Tag Archive: Venice

The following day we decided to explore the less crowded areas of Venice.

Although the residential areas weren’t full of towering churches or enticing designer clothes, I ended up liking the quiet streets more and more as we explored them. The ground was dirty, the air smelled like salt water and fish, and the buildings were crumbling, but it was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I’m so glad that I was able to get to see Venice, because it really is a very different city.

One thing that I thought was really cool were the wooden posts in the water. Somehow I think they made “traffic lanes” in the water and all the boats seemed to know exactly where they should go. It was also fun to see the water line on the posts showing how high the tide reaches.

On the nights when there was a possibility of rain, which while we were there was every night, the gondolas would be covered in blue covers to keep the fabric on the seats and the inside dry.

The gondola’s themselves were each very unique and very fancy. The all had a little couch in the center and then a few chairs on the side. The fabric was usually a bright red, while the embellishments around the sides were golden.

There were about a million pigeons on the island, perhaps just as many pigeons as there were tourists.

Below is my favorite set of stairs I found in Venice. They looked like they should have lead to something, but only disappeared into the water. There were a lot of stairs that went into the water like this. Most of them are for getting out of boats, but Venice is (or was according to some) sinking, so I like to imagine that maybe there’s something more hidden beneath the water.

For this picture we were walking along a bridge and I just love the way the buildings look like they are floating.

A lot of the walls of the buildings were crumbling like in the picture below. It looked like people had tried to repaired the wall multiple times, but it just continued to fall into disrepair.

There were also a lot of buildings that were obviously uninhabited.

Even some of the nicer places had stains and streaks running down the side of the building.

In many of the courtyards there were these huge wells that were sealed shut. Although I never saw anyone use the wells, which probably don’t work anymore, there were other smaller spouts that constantly poured water and more than once I saw residents walk out and grab some water from the spouts with a bucket.

There were a surprising amount of dogs in Venice. Sometimes it was hard to tell if someone owned them or if they were strays, because there were so many out on the street without a leash or collar. The dog below was just relaxing, while his owner was somewhere inside the building.

There were at least two towers that I saw that looked slightly unstable leaning to one side.

Eventually we wandered over into the Castello district and found the Arsenale. The Arsenal was the shipyard and armory for Venice.

Walls of the Arsenale

After a very long day of exploring we headed back to our room for the night and began to pack for our flight the next day. We all felt a little relieved to be leaving, because we had been on the go from dawn till dusk for about three days, but it was also sad leaving Venice knowing that we had only scratched the surface of things to do and see.

The next day we had to leave the apartment at 11 and although we didn’t have our flight until 7 p.m., we decided to meander through the city towards the bus station. It ended up only taking us about a half hour to walk slowly across more than half the island. Once we arrived at the airport we weren’t allowed to go through check-in until two hours before our flight. By the end of the day we had sat in the airport for seven hours and compared to that our 50 minute flight was nothing!

Day 23: Touring Venice

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.

Day 22: Venezia

It’s been about five days since I left for Venice and now I’m back in Vienna with so many good memories! Although I’m going to try to mostly recreate my time spent in Venice day by day, by this point some of the events might get mixed up, but I’ll do my best!

My alarm played a tune I’ve come to hate directly into my ear at four in the morning, but I sprang out of bed ready and willing to face the day. Our flight was at nine, but Annika, Addison and I had calculated that we needed to be at the train station at six, which for me meant getting up at four. Most of my things were packed from the night before, so all I had to do was dress, eat and then I was ready to go. I walked out the apartment building with a spring in my step, but immediately had a bad feeling and checked in my backpack for my shorts. They weren’t there, so I had to make a mad dash back to my room to grab my shorts and then get to the train on time.

Like always, I worry too much about punctuality and I made it to the station before the other two, even with the added time of going back to the apartment. Getting to the airport was only a 20 minute train ride and once we got there we were able to skip checking, because we had already printed our tickets and had only carry-on luggage.

Once we were on the plane we were informed that we would be getting drinks and food once the plane leveled out. Annika and I both looked at each other in shock. We couldn’t even remember the last time we were served food on a plane, let alone for a 55 minute flight. None of us believed that the food was free until the stewardess handed us a pastry. It was delicious and made the time pass quickly! I strongly recommend flying with Austrian Airlines if you get the chance, they were kind and had great service even though we were on the plane for such a short time.

When we came into Italy it was cloudy and we really didn’t have much hope for the weekend, the forecast having said Venice would be rainy with the possibility of thunderstorms. However, outside the airport it was only a bit humid and although the sun wasn’t shining there was no rain. From the airport we traveled by bus to Venice. As soon as we stepped off the bus we all immediately started taking pictures in excitement and instead of taking a water bus, or vaporetto in Italian, we decided to take our time and walk through the city to our apartment.

Immediately I noticed how crowded it was. Tourists had come out in droves to visit Venice and it was no small feat traveling through the small narrow streets with our huge bags. Not only where there hundreds of tourists walking down the street, but there were also hundreds of stalls and small shops set up along the walkways. In general these shops consisted of three things, masks, handbags, and the general tourist items such as trinkets, shirts and postcards.

*Below are Carnival or Carnevale masks. There were about a million of these masks lining the streets ranging from the cheap plastic kind to the more expensive paper mache ones. Anyone could buy the masks from a vendor out on the street or there were more extravagant masks being sold in some of the nicer and more permanent shops. The masks below are some of the less complicated ones I saw!

With so many shops and people, it was all very overwhelming and although I could handle the tourists, I was one myself, I had a hard time adjusting to so many cheap shops lining the street and overall I felt like a lot of them were not necessary. However, after spending four days there, I’ve come to realize that for many, Venice is not much more than a tourist destination and it takes a little more work to actually find the real heart and life of the city amongst so many foreign feet.

As we moved deeper into the island and into the smaller alleyways the scene changed from cheap tourist stands to permanent and very expensive stores showcasing designer brands. It was difficult to walk by so many wonderful pairs of Italian clothes and shoes without buying them, that was until we looked at the price tags.

Soon we arrived at our apartment and were pleased to find that it was tucked back in a smaller courtyard, where the hustle and bustle of the main tourist street was only a distant thought. Although the door to the apartment was almost impossible to open and Addison had to basically rip the door off its hinges, the apartment was very cozy and just the right size for three people. It included a kitchen, which meant we would be able to make a little of our own food.

*We were on the second floor of the apartment.

*The inside had a pink theme going. It was very cute.

We quickly unpacked and then headed back onto the streets in search for real Italian pizza for lunch. We found a place and sat down to eat in an open square, where we were able to people watch. We were served our pizza quickly, which was delicious after a half day of traveling. While we were eating I noticed just how many Americans there were in the crowd along with a lot of German speakers. It was not too long after this that I realized Venice was the first time I had ever been in a city that didn’t speak a language that I knew or understood and it was a very strange feeling. I suddenly felt very disconnected from the world, but at the same time it was somewhat freeing to be able to act like a tourist and just relax without worrying about trying to blend in.

Soon after we headed to the local Billa, which is a grocery store that seems to be the European equivalent to Safeway or Albertson’s, where we purchased food for dinner and the next few days.

Naturally, we decided to make pasta.

Addison had heard from someone who said that the water in Venice wasn’t good to drink unless boiled and since we had no access to the internet (how did people survive before the internet?) we decided to go ahead and boil some water for safety. After about five minutes of boiling the water a strange white powder appeared along the edge and bottom of the pot and after confirming that it was probably only minerals we were able to get enough water to boil our noodles. Throughout the next few days we became more and more lax about boiling the water and eventually just gave up and bought some bottled water to drink and used the tap water to cook.

We ended up making way too many noodles and decided from the amount in the pot that we would be eating pasta for the rest of the trip.

That day we took it easy and after eating dinner we took one last trip to the Rialto bridge before turning in for the night.

*From the bridge we could see the Grand Canal and the storm clouds made the view even more amazing. Later that night there was a little bit of thunder and some rain.