Today was one our first full day in Venice. I woke up early, excited to be in Venice and wanting to explore! It was 6am and we’d slept with the balcony door open so I was surrounded by the sounds of Venice as I woke. I love the noise from the boats going passed, people talking to each other in Italian and the sound of the church bells that finally woke hubby around 7am.
Breakfast was provided by the hotel and was rather a fine (and expensive!) affair that was included in the cost of the room. There were hot options – eggs benedict, cooked breakfast and a few other things – but I opted for the continental breakfast. It was a beautiful selection of meats, breads, cheeses, salmon, herring, pastries and breakfast cake! I’ve long been an advocate of breakfast cake……but I didn’t know one actually existed. Obviously I’ve never been to Italy before! I’m not sure if it’s common but it’s good to know!
I had a beautiful breakfast of croissant, meat (salami and some hams), cheeses, smoked salmon and herring. I was in piggy heaven, so much so that I went up for a second, smaller helping! So far I’ve loved the food in Venice. Even hubby who doesn’t like mozzarella will eat it here.
After breakfast it was time to go out and enjoy the sights. I’m smiling just writing this because I’ve fallen in love with Venice (I do that with a lot of places that I visit!) and I want to see more of Italy, experience its culture and learn it’s language. I’ve not travelled widely in Europe and I feel like I’ve missed out.
Before we visited, I didn’t know a lot about Venice. I knew about the canals, the gondolas but I didn’t know you could walk as much as you do through Venice. It isn’t a huge city but you do need to know where you are going because it is like a maze. I was also surprised that although everybody speaks English to a greater or lesser degree, it’s not always fluent and sometimes there is a lot of pointing, gesturing and smiling involved! Everybody was very friendly and willing to help as much as they could though.
It was pouring with rain when we set out but I was determined not to let it ruin the day. The only real complaint with it was people with umbrellas. Venice was packed and the majority of people had umbrellas so you were running the gauntlet of getting an umbrella in the head. In the end I was holding up my arm to protect my face as I passed people with lethal umbrellas which seemed to solve the problem. People didn’t actually seem to realise how close they were to hitting people with them.
So umbrellas aside, it was a good day. We set off after breakfast and headed for Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square) with a small map from the hotel and my in-laws as guides because they had been here before. Before we got very far we went into a small church that wasn’t far from the hotel. The exterior, although nice enough, gave no hint of the opulence hidden inside. I would have loved to have taken some photos but there was a sign asking people not to take pictures.
Hubby and I have agreed that Venice is one of the most beautiful and photogenic cities that we have been to. It is filled with beautiful architecture in even the most simple of buildings.
Piazza San Marco was stunning. I didn’t know what to expect because I didn’t know much about it. The star of the show is definitely St Marks Bascilia which is a cathedral, the architecture of which is hard to describe. Stunning and elaborate. You could look at the exterior of the building for hours and still miss some of the smaller details.. The queues to get in were quite large so we didn’t go inside, instead we headed for The Bridge of Sighs, an enclosed must-see tourist attraction in Venice. Legend has it that the Bridge got it’s name because of the sighs of prisoners that crossed it.
I bought some over-priced postcards near the grand canal then our whistlestop tour of the site continued with a walk to the Renalto Bridge. I was dismayed to find it boarded up because there was repair work taking place. One side of the bride was okay so I managed to get the obligatory tourist picture.
One of the things on my ‘must do’ list was to visit the Jewish Quarter. There are two memorial plaques there for the Holocaust victims of the city. I read a book about it long before I knew I was coming to Venice and I vowed that if I was ever to visit, I would go to see the memorials and pay my respects. It is a very sad part of history and reading about it was heartbreaking.
We got a water-taxi there and the driver (do you call them drivers or pilots??) pointed out the original entrance to the Ghetto. It was a lot quieter than central Venice but safe enough for tourists. As we entered the Ghetto there was a restaurant holding some kind of Jewish party. It was raucous with people having fun and was good to see.
Unfortunately the museum wasn’t open. I checked with a guard at the booth in the corner of the square. I managed to find the memorial and the sculpture by Arbit Blatas. It was so sad that it brought tears to my eyes, especially the memorial with the names and ages of those that were taken. It is important to me when I travel to get to the essence of a place, not just the touristy bits. I don’t want a checkbox of activities that I need to fill in to have seen a place, I want to feel it and in this case, wanted to pay my respects and feel the sadness of memorials. I wanted the good as well as the bad.
We decided to walk back to experience more the city. It was a very peaceful walk. I was salivating in the windows of the food shops. I love Italian food! Hubby and I were hungry mid-afternoon so we shared a piece of cake while my in-laws shared a cake. It was quite funny because our pizza was less per person than the cake was! I wasn’t sure whether to have a pizza because dinner was booked in the hotel that evening and I knew it would be a very fancy and elaborate affair. The restaurant has a dress code and no prices on the menu. Anyway, the pizza was delicious.
Even though a lot of my hobbies are outdoorsy, it is nice to have an excuse to dress up some times and this evening I wore a dress from River Island that I’ve never had the opportunity to wear before, finished off with the obligatory cowboy boots of course!
We met my in-laws in the bar and were fed all kinds of snacks while we waited. I was tempted to stay in there and fill up! Dinner was at 7:30pm. It was very, very nice. I did wish they would turn up the lights though. The restaurant was candlelit to give it atmosphere but dark rooms make me want to drop off! Service was impeccable, food was delicious (especially the risotto that I ordered) though not as good as the train but I can’t help but wonder if a local place would have been just as enjoyable, albeit in a different way.
It was a good evening though and a very good day. I’m left with the feeling that our time here won’t be enough and we will definitely have to visit for longer next time.