The next day we decided that we were going to see all the tourist sites around Venice, but that didn’t mean that we wanted to be surrounded by tourists, so we got up early.

Venice is divided into six districts called sestieri. They are, San Marco, Cannaregio, Castello, Dorsoduro, San Polo, and Santa Croce. There is also a small sliver of an island called Giudecca separated from the rest of the island by Canale della Giudecca. While we were in Venice it became obvious that San Marco and San Polo were the districts with the most tourist and many of the famous buildings.

At eight in the morning there were still quite a few people out on the street, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the day before, so we were able to stop by the Rialto and see the bridge before all the shops opened and the streets filled up.

What the Rialto bridge looks like when all the shops are opened and all the tourists are out and about.

Basically our apartment was in the San Marco district so we didn’t have to walk very far to reach Piazza San Marco.

Piazza San Marco has quite a few attractions, the most noticeable being St. Mark’s Campanile, the bell tower, which juts up into the sky. It looks out of place compared to the low white buildings around it. To the left of the Campanile is the Clock Tower, which rang while we were there and filled the entire square with music. Directly behind the tower is the St. Mark’s, which was very beautiful and an interesting contrast to the rest of the city.

The entire Piazza

The Piazza about halfway to St. Mark’s

The very top of St. Mark’s Campanile

The Clock Tower

While most of Venice is rundown and very old, St. Mark’s is clean, white, and covered in statues. The grandeur of the church really didn’t match the rest of the city. The church has four domes, huge arches and painted murals above the doors. Compared to a lot of the other churches I’ve seen it was a lot more chaotic, with many colors and statues.

Front of St. Mark’s

The right side of St. Mark’s, where we were standing and waiting to get in.

The outside of St. Mark’s was impressive, but inside was even more amazing. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed inside. In fact, a lot of things were restricted inside the church.

Before going in we had to wait in a long line for the church to actually open. After a half hour we finally reached the door, but there was someone there turning away anyone who wore shorts, a large backpack, or a shirt that didn’t cover their shoulders. Lucky for us, Addison knew that this would happen so we were prepared and the line moved quickly as almost every other person was turned away.

Inside, the entire ceiling was gold, it seemed almost sad that such a wonderful and luxurious church was surrounded by so many crumbling buildings. We also made it into the treasury, which had some amazing swords, goblets and stones, from many different times and places.

When we walked back outside I immediately noticed just how many pigeons there were. Although the winged lion represents St. Mark and is Venice’s symbol, I would argue that pigeons are probably the unofficial symbol of the city. They filled the sidewalks, they sat on the sills of every building, they flew through the sky and they slept on every statue they could possibly find. There was more than one time where I had to duck, because a pigeon literally flew right past my face. Although pigeons are in general dirty, I found that they added to the charm of the city.

I noticed that some of the birds were unnatural colors, the one I was able to take a picture of was green, but I also saw blue, red and purple pigeons. I suspect that people catch and dye the pigeons, however I have no idea what it symbolizes, if it symbolizes anything at all.

After the church, we decided to go up the tower. About ten people had to cram into a tiny elevator for the ride up, but the view of the city was worth the awkward ride. To look out over Venice and be able to see the entire island from one spot was breathtaking. All the buildings looked so tightly packed that it was impossible to even see the waterways. From above it was also very easy to tell just how old Venice was, there were no modern buildings and all of the buildings were more or less the same height. Looking down on the city I felt like I could have been standing in Venice hundreds of years ago.

Three of the Four Domes of St. Mark’s

One of the possible views from the tower.

When we returned to the bottom of the tower the Piazza was suddenly teeming with people, so we decided to head away from the San Marco district and explore Dorsoduro. Immediately we noticed how much quieter the streets became and at certain times we were the only people out on the street. It was a very different Venice from the one we’d seen earlier that morning. The buildings weren’t grand, but they had their own special touch to them and the suddenly Venice seemed a lot more like a city than just a tourist destination.

We ended up walking all the way to the tip of Dorsoduro, where the church Santa Maria della Salute is. While we were there we sat on the steps and ate our lunch.

We were basically the only people down on this street, although there were some children playing.

Local children playing soccer in the street.

Soon after we headed back to the apartment, but on the way we encountered a persistent gondolier, who gave us a “discount” on a ride. I say, “discount”, because I really doubt he was giving us a special offer, but he seemed to want to convince us that he was. Usually I would try to avoid such an expensive and obviously overpriced boat ride, but we were in Venice and when would I ever get to ride in a gondola again?

The ride actually ended up being pretty relaxing and it was fun to be so close to the water. The gondoliers are incredibly good at navigating the waterways and I couldn’t believe how close they would get to the walls. Sometimes they even pushed off the wall with one foot to keep from hitting it.

The Rialto from the water.

That night we went out to dinner at a place along the water and we had some authentic Italian wine and lasagna.

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