Venice

 

In the past I’d never had a burning desire to see Venice, having heard it called Disneyland and a shopping mall with a river running through it.  But once my sister and I booked a cruise to the Greek Islands which started in Venice, we decided to add another night and day to (what should have been) 2 nights and 2 days that were part of the tour.  So I started my usual research and reading–relying on Walking Venice from National Geographic and Venice and the Veneto from DK Eyewitness, supplemented by several websites on specific sights.

Overall I’m glad I got to see Venice, especially given the fact that in a few years it may be underwater. (See Tears for Venice post)  But I feel the same as my sister; that if Venice had been the first place I’d seen in Italy, I wouldn’t have returned 7 (now 11) times.

And that’s not to say it isn’t beautiful as the pictures in this post illustrate.  We were fortunate to see some stunning places.  I think it’s more because Venice and the Veneto have a totally different culture from that of Tuscany or southern Italy; less friendly, less warm.  Although if I lived in a city of around 60,000 people with 20+ million tourists, I probably wouldn’t be very friendly either.

I initially wrote this post in the same style as my Verona article, sequentially and taken predominately from my journal; however, I’ve recently (August 2022) rewritten this post organized by topics: Places to go and Things to see, Campos, Canals and Walkabouts, Where to Stay and Where not to Stay, Getting around Venice, and Where to Eat.

Getting Around Venice

My sister and I arrived from Verona by train around 12:30pm on a Thursday.  The Hotel Canal Grande had contacted me before we left Florence, reconfirming our reservation and asking if we needed a porter to help with our luggage.  That was a major relief since I’d learned from a student in my Italian class that the bridge across the canal near the train station (Ponte di Scalzi) is very difficult to cross with luggage.  And that’s a mild understatement.

I had reconfirmed with the hotel while we were in Verona and we spotted the porter as soon as we exited the station.  The down side was that he placed both our large and small bags on the trolley and then charged us 5€ per bag.  But it was worth it.  We would have never made it on our own despite it being a fairly short walk to the hotel.  The bridge alone would have been impossible.

Prior to the trip I had gone over detailed maps of Venice and researched restaurants and wine bars.  But wandering the calle and streets of Venice, crossing over canals multiple times, is far different in person than it appears from the maps.  So I advise always having a map with you, even though it makes you look like the quintessential tourist.

We only used the vaporetto once on our 2017 trip but used it multiple times in 2019 and as I wrote in my  Tears for Venice  post, we found the three day vaporetto pass paid for itself plus it was very convenient.

Places to Go and Things to Do

Campos, Canals, Calle and Walkabouts

Our first afternoon in Venice after checking into our hotel, Hotel Canal Grande, see Where to Stay below,  I suggested to my sister that we walk to Campo San Giacomo and have lunch at Al Prosecco (http://www.alprosecco.com/).  We stopped at the concierge’s desk and went over the map with him.  I pride myself on my map reading skills but I had us lost within 15 minutes. Here’s what I wrote: “Yesterday after checking in and unpacking enough for one night and day, I got us hopelessly lost trying to find Campo San Giacomo.  We finally got there but couldn’t find Al Prosecco (the theme of this trip) so had an expensive caprese salad and wine at a restaurant recommended by the hotel.”

(Post trip comment: I wish I hadn’t been so stressed about being lost.  In retrospect, looking at our pictures of the canals, winding alleys, and  campos, I should have just stopped and enjoyed the beauty. I’ll randomly place some of those beautiful pictures throughout this post.  Weirdly enough as I wrote the original version of this post, I was reading a Donna Leon/Commissario Brunetti book, The Girl of his Dreams and some of the plot takes place in Campo San Giacomo.)

And recently (summer 2022) I’ve started watching Youtube videos trying to maintain my Italian.  And this one from Learning Italian with Stefano, talks about how confusing the calle and canals are even to an Italian.   

After lunch we went to Ca’ Pesaro, see below, which I loved.  Then we continued on to the Rialto, stopping to see the Hands sculpture on the way. This sculpture is phenomenal and according to various web sites (e.g. http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2017/05/support-hands-sculpture-venice/) the artist, Lorenzo Quinn, created the sculpture to call attention to climate change and global warming.

The Rialto was crowded and consequently a bit underwhelming but we did get some cool pictures of the sun setting over the Grand Canal.

Then we found an easier route back to the hotel past S. Maria Gloriosa dei Frari.

On Saturday, after going to St. Mark’s Square, while heading to the Accademia Bridge we walked through the very pretty Campo San Stefano which looked almost normal; ie as if people actually lived there.

Saturday, after visiting Ca’Rezzonico, we found a little bar in Campo San Barnaba. (See Where to Eat below) I found Campo San Barnaba the most charming of all the campos in Venice.  It’s a bit off the beaten path so somewhat quieter than other areas of Venice.  A great place for people watching (and gondolier watching.)

Places to Go and Things to See

Ca’Pesaro

https://capesaro.visitmuve.it/en/home/

Ca’Pesaro is a beautiful modern art museum right on the Grand Canal.  I loved it, especially the works by Klimt, Picasso and Matisse. It was the first time I’d seen a Klimt other than in a book and that experience led me to visit il Museo di Roma for a Klimt exhibit in October 2021. ( See Six Days in Rome  post)

There was also a large exhibit of David Hockney portraits.

Trip to Murano

Hotel Canal offered a free trip to Murano so my sister and I signed up to go on our first full morning in Venice.  It was a bit of a disappointment.  The price for a ‘free’ water taxi  was not getting to see anything but the glass factory and an hour of hard sell.   view from Murano glassworks

Still it was interesting to see the artisans making beautiful glass objects and I bought a gorgeous necklace of Murano glass for my daughter.

 One bonus of the trip was that we were dropped off at the Fondamente Nuove and had to find our way back to the hotel using Strada Nova which came in handy after our Canareggio.

Strada Nova

Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari and Scuola Grande di Rocco

After the trip to Murano and the cluster of checking into our second hotel (the one provided by Gate 1 as part of our cruise to the Greek Islands) my sister and I walked to S. Maria Gloriosa dei Frari and Scuola Grande di Rocco.

Santa Maria is known for its Monks’ Choir, the only one in Venice that is intact.

It is also known for Titian’s Assumption of the Virgin above the altar. You can’t take pictures in the Basilica but here’s a link where you can see the art and the Monks’ Choir.  https://www.basilicadeifrari.it/en/ 

The  Tintorettos  in the Scuola were stunning and the history of the Scuola is fascinating.  Here is a link to the ‘brochure’ for the Scuola which describes the ‘brotherhood’ and why the Scuola is dedicated to the patron saint of the plague. Scuola Grande di San Rocco  (In February 2017 I attended a talk at a local art museum given by the Curator of the Boston Fine Arts museum who had studied in Venice and written his doctoral thesis on  Titian and Tintoretto.  In all honesty, though, I still don’t have the appreciation for the Titians and Tintorettos as I do for the 20th century art in Ca’ Pesaro.)  But even if you’re not an aficionado of  16th century Tintorettos, the ceilings and walls of the Scuola will leave you amazed.

Across the small square from the Scuola is the Chiesa di San Rocco.  We didn’t go inside but my sister took a picture of the lovely exterior.  Chiesa di San Rocco

St. Mark’s Square

Saturday morning, our second full day, we managed to get an early vaporetto to St. Mark’s and I would hate to be there during high season.  The crowds were crazy and the line to St. Mark’s was long.  We walked through the Duomo which didn’t take much time, partly because we couldn’t take pictures and partly because the crowds more or less push you along. I regret now that we didn’t buy tickets to the   Museo Marciano which has the original four gilded horses stolen from Constantinople.  Here’s a link to an excellent article on Planetware with pictures of the interior of the Duomo as well as the treasures in the museum, https://www.planetware.com/venice/basilica-of-st-mark-i-vn-vbsm.htm

But we did take a lot of photos of the square itself.

Then we spent an hour and a half at least going through the Doge’s Palace.  The art, especially the Tintorettos in the Sala del Maggior Consiglio,  was magnificent plus the rooms with the arms and armor were fascinating.  We tried to take photos of the interior but they didn’t come out well.  Here are a few of the exterior.  (We didn’t notice the Tesori sign until later.)

The major bonus was an exhibition of unbelievable jewels once owned by a mahariji–emeralds, rubies and diamonds the size of my head. [Post trip note: Sometime during the first week of January 2018 thieves walked into the exhibit and walked off with a number of jewels.  Crazy!  Read the story here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/04/daring-doges-palace-jewel-theft-police-expert-help-venice]

After going through the special exhibit, we were waiting in line to see the prisons, but they kept letting tour groups through first so we bailed then wandered around the square taking pictures. There were a couple of other musei on our Venice  card, including the Correr and the archaeological museum but I couldn’t find the entrance and when we sat down on a step to look at our map, we were shooed away by an officer.  (And later we realized we were sitting right in front of the Correr.  Sheesh!)  We, then, walked over the Ponte della Puglia to see the Bridge of Sighs and took lots of photos of the bridge and the view from the ‘promenade’ in front of the Square.

Ca’Rezzonico

From St. Mark’s I suggested we go over the Accademia bridge, see Ca’Rezzonico which was on our card, then have lunch. We got several pictures from the bridge that were phenomenal.

Ca’Rezzonico was several floors of weird 18th century art so we didn’t stay long.  (My guide book calls it one of the most splendid palaces in Venice but we definitely found it odd.)  We did like the area around the palazzo including the gardens next to it and my sister took lots of lovely pictures shown below.

(Post trip comment: We purchased the Venice card at https://www.veneziaunica.it/ before the trip and it paid for itself.)

Sunset on the Zattere

This is not to be missed.  I had planned to take us to a little bar called El Chioschetto but couldn’t find it either our first or third evening so we had our spritz’s at Alle Zattere where we’d eaten our first evening.  But the spritzes were good, the weather was perfect and most importantly we got to see the sunset along with a number of cruise ships and sailboats going up and down the Guidecca Canal.

(We loved it so much, we returned to the zattere on our second visit to Venice, (see Tears for Venice post) taking lots of photos of the sunset, then having dinner inside since it was fairly chilly.)

A Walking Tour of the Cannaregio

Friday night, after a day of sightseeing, we returned to the hotel, cleaned up and met our walking tour of the ghetto, which involved walking across the Ponte di Scalzi between the train station and the San Polo neighborhood, then through part of the Cannaregio and across the Ponte delle Guglie

The tour was an introduction both to the Venetian tradition of bacari (standing bars) and cicchetti (appetizers) and to the history of the Jewish ghetto; a rather odd combination.  So I’ll talk about the ghetto tour first then wine bars.

From our second wine bar, we took Calle del Forno into the original Jewish Ghetto where our guide showed us the homes, schools and synagogues of the original Jewish population, describing  how the people lived. While Bonaparte ended the practice of closing the gates of the ghetto each night, it wasn’t until 1866 that Jewish people were allowed to live in other areas of Venice. (I wasn’t aware that the term ghetto originated in Venice until I began reading the DK Eyewitness book on Venice. Most travel books have at least a short section on the Venetian ghetto.  However, I found this article particularly interesting https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/venice-ghetto-jews-italy-anniversary-shaul-bassi-180956867/ 

Our guide also showed us a memorial wall for those taken from the ghetto to the concentration camps. Standing there in the quiet campo, surrounded by homes and schools, contemplating the loss of 250 lives was a moving experience.

The bacari tour was interesting and fun.  The guide was pleasant and we talked to several nice people including a very sweet young guy who was a Foreign Service Officer serving in Baghdad. (He’d grown up in Oklahoma and since I’d done my undergrad at the University of Nebraska, he wanted to talk football.  Lol)  We started at a small wine bar just across from Ponte delle Guglie.  That was the only bar where we actually sat for a while and had our cicchetti and prosecco. 

Then we walked along the Fondamente di Cannaregio. (A fondamente is a street alongside a canal.) We stopped at a wine bar there and it was so crowded, we had to stand outside along the canal which made for interesting, albeit chilly, people watching.

Our third and final wine bar was at the far end of the Cannaregio, a wine bar in Campo dei SS Apostali, close to the Rialto, Osteria dal Riccio Peoco.  Again, we had our wine and cicchetti standing outside.  While it was fun feeling like the locals, we were all ready to head to some place warm and the group scattered fairly quickly.

After our last wine bar we headed back along Strada Nova.  Having walked along that street earlier in the day we found our way back to our starting point fairly easily.

We stopped at the same wine bar near Ponte di Guglie where we began our tour with the intent to have more wine and food.  We got the wine but started talking to a Brit couple who were on our cruise to the Greek Islands and never got food.  Go figure!!

Evening Tour of the Dorsoduro

We got to the meeting point by the Accademia for our walking tour way early but the City Wonders person was already there.  She immediately told us we would take the gondola ride prior to the walking tour due to it becoming dark and foggy fairly early.  While we waited, we watched some musicians in the area alongside the Accademia. It was pleasant listening to the music and we got some interesting pictures. 

The early gondola ride was a piece of luck because the ride was lovely but by the time we finished it was cold and foggy.

The tour/walk, however, was awful—huge group that required microphones and radios, a terrible guide who didn’t speak very good English and kept stopping in the fog to point out things we couldn’t see or tell us things we already knew.  So we bailed early.  My sister wanted to eat in Campo San Barnaba but the waiter at the one restaurant with indoor space laughed at us

(Post trip comment: In 2016 my sister and I did a Rome by Night tour with City Wonders/Dark Rome and it was amazing.  We were stunned at how poor this tour was in comparison to the Rome tour.)

Where to Stay

Hotel Canal Grande

I chose this hotel thinking it was the same one that our tour had booked us into.  Nope.  There are two hotels in Venice with Grand Canal in their name.  Our tour used the Carlton Grand Canal while this was the Hotel Canal Grande.  It was light years away from the Carlton in terms of service and furnishings.  Hotel Canal Grande

After checking in and realizing my mistake, the concierge assured us they’d take care of getting our bags to the Carlton the next day and once I got over my embarrassment, I decided it was a fortuitous mistake.  One of the staff took us to a gorgeous room which had a bottle of prosecco and a torta al cioccolata for my evening on the deck of Hotel Canale Grande                        sister’s upcoming birthday.  

That evening after a fairly long day touring, we returned to the hotel and took the torta and prosecco out to the deck.  We  ate ½ the cake and drank most of the prosecco while talking to two couples from Kansas City.

Where not to Stay

Carlton Grand Canal

As I wrote above, this hotel was light years away from Hotel Canal Grande, especially in terms of service.  I wrote in my journal: Waiting for our room @ the Carlton.  They treated us like garbage when we got here, questioning our reservation and apparently refused our luggage from Hotel Canal Grande. So we have to wait for our luggage as well.  I am foaming @ the mouth.

It was definitely a tour group hotel; noisy, poor quality breakfast and any extras were quite expensive.  For example, after our Dorsoduro tour I suggested we have a limoncello in the hotel which set me back 27 €.  Crikey!!

  But it was easy for our water taxi to pick us up here to go to the port.

Where to Eat and Drink (or Not)

La Patatina di San Giacomo

https://la-patatina-di-san-giacomo.business.site/?m=true

As mentioned earlier, my sister and I headed to Campo San Giacomo after checking into our hotel with the intention of having a vino and tagliere at Al Prosecco (http://www.alprosecco.com/) but couldn’t find it so we ate at this restaurant which our hotel recommended.  It was a bit pricey for wine and caprese salad but it was wonderful to sit outside on the campo and people watch. 

El Chioschetto

I had read about this bar on Tripadvisor (https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187870-d1073097-Reviews-El_chioschetto-Venice_Veneto.html ) and it was touted as the perfect spot to watch the sunset on the Zattere.  Our first night in Venice we were somewhat late getting to the Zattere and couldn’t find the bar.  Our third night in Venice, we managed to get to the Zattere earlier, in time to see the sunset, but still couldn’t find the bar.

It wasn’t until our second trip to Venice as we were walking along the Zattere mid-day, that I finally spotted it.  It’s more like a kiosk, right along the canal.  It was rainy and chilly that day so it didn’t look appealing.  

Alle Zattere

When we couldn’t find El Chioschetto we wandered into Alle Zattere and had a pizza and salad.  The food was fine but I have to say the waiter was less than friendly.  When we couldn’t find El Chioschetto on Saturday late afternoon, we returned here for spritz’s and the sunset on the zattere. evening along the Zattere

Bar alle Guglie

Our tour of the Cannaregio met at this little bar/ciccheteria just across the Ponte delle Guglie.  As I recall we had prosecco and cicchetti which were very good plus it was the only bar where we were able to sit down.  It’s small but very cozy and pleasant.

 

Al Balcon

I’m not totally sure but I think this was our second stop on the Cannaregio bacari tour.  It’s along Fondamente di Cannaregio and like the other bacari, it is quite small.  We had to stand outside along the fondamente with our wine and cicchetti but felt very Italian. 

Osteria dal Riccio Peoco

https://osteriadalricciopeoco.eatbu.com/?lang=en

Campo S.S. Apostali

This osteria was our last stop on our walking tour of the Cannaregio and I don’t remember what cicchetti we had but I’m sure we had some type of red wine because at that point it was a bit chilly and we had to sit or stand outside.  But it made a good impression because my sister and I returned on our second visit to Venice and had wine and tagliere here, sitting in the sun.  It was wonderful.

Panini e Vini da Babbo

Our third day, after wandering from St. Mark’s Square to Ca’ Rezzonico, we found our way to Campo San Barnaba.  It was a lovely day so we grabbed an outside table at this little osteria which had 2 euro tramezzini. We had ham sandwiches and wine and watched the people in the campo. Of all the campos we walked through in Venice, I found Campo San Barnaba the most charming.  It’s a bit off the beaten path so somewhat quieter than other areas of Venice.  A great place for people watching (and gondolier watching.)

Osteria da Torri

Campo Santa Margherita

After leaving our evening tour of the Dorsoduro, we walked first to Campo San Barnaba but all the restaurants were full  So we continued to Campo Santa Margherita and ate at this osteria.  (And I’m not totally sure this is the correct name but the online pictures looked familiar.)  It’s a bit of a tourist trap with mediocre food but we were just happy to be warm, dry and fed. 

 And despite my opening remarks, seeing these pictures again and re-writing this post, make me want to return—soon.

 

 

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One thought on “Venice

  1. Barb,
    Was this a tour of Venice or a wine
    tasting tour? (Just a spurious
    comment since I know you.) Anyway,
    in our recent trip of Venice, Linda
    had the same impression as you, only
    I insisted because it is getting
    expensive and some day it may not be
    available to the middle class due to
    cost/taxes/etc.
    I enjoy Venice, because I like
    wondering and discovery. We put on
    about 8-10 miles a day wandering
    about and walking to most everything
    on the main island.
    Since I had done the Free Factory
    Tour before, we bought ferry ticket
    and went to the the glass/lace
    islands on our schedule and
    inclination. Really enjoyed the
    trip that way.
    Overall, Venice is a Disneyland (not
    sure if anyone really lives there)
    for tourists, but still worth the
    adventure because it really is unique
    and reeks of history – shouldn’t be
    missed. We used AirBnB and foot
    travel and felt pretty good about it.

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