|The island of San Giorgio Maggiore across the lagoon from St. Mark's Square|
I realize that exploring Venice by boat isn't exactly a revolutionary suggestion. None of you are reading this title and thinking, "Boat, huh? Who would have thought? That's something new." I may as well be suggesting that as long as you're in Egypt, go and see the pyramids. If you go to Antarctica, make sure you bring a coat. On the surface, it's not exactly from the trenches travel advice. But in case if you've never been, you may be wondering about some of the details. That's why I included a few choice tips.
The most natural introduction to this city, once one of the most opulent in the world, is the backwards S-shaped Grand Canal that cuts through this collection of islands surrounded by a marshy lagoon. As the main thoroughfare for centuries, this waterway is lined by one magnificent palace after another. Most were built between the 13th and 18th centuries. My head seemed to be constantly swiveling back and forth trying to take in all the sights on both shores along its more than 2 mile route. Built on wood pilings driven downwards 15 feet into the clay and facing the constant threat of being flooded by high tide, these stone buildings were a far cry from the wooden huts on stilts I had seen on Southeast Asian lakes and rivers.
Making our way from the Piazzole Roma bus station, we boarded the vaporetto water bus. The expensive option costs 7 euros, good for a 60 minute period, but multi-ride tourist travel cards are also available. Given the choice between Line #1 which zigzags its way back and forth between stops along the canal over the course of 45 minutes and the semi-express Line #2 which skips some stops to travel the same route in just 25 minutes, we chose to do it the slow, leisurely way. Vaporetto on these lines leave about every 10 minutes.
Tip: Download Rick Steves audiotour of the Grand Canal. Riding on Vaporetto Line 1, each track is coordinated with the water bus docks starting at the train station and concluding at St. Mark's Square.
We had the audiotour downloaded onto enough devices for hubby and the kids to listen to it as the vaporetto made its way down the Grand Canal. It turns out those Nintendos are good for more than just playing games. Being short one device, I was left to look around on my own and create my own commentary about what I was seeing. It mostly went, "Wow! Oh wow! That's gorgeous! I have no clue what I'm looking at, but I like it."
Tip: Try to ride when it is less crowded. Vaporetto Lines 1 and 2 are crowded in the morning with day trippers heading towards St. Mark's and then in the late afternoon and evening heading back to the train and bus stations or cruise terminals.
At the end of our visit to Venice, I finally had a chance to listen to the audiotour in reverse order as we traveled back up the Grand Canal. With each track labeled according to each dock, it wasn't too hard to do. I must have a good eye because some of the photos I took on the initial ride turned out to be of significant places. On the other hand, with as many architectural treasures as Venice has, it seems that almost every place has some importance to it.
Tip: Make sure you get on the right vaporetto. Some busy stops like San Zaccaria near St. Mark's Square have more than one ACTV water bus dock. These floating platforms are easy to find with their bright yellow signage. Make sure you check the Line number for the dock as well the placard or electronic sign on the boat saying what direction it is going. We weren't paying enough attention which is how some of us got on the wrong boat while one person was left behind.
Related Tip: Have a plan if you get separated. We figured out our mistake while the boat was still docked and the gate was still open. Instead of letting us off, the operator pushed us away from the edge, slammed the gate closed, and the boat took off. Luckily, we've always had an emergency plan in place if someone gets left behind while riding subways or trains. It turns out it applies to vaporetto, too. Stay put at the station and wait for the others to come back and get you.Having said all that...here's a bit of what I saw.
|Cannarregio Canal with Palazzo Labia on the left and the twin 6-story buildings that are part of the Jewish ghetto at the end.|
|Ca' d'Oro (House of Gold) was originally painted and gilded in gold. It is an example of Venetian Gothic architecture with elements of Byzantine and Islamic style thrown into the mix. It now holds an art collection that is open to the public.|
|Ambulance boat rushing under Rialto Bridge|
|The bows of gondolas tied up in a row waiting for customers.|
|The Renaissance style Palazzo Barbarigo was built in the 16th century. When Murano glass mosaics were installed in 1886, other Venetian aristocrats derided it for being the garish work of the nouveau riche.|
|Closeup of one of the mosaics on Palazzo Barbarigo.|
Venice does have some elements of modern design. Not everything is centuries old.
|Modern art outside the Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti built in 1565 which is now the home of the Instituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere e Arti.|
|The modern art of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is housed in her former residence. This was originally a palazzo which was abandoned mid-construction.|
|Construction on Santa Maria della Salute began in 1630 and was dedicated to Our Lady of Health in hopes of stemming the bubonic plague outbreak that eventually killed nearly a third of Venice's population.|
|The iconic winged lion on the column, the Campanile, St. Mark's Square and the Doge's Palace are tops on Venice's must-see list.|
Recommended Book: Viva Venice: A Guidebook for Children and the Young-at-Heart is a beautifully illustrated guide to Venice perfect for kids ages 11 years old and up. Adults would enjoy it, too. I sure did. It covers the city's interesting history, architecture and traditions and also suggests activities for both sunny and rainy days. I bought our copy at Venice's Marco Polo Airport in the arrival hall gift shop.
Don't limit yourself to just the Grand Canal, though. Ride a gondola to explore the smaller rivers that wind between Venice's islands.
|Narrow waterways between buildings|
|Venice at dusk|
You never know what you'll find.
|Can I call it street art if there isn't an actual street?|
Looking for another way to see Venice by boat? I saw a few adventurous kayakers on the Grand Canal. Rowing through the wakes behind vaporetto and water taxis and going around the slower gondolas, it's kind of like riding a bicycle on a freeway while weaving between lanes.
This post is part of the following link ups. Check them out for more around-the-world travel inspiration.
- Travel Photo Thursday on Budget Travelers Sandbox
- Friday Postcards on Walking On Travels
- Weekend Wanderlust on A Brit and a Southerner, A Southern Gypsy, Carmen's Travel Tips, Justin plus Lauren, and Outbound Adventurer
- Weekend Travel Inspiration on Reflections Enroute
- Sunday Traveler on Chasing the Donkey, Pack Me To..., A Southern Gypsy, The Fairytale Traveler, and Ice Cream & Permafrost
- Travel Photo Monday on Travel Photo Discovery