Venice is old and decaying, has major pollution problems, is prone to flooding and is crowded with tourists brought in on cruise ships that sail dangerously close to the banks, but I love it anyway! I love it because Venice is also a city of canals and bridges, palaces and cathedrals with little piazzas tucked in here and there simply for show. It is a unique place filled with history, captivating scenery, priceless art and impressive architecture; and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It sits on over 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. It has no streets—just a maze of canals filled with boats and barges and the sleek black gondolas that have become a symbol of the city.
We arrived by boat, of course, and checked into our hotel, the SHG Hotel Salute Palace. It is located on a canal in a picturesque neighborhood where you can easily walk to many enjoyable sights. Our only problem here was not resisting the temptation to throw open the shutters and windows in our postage-stamp sized room for an unobscured view of the famous roof-tops of Venice. I suspect we let in a half-dozen mosquitoes. When I got warm in the middle of the night, I refused to kick off the covers for fear the mosquitoes would attack me while I slept!
The only way to get around in the city is by water or on foot, so on our first evening out in Venice, we traveled by water taxi along the Grand Canal to a chic Venetian restaurant for a fabulous dinner.
We walked back in the romantic atmosphere of Venice at night. It was an evening to remember… peaceful, luminous and a little chilly.
The next day, our tour included Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square),
St. Mark’s Basilica,
the Gothic masterpiece known as Doge’s Palace,
and a glass blowing demonstration by a skilled Murano Glass artist. We opted to include a gondola ride because, seriously—why go to Venice and not experience that?
During our free time we had lunch at a lovely sidewalk café. To our credit, we did not get lost! We panicked briefly until we noticed that at each crossroads, painted or etched in stone was always an arrow pointing the way to St. Mark’s Square.
Another optional tour was a lagoon cruise from Venice to Burano Island. Burano is a cross between Cinque Terre, Venice and Pisa. It has brightly painted houses like Cinque Terre, but instead of being stacked on hillsides, they are built along canals like in Venice; and the ancient Church of San Martino has a leaning bell tower just like Pisa.
Lace-making is popular here, so the shops offer lace products like linens and clothes. We had dinner (my least favorite dinner of the trip) then sailed back to Venice as the sun was setting. When we got off the boat, the moon over the lagoon was pure magic!
Venice is a city like no other, and in case you hadn’t guessed, it was my favorite city on the tour. I’d like to go back for just a day and be the only one there; to hear the sounds that were muffled in the crowds. Surely, I’d hear water lapping at the foundation of centuries-old buildings, I’d hear the gulls and pigeons cry as they fly from piling posts to roof tops and back again, I’d hear classical music from Vivaldi and Puccini, and I’d hear the echo of fisherman, artists, famous Italians and common residents who – over the last two thousand years – once called this city “home”.
Next up is Part Five in this series – Assisi, Positano and the Amalfi Coast. Arrivederci for now!