Two weekends ago (4/5-4/7) I went to Venice! I left Perugia on Friday and returned on Sunday.
I took the 8 AM train to Florence Friday morning and then for the first time I took the Frecciargento train (still Trenitalia, but a high speed train that only made three stops) from Florence to Venice. I arrived in Venice around 1:30 PM and unfortunately, as the weather reports had predicted, it was rainy in Venice. During the train ride I read up on Venice to dos in my Rick Steves book and when I got to the train station I immediately bought the Venice Runner pass. This is a pass for people under 30 years old and it is a combined ticket (there are also some miscellaneous discounts I didn’t decide to read up on) but the main thing is unlimited public transportation use for 72 hours. The Venice Runner pass was 22 euro, but when compared to the one-time fee of 7 euro per vaporetto ride it’s well worth it. The vaporetti are essentially water buses. Venice has a main canal called Canal Grande which is like the Main Street of Venice. The first boat I was on was smaller so it unfortunately moved with the waves much more than a big boat would have so I felt the movement more – but it wasn’t too bad. I mainly just wanted to not have all of my stuff with me lugging it all around in the rain. Finally we arrived at San Zaccaria, the bus stop right after San Marco (or St. Mark). I closely followed the directions that the hostel had provided me and found the hostel quite easily. The owner of Ca’ Venezia (the hostel) is named Aman and was very welcoming. I was worried about the quality of the map the hostel would provide but it was actually a good map, detailing streets and major sights. He outlined a walking and boat tour of the major sights on the map, but encouraged me (as Rick Steves’ book also emphasized) to explore beyond the major touristy spots.
After my mini orientation I packed my little backpack that I take on day trips and set out for the day armed with my umbrella. I walked to Piazza San Marco – a major sight (which also contains several major sights in itself). There is the Basilica di San Marco, Doge’s Palace (turned museum), and a few other sights. I went inside the basilica (or church – and it was free!) then bought a ticket for the Doge Museum. I liked how this museum had a good variety of things to look at – from architecture to paintings to armory to prison cells. Also in this museum is the Bridge of Sighs whose name was romanticized, but it is said that those who were guilty would cross over this bridge to the prison and sigh as they saw the beautiful canals and freedom for (perhaps) the last time.
After the museum, I just decided to start the walking tour that Aman had showed me. I got to Ponte di Rialto which is the most famous bridge in Venice, but soon after I decided I should head back to the hostel to make dinner. This hostel was more like a mini apartment than just a room with several people in it. I was expecting to be sharing one room with 5 other people (what I technically booked) but it turns out I only had 2 roommates, which was nice. We also had a small kitchen (hence the cooking), bathroom, and small dining area. I bought some spaghetti, vegetables, and fruit in advance so that I could make a dinner here (and go out once to dinner). I took the vaporetto back to San Zaccaria again as I had in the morning, found my way back to the hostel (picking up a pastry for after dinner along the way!), and made dinner. Minor difficulties included the lights switching off twice (circuit breaker issues) and a large puddle accumulating on the floor (I think it was ice in the freezer melting). Since there weren’t any paper towels cooking became a barefoot exercise – a cold one at that. However, my feet had gotten used to it (at least my left foot had – there is a hole in my boot somewhere!) because of walking in the rain all day. I ate dinner and my pastry (which was delicious), hung out in the hostel, and went to bed!
We passed through the Bologna along the way – one more city to check off the list!
My first view of Venice after exiting the train station!
My corner of the bedroom at the hostel.
Our bathroom (the toilet and shower are to the right – you can see the shower door).
Our kitchen – if only you could see the puddle!
Our little dining area.
An ambulance boat – one of the many differences of Venice!
The basilica in St. Mark’s square.
The outside of Doge’s Palace.
The inside of Doge’s Palace – this ceiling in the entryway has gold! That’s one way to welcome people… or show off power.
Some really interesting weapons in the museum.
Well… that is a real chastity belt.
A jail cell!
A convicted person’s last look at freedom (walking over the enclosed Bridge of Sighs).
A zoomed-in look outside.
Venice is beautiful – even in the rain!
Ponte de Rialto! This is the most famous bridge in Venice.
St. Mark’s square at dusk seen from a vaporetto along the Grand Canal.
My dinner on Friday – spaghetti, tomatoes, and zucchini.
And after-dinner pastry!
Saturday I left the hostel around 8:50 AM and the first stop was not actually the island of Venice. Instead, I was going to spend the earlier part of the day on two smaller islands you can get to by vaporetto: Murano and Burano. Murano is a bigger island, known for its glassmaking. Burano is smaller but still has a lot of character. It is well known for its lace as well as its houses of every color. Really, it was one of the (if not the most) colorful places I have seen – including Cinque Terre! The vaporetto ride to Murano was about 45 minutes or so and after we finally got there I decided to start the trip off right but having a croissant and cappuccino – yum! Then I decided to actually be productive and explore the island, looking at several glass shops and enjoying the sun. After a few attempts at finding the other vaporetto stop that goes to Burano, I succeeding in getting there in the early afternoon (around 12:30 PM). I was greeted by colorful houses and a small park like area that had hyacinths – I loved the feeling of spring and the sounds of the birds. I once again explored, taking pictures of the area and exploring some shops that were a little out of my price range. After a while I decided to have lunch and bought a panino capricciosa to accompany what I already had with me (banana, trail mix, carrots). It was also nice to be able to fill up my water bottle at a public fountain!
Eventually I made it back to the main area of Venice and decided to ride the vaporetto just to ride the vaporetto and take pictures. Luckily I have that privilege with my Venice Runner card which more than paid for itself. I rode it to the Rialto (the main bridge) and had just taken some pictures when my camera announced defiantly that I needed a new battery! And that’s where the story ends.
Just kidding. I decided I still had enough time left in the day to head back to the hostel, charge the battery, and still have more time to explore (it was about 4:30 PM). I walked speedily (with a few wrong turns – but not too many!) back to the hostel, charged my camera for a little under an hour, then headed back out. This time I would finish the walking route that the hostel owner had originally drawn on my map. I saw many beautiful churches (there are so many of them in Venice!), buildings, canals, stores, dogs, everything! Along the way, on the bridge to Accademia, my camera’s lens had an error. I willed it back to working again, and although I did not get a picture of the Accademia or a few sights after (including a very popular square where a lot of bars and restaurants were situated), I used my camera later though taking a chance and it seemed to work fine. Still need to be careful though! I ate dinner close to the Rialto at a restaurant along the Grand Canal (although I ate inside). I got the tourist menu (15 euro, service included) and chose spaghetti al mare, grilled bass, and mixed salad. A small glass of wine and bread also came with the meal. I was pleasantly full after the meal was finished (the uneaten rolls stuffed away into my backpack when no one was looking). What made my night though was when the main waiter told me that I spoke Italian well. I suppose many American tourists don’t necessarily know much Italian or he was just trying to be friendly. But for whatever reason, it made me feel more connected to Italy and when I went outside the Grand Canal was as beautiful as ever so I felt even more connected to Italy.
Venice really is a place for romantics – all you have to do is look around. But it’s also a place to just feel good about being in Italy. I would say that this feeling is much stronger at night though than during the day. This is because at night all the day-only tourists are gone and the place really becomes alive, not just chaotic like the days can be. I took the vaporetto back but decided to check out St. Mark’s square. I’m glad I did because the area was alive with people and music (and people trying to sell you things). However, while I have found vendors to be a hassle in almost every other city, here I didn’t mind them so much. Perhaps this was because I saw families actually buying their gadgets and enjoying them together so they took on more meaning. Also, I really enjoyed the music playing at a restaurant outside. A crowd had formed so I joined – the musicians had so much energy! After their song had finished and they went to take a break, the crowd dispersed and I slowly made my way back to the hostel. I’m glad that I was able to experience Venice at night because that made my Venice trip that much more enjoyable.
I would recommend people to come to Venice if they have the opportunity for a few reasons. First, it’s gorgeous! Second, it’s quite unlike anything else I have seen before in terms of main roads being water instead of pavement. Third, there is a certain atmosphere that is unique to Venice, especially at night. Fourth, the population is decreasing and due to laws and regulations, the city is slowly decaying (to preserve the old look, but it won’t last forever). Fifth, it’s sinking! Venice might not be around forever, and it’s a place you certainly should make the effort to see.
The Bridge of Sighs from the outside.
In the morning, St. Mark’s square had some flooding! We had to use these platforms to walk across some areas.
Another look at the flooding in the square.
Cappuccino & croissant!
Walking down one of the roads checking out all the shops!
The blue sculpture is made of glass!
Crossing over a main road (canal) in Murano. It was a beautiful day!
Window shopping! I wanted to give an idea of all the glass.
Another window – there were many colors.
Another beautiful glass sculpture!
More public glass artwork.
Burano from afar – I swear that tower is leaning!
The hyacinth garden.
A close up!
A view of Burano! You can see how colorful the houses are.
Here you can see some more of the colors.
One of the local lace shops.
Picnic style lunch!
On the boat back to Venice!
Another view of the Rialto.
By St. Mark’s square.
Accademia bridge, looking out over the Grand Canal.
Sunset in Venice!
Here you can see what the “bus station” looks like (outlined in orange) and a vaporetto.
Spaghetti al Mare for the first course.
The bass (note: not a whole fish!) and side salad.
The Rialto at night – pretty much right outside of the restaurant I ate at!
St. Mark’s square at night! It had a wonderful atmosphere.
The musicians playing outside at a restaurant – beautiful music!
An eerie picture of the Bridge of Sighs at night.
I woke up early because I wasn’t sure exactly how long the trip to the train station would take me (plus breakfast, of course!). After two nights in the hostel, I somehow never managed to actually meet my two roommates. They always returned after I had already gone to bed and I always left before they got up! After getting ready, I took the vaporetto to the station and the ride was beautiful! I took many pictures of scenes I had already captured before, but the morning sunlight was just too good. After arriving by the station, I grabbed some breakfast to go (cappuccino and a croissant) at a nearby bar. I boarded the Italo (a different company than Trenitalia) train and unfortunately started out the train ride facing backwards. I later switched seats because the train was not very full at all, thankfully. I arrived in Florence around noon and boarded the train to Perugia 7 minutes later. Luckily I was able to get some homework done on that train (that didn’t go quite so fast) despite a guy in his late 20s or early 30s playing a video game on his phone very loudly. I wondered if he ever left high school… like really? I enjoy video games as well, but I don’t think everyone on the train needs to hear your battle against the computer. The rest of the trip was just fine though and I arrived in Perugia at a good time in the afternoon.
The morning ride back to the train station on the vaporetto had some amazing views of Venice!
Final look at St. Mark’s square!
Notice that the front of the building is elaborate, facing the canal – while the side is plainly done (this wasn’t a mistake – why pay more when people won’t necessarily see it!).
The train station finally in view.
I got breakfast to go for the train – my usual breakfast when I go out!
The Italo train got up to some pretty fast speeds!
I almost studied in Ferrara! I can (sort of) say I’ve at least seen it now.