is romantic!
Venice earned its name as the floating city by pilling wood on the 118 submerged islands in the Northern end of the Adriatic Sea. The city is made accessible by 400 bridges (for walking on by foot) and 170 boat canals connecting the islands as one city.
I have so much to share about Venice, especially with pictures, that I split this post in two. I added a link to the bottom of this post to part 2 of this trip!
We arrived in Italy from Switzerland by train. We caught a 9:00am train from Zurich to Milan, and in Milan caught the next train to Venice, arriving in Venice around 4:30pm.
Upon our arrival, our Airbnb's host's mother met us at a cross street, I no longer remember, and at the bottom of stairs to a bridge crossing one of the many canals. It was quite an experience, we weren't sure if we were lingering at the correct corner, or what the woman meeting us should even look like. Finally an Italian lady, maybe in her late 60's, met us. She didn't speak more than two words of English, but we managed. My friend Kim used a mix of Spanish, English, and a couple words of Italian to communicate... it worked! She was the one we were waiting for. Then she led us across a small bridge and through a small maze of apartments to our quaint Airbnb apartment. We were near-ish, across the canal, to the Jewish Ghetto. The location was great because we were close enough to walk to St. Mark's Square and the Basilica, but far enough to be away from too much people traffic, and noise. We used Google maps on our phones to find our way to and from our Airbnb, until we memorized the way.
We set or things down and headed out to dinner. We were so hungry we settled for the first place that lured us in with a cute host and yummy seafood...
Soon as we sat down the waiter brought us the orange drinks pictured above, on the house, they called it aperitivo-which is a drink consumed before a meal to stimulate appetite. Well, I had no idea, but I'll take it! Can't say no to the Italian charm anyway, they know how to make everything sound so romantic.
You might be wondering why we look so confused staring at the menu. Well it was huge, and we didn't understand the amount of courses, so we asked our kind and flirty host... he pointed at the first couple pages and said, "these are the appetizers, the next couple pages are for getting a quick bite with friends for about two hours. The following few pages are for enjoying each other's company for longer and eating for 4 hours, and last is the dessert menu. Really!.. people have time to eat for 4 hours, or he was just trying to get us to order as much food as possible lol, when in Venice!
St. Mark's Basilica / Doge's Palce
After dinner we continued to walk towards St. Mark's Square, also called Piazza San Marco, the principal public square of Venice. At night the square is incredibly romantic with live music serenading the crowds, and of course the beautiful St. Mark's Basilica, which is gorgeous even at night...
The next day we tried not to sleep in too much, but after traveling for a week and totally sleep deprived, we allowed ourselves, kinda, depending which one of us you ask ;)
I pre-booked a tour of the Doge's Palace along with entrance to the Basilica, (they are next door to each other). I used Tiqets to book our tickets not to wait in the lines, also could be purchased here.
I can't even put into words the feeling of awe when turning the corner and walking into the square with the Basilica's enormous beauty before me...
We started with the Doge's Palace, a palace built in Venetian Gothic style. The palace was home to the elected ruler of Venice; the Doge. The civil courts, civil administration and bureaucracy where also held there. The interrogation rooms are connected to the Bridge of Sighs-which was the city jail. The bridge is enclosed with small windows and stone bars. If you peek through the designs in the windows, you get a view of the canal. The bridge got its name based on a legend, which says prisoners would sigh crossing the bridge taking their last peek at the outside world. Once prisoners were convicted in the Doge kingdom, there was no way back.
From outside the palace and inside the courtyard...
Chamber of the Great Council...
Chamber of the Great Council is the largest room not only in the palace but throughout Europe, it is 173.9 ft long (53 meters) and 82 ft wide (25 meters). The Chamber was first decorated with a fresco by Guariento and later some of the most famous artists of the period added their works. For more on the Chamber, click here.
After touring the Doge's Palace we went next door to St. Mark's Basilica. Click here to read about the history. To enter the Basilica we were required to cover our shoulders, I brought a sheer shirt to throw over, but they also have paper scarves available at the entrance.
After finishing touring the inside of the Basilica, we still had time for a gondola ride before dinner.
We got lucky with a friendly and fun gondolier, who was also very informative about Venice's history and the buildings.
The best way to explore Venice is to walk the maze like streets and alleys and get lost, which isn't difficult. We highly relied on Google maps on our phones.
I also have to mention that the best gelato I've ever had was in Venice. We ate gelato every day, tasting different shop's unique flavors. My favorite was Gelato De Natura, I had the pistachio & cherry on top of hazelnut...
We spent a total of 2.5 days in Venice, and that seemed like enough to see and do everything we wanted. The next day we spent mostly in Lido Venice, which is a "beachy" island of Venice, also referred to as a sandbar. We wanted to spend one of our days relaxing at the beach and not doing anything touristy. See post My Venice Experience - Lido Di Venezia for par 2 of this trip.