Poems will never do this city justice…in my opinion.
“The Floating City”, Venice Italy, is one of the most romantic cities I have ever traveled to in my life. It is like the entire city is like a poem or a play unfolding over every bridge. The entire city sings, that might sound strange to say but around every corner you can hear a local artist playing their instruments, over every bridge you can hear the gondoliers singing romantic songs in Italian, the waves of the canals gently continuing to wear away at the foundation of the city “splash, splash”, gondolas tied up in a row bumping and rubbing against one another “squeaking” and “thudding”.
The entire city is alive!
In order to truly appreciate this city, bring your walking shoes and get completely lost! Strange advice I know…but put a map of the city (usually offered in any travel book and most hotels also offer a pocket-size map of the city at the front counter) in your backpack or back pocket and get lost. Follow the narrow city streets and alleyways through the vast spider web that is Venice.
With 118 small islands to explore there is plenty to see. Though I noticed without even trying, you will find your way back to San Marco’s Basilica, even when I set off in the opposite direction by the day’s end I, somehow, ended up back in San Marco’s Piazza.
If there were a to be crown given for the most photos taken in a single city I’d be named queen. For the first time since I was a kid with a crappy camera I completely filled my camera card…a 16g card! Now that is saying something for how amazingly picturesque this city is.
There were a few major places I had on my list to visit while I was in Venice; one was going to see the Ospedale della Pietà, This is where Antonio Vivaldi was a priest and a teacher to the orphans that lived in the dormitories connected to della Pietà (which is now the hotel Metropole) walking into Ospedale della Pietà they were playing Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons – Summer” and my heart stopped and it literally brought tears to my eyes.
The second was to see the Bridge of Sighs – Ponte del Sospiri; There are two ways you have to see the Bridge of Sighs…first to see the bridge from inside Doge’s Palace. If you don’t pay attention you might miss crossing the bridge. If I didn’t pay attention to the signs I would have missed the significance of the narrow hall with a single window. The stone work in the rest of the palace is elaborately detailed but when you cross the bridge the stone work turns simple slabs with a single window that is barred. This window where the guards would allow the prisoners to look out on the city one lass time before they are taken away behind the windowless walls of the prison. Looking through the window inside the Bridge of Sighs
When you cross the bridge to the actual prisons and to see the conditions the prisoners had to endure I couldn’t help but think how pampered prisoners are in this century in comparison (how would you like a wood table to sleep on?).
Bridge of Sighs from the adjacent bridge
Second, of course, is to see the bridge from the outside. Just between the Ospedale della Pietà and Doge’s Palace there is a bridge (what are the odds of that right?) where you can stand and be exactly in front of the Bridge of Sighs arching over the canal from the palace to the prison.
An absolute must when you visit the beautiful City of Canals is of course, is San Marcos Basilica. This is one of the most iconic locations to visit when in Venice. Best suggestion however, DON’T VISIT NEAR EASTER or ANY RELIGIOUS HOLIDAY, the place is packed from wall to wall all the time, the lines are stupid long and it is hard to focus on all the beauty and history around you when you are being driven like cattle.
What took my breathe away was seeing the riches that have been built into the basilica. The gold-plated frames of delicate paintings from famous artists who resided in Venice, marble floors and columns imported from difference provinces of Italy, beautiful arches and domes painted with historical or biblical scenes and you can hear the choir singing and chanting in every corner of the Great Hall.
Inside San Marco’s Basilica
When you first enter the Basilica you will be shuffled into the Treasury, a tiny room on the right hand side of the great hall, this is where piles of golden tributes have been placed over hundreds of years. The most significant item in the treasury, to me, was to see the bones of San Pedro and to read the story of how his bones were stolen and brought back to the Basilica in early 900 A.D. Looking over San Marco’s Piazza – Doge’s Palace on the left
As you walk through the city you will see the crest of Venice incorporated into nearly every building, the proud winged lion with his paw on an open book with an encryption from the bible. The Venetians are a very proud people (proud, not snobby). Proud of their city and history which shows in the architecture, interior and exterior decorations and the use of flags of in nearly every alleyway and street.
One thing I love most about this beautiful city is the culture. I have spent a good amount of time in Italy over the years and I have to say that there is a special dynamic to the culture in Venice that differs from the culture in Rome, Florence, Siena, Pisa and other regions of Italy. The Italians are very laid back in general, believing that living life and family are the most important things in this world. This is why on shops signs you will see the hours listed off with a special bracket for riposo or also known as siesta. They incorporate a break into their everyday life, work and schools, the only place you won’t see the hours affected by riposo is restaurants since that is usually when they are busiest.
What a foreign concept to America, we believe the harder and longer you work the more successful you will be. Though many times those who follow in the footsteps of “success” are also lonely and feel as if their lives are lacking in someway…I don’t think the Italians have that problem and it is a beautiful thing to see!
There are millions of things to see and do while in Venice, it really just depends on what you are interested in seeing. However, my tip on traveling around Venice is to buy a pass for the waterways buses for however many days you are staying in Venice. Pick up a map of the routes, if you are trying to save money…stay off of taxis. They are very expensive, granted they are far less crowded but if you are working on a budget a pass is the way to go.
There are also thousands of options for places to eat and I don’t think I had one place that was better than the rest, come on now…its Italian food…enough said. If you are starting your research now on places to stay (and working on a budget) check out either Hotels.com or Air BnB these sites provide comfortable and affordable places to stay. Be forewarned though…if you are looking to be in Venice during Carnival (Carnevale di Venezia) book your hotel at least a year in advance. The city fills up FAST and the prices skyrocket so the key to saving money is the earlier the better.
I left my heart in Venice when I had to board the train and left the glistening canals on which this crowned city was built upon behind me. I know I will return to Venice again but only time will tell when…
Traveling Photographer Out!