Venice, Italy
45° 26' N 12° 19' E
Jul 04, 2009 10:35
Distance 184km

Text written in: English

What can you say about Venice?

Venice, Italy. Saturday, July 4th.

As people forever say how wonderful Venice is, I was excited to visit the city, but not sure what I was in for.  Not disappointed, but there is one obvious omission to my visit to Venice.  Which is, you should go there with your partner, as discovering the city looks like it could be a very romantic adventure.  But, so be it.

 

Some facts about Venice help put it into perspective.  Population: 60,000 on the islands, and another 200,000 on the mainland. Elevation: sea level (so it does not have a chance if the polar ice caps start to melt). 117 islands, 150 canals, over 400 small bridges joining the islands. Venice gets 20 million tourists a year, and it did not smell despite what I had been warned.  Venice is at the end of a several kilometer long rail line that goes out into the sea, and that (or a boat) are the only ways into the city.  There are no cars or bikes in Venice, a nice reprieve.

 

My first impression was how spotlessly clean the city was; the street appeared to have been swept, you did not even see a cigarette butt in the narrow alleys.  I decided to find my hostel on my own, as the alternative was to hire a very expensive water taxi.  Every 100 meters, I would have to pick up my bag to cross another bridge.  My bag has wheels, so rarely do I have to carry it much, but today was the exception; lifting all 20+K so many times.  My hostel was close to the most important area of the city, the Plaza St. Mark.  There were signs pointing the way to the Square, but it still took 40 minutes.  I was so pleased to finally find the Hotel Astoria (compliments of booking.com) and at only 37 Euro per night.

 

Dropped off my bag and headed immediately to St. Mark's Plaza.  Even though I was less than a 100 meters away, I still got lost.  The canals make it impossible to go in a straight line, so finding something that appears close by still is a challenge, as you have no bearings and none of the lanes are straight or continuous.

 

The plaza and church are large and equally packed full of tourists.  Given it was the weekend, July, sunny and the peak tourist time, there must have been 150,000 to 200,000 visitors (remember 20 million per year or an average of 55,000 per day), and they all converge on this plaza.  St.  Mark's Basilica is allegedly where the body of St.  Mark is buried, so it is an especially important RC church.  It is huge, full of mosaics on every wall and ceiling, but not as amazing as many others  I have seen elsewhere. To its credit, it is also older, built from 1,000 to 1200 AD, not like most other famous ones which were built in the 15th  and 16th century (St. Peter's/the Vatican).  You can see the additions and extensions to the structure, which continued until the 1500's.

 

But the real point of visiting Venice is just to walk around, and so I did just that.  I headed away from the plaza and soon I was in the residential part of the city, no tourists, laundry hanging out to dry across the alleys, older men and women chatting to one another.  Walked for miles, crossed the occasional bridge (the tourist area is on one of the smaller islands, the residential parts on the larger islands, but they are all separated by canals that are not more than 5 meters wide).  Just walked and walked: came across green forested parks, gardens and the like.  And Venice being a collection of islands, you  cannot get irreparably lost, just relatively lost.  Eventually ended up in the tourist part of Venice and struggled to find my way again.  It was a very hot and sunny day, so I drank at least 3 litres of water and sweated the equivalent back to nature.  Charming day, and I get to do more tomorrow.  Have set two days aside to do Venice, an endurance record for me when I travel alone.

Photos / videos of "What can you say about Venice?":

View of St Mark's cathedral from St. Mark's Square. Interior of St. Mark's Basilica.  Huge, but not full of the carvings like you see in later churches.  Built in 1200's.  Amazing gold leaf paintings on the ceiling and walls, plus lots of mosaics. The gondolas waiting for their next fare. The walk along the edge of the islands.  Chock a block full of people. Statues of famous dead Italian heroes.  They are everywhere.  At one time, Venice was one of the major city states in Italy, rivaling Milan and Florence; in those days heroes came in handy. No crowds.  "Rural" Venice.  This is the same walkway on Sunday, but only one K from the square.  This is where the average Venetian lives. And a little bit further along again.  Just walked for miles on the many islands, which with the exception of the ones near St. Mark's Square and between the square and the train station, were fairly calm. It was quite warm/hot, but such a blessing to be able to walk around and absorb Venice. The canals.  This was one of the wider ones, away from the centre of the city. One of the more interesting bridges.  Venice has many small squares and marvellous buildings from hundreds of years ago.  This was part of a military training college. Gondola traffic jam.  Today was one of those days where the gondoliers earned their keep as it was Saturday, warm, sunny and at least two cruise liners were moored in the harbour. Typical canal and bridge.  Remember there are over 100 islands which make up the "island" of Venice.  60,000 people live on the island and another 200,000 on the mainland, which is a few miles from the island.