Venice…and the last day (and overnight on the ship) of our cruise. Although we have been here twice before, we have sailed ~out~ of Venice in the past. This time we sail ~in~. Not a lot of difference, to be sure, but all reports appear to be suggesting that this year (maybe next) could be the last times that the big cruise ships will be allowed to come down the Grand Canal. And THAT will be an unfortunate change. However, given that Venice is slowly sinking and the canal itself is suffering more and more from heavy pollution, it is understandable. So, if you have been considering a cruise that involves Venice (and it’s one of those other things you should put on your bucket list), then sooner will be better if you want to see one of The Best entrances (or exits) to or from a city anywhere in the world.
The Venice that everyone mentally equates to is that part that is interspersed with canals. Venice’s very nature dictates there is No vehicular traffic as there are no roads. You either walk or take some kind of water-borne transportation. Aside from the Gondolas (which have become Very expensive but again, something you might seriously consider if you’re here), water taxis and vaporettos (Venice’s version of a public bus) are the main rapid transit options.
The most used transportation method is still one’s own feet. And really, that is the best way to see Venice. Comfortable shoes are not only an option, but for all intents and purposes have to be considered mandatory. There are simply too many stairs to climb up and down. Every couple of ‘blocks’ you will have to cross a canal. There is only one way to do it – over a bridge. As much as a pain as it seems, there is one spin off benefit. There are NO traffic lights.
The shops and restaurants are many and varied. If you have the time (and really, you should be here for more than a day!), look around a lot before you decide what (if anything) you wish to buy. There is as much authenticity as there is fakery and you won’t always be able to tell the difference just by price. Case in point – Venetian masks. Some are papier-mâché, some are plaster and either of those would be authentic. However, authentic is not likely to be sold by the many street vendors that ply their wares. Another item to be wary of is Murano Glass. Arguably some of the finest glass works you are likely to see (or own) come from the little island of Murano (Burano being equally famous for lace). However, this too, is not likely what you would buy from those very same street vendors.
The Rialto Bridge (certainly one of the many highlights of Venice) is one of only 4 bridges in the world that has shopping on both sides of the full span of the bridge. The other three being: The Pulteney Bridge in Bath, England – Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy – Krämerbrücke in Erfurt, Germany.
Saint Mark’s square (Piazza San Marco), where throngs of people make walking difficult during the day, begs for your patience. Come back at sunset, stay for supper at any one of the number of restaurants. Enjoy an outdoor seat, relax over good food and good live music. If your timing is right and you’ve picked the proper seats, you can watch as the sun hits the half-domes in Saint Mark’s Basillica. Your (probable) visit during the day will pale in comparison by what you will see as the sun goes down. The same colorful mosaics that you ogled over earlier now take on a new brilliance that, in some cases, have survived since their installation in the 13th century.
The Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri) is a white limestone bridge connecting the interrogation room of the Doge’s Palace to the prison. The windows allowed prisoners to take a last look at the world before their imprisonment. And prisoners today think they have it tough??
Tomorrow we fly to Paris for our final week. The next page is devoted to more sights of Venice.