Like most of our time in Italy so far, we arrive in Venice to another raining day. When you come to a city that’s streets are water, it seems like what is a little more water! To travel around Venice there are really only two ways, by boat or walk. As our apartment for the duration of our visit is near San Marco Square and a distance from the train station, we start our stay in Venice with a ride on a vaporetto, a Venetian public waterbus. Like buses on the land, there is a lot of crowding and standing people, stops along the route, and confusion to a visitor on the routes. Once on the vaporetto, however, the sights are like those rarely, if ever, of that one will see from a bus. Traveling down the Grand Canal, regardless of the mode, is always a sight not to be missed. From the beautiful bridges across the canal, to the beauty of the canal itself, the adventure starts in Venice upon arrival.
Our accommodations for the visit are in a unique apartment just two blocks off San Marco Square. The apartment carries the name of the famous 18th century Venetian, Carlo Goldoni, considered the Shakespeare of Italy. Mr. Goldoni, it seems, resided in the apartment for 12 years during his lifetime during which time he wrote his most important works. When visiting a city that is over 1000 years old, everywhere there is history, even in a simple apartment.
Our only planned event in Venice is a tour that includes a gondola ride. While I have been to Venice numerous times, I have never taken the opportunity to ride on a gondola, so I for one, am excited about it. As I and all of you are now well aware, my grandson is not excited about visiting museums or churches so none of those were on our itinerary of the visit. The visit will include just a lot of walking around and eating, which isn’t really such a bad thing if you are in Venice. Fortunately for us, the rain held off mostly during the day while we were out, so while chilly and a bit windy, we avoided having to view the city under an umbrella.
As we were staying near San Marco Square, we didn’t need to get on a vaporetto again until we left for the train station to move to our next city, so all our visits were made on foot. As any who has been to Venice or read about it, you will understand that Venice is a city of waterways and narrow streets and alleys. Walking around the city will take you through twists and turns, over small bridges, and often a maze-like adventure to see the city of canals.
The year 2021 is the 1600th year since the founding of Venice on 25 March 421 by a Celtic people called the Veneti, that since 49 BC had been Roman citizens, who lived along the coast of what is now Northeast Italy. The notation of that anniversary is visible around the city with signage and even shirts and cups marking the event. What a sight this city is, buildings and people floating for 16 centuries!
Our gondola tour included about 25 people, so a group of gondolas were needed to accommodate the entire group. Unfortunately, our tour guide was several boats behind ours so the audio information about the tour was mostly unavailable to us. The trip, while advertised as being a tour along the Grand Canal, was mostly through small canals with only about the last 200 meters being on the Canal. While any information about Venice I might have gathered from the tour was a bust, the ride on the gondola was worth the ticket and I am glad we went.
While I didn’t schedule a trip to the Basilica as my grandson had no interest and stayed in the apartment, I decided that I needed to see the inside of the Basilica di San Marco. Each time I have visited Venice in the past, my visit was jam packed full of things to do and see so I have been unable to see the inside of the Basilica, so this was a perfect opportunity to correct that. While walking through San Marco Square, you cannot miss the beauty that is the Basilica di San Marco from the clock to the large four horses. The Horses of Saint Mark, also known as the Triumphal Quadriga, is a set of bronze statues of four horses, originally part of a monument depicting a quadriga. The horses, made in the 3rd or 4th century, were placed on the facade on the loggia above the porch of the Basilica after the sack of Constantinople in 1204. Because of the damage that pollution was causing the horse, the originals were brought inside the Basilica and replaced with replicas outside.
Did you know that the first St. Mark’s Basilica was built on this spot in the 9th century to house very sacred relics—relics that had been stolen? In 828, merchants from Venice stole the body of St. Mark the Evangelist, one of the four Apostles, from Alexandria, Egypt.
I have visited many basilicas in my travels, and they all have something that makes them different and interesting; San Marco’s is the scale of it surrounded by water, large number of domes and spires, and the amazing number of statues alone the roof! While inside, make sure you look up and not miss the beauty of the domes and look down to see the wonderful mosaic tiles on the floor. San Marco is not the biggest or the most ornate of all basilicas visited in my travels, but it is one that is well worth a visit when in Venice.
It was wonderful to be back in Venice again, even with the bad weather, but wished that my grandson had wanted to see more of this ancient city and its sights. Given his lack of interest supported by the gloomy weather, I did take the opportunity to do my own walkabout just to feel the energy of the city and the people. Walking the narrow streets, looking in the shop windows on the Rialto Bridge, and eating wonderful seafood gluten free pasta in a small restaurant along a small canal brought back why I love this city of water. If you haven’t ever been to Venice, put it on your list but it doesn’t disappoint. For now, Ciao Venice and on to Verona!