This was our first stop on our trip, and to be honest I didn’t know much about the city other than the obvious that it was built on the water. What I did not realize was that it is basically an island that you have to drive over a bridge to get to. It never occurred to me that this was the case, and the reason for this was to make it more difficult for invaders when the city was built way back in the day. It is quite possibly the most unique place I have been to, as everything is delivered by boat and that is the mode of transportation, other than walking of course. But therein lies the problem I have with Venice. It is almost completely unnavigable even with a map, and the fact that at most major intersections are water ways instead of streets just makes things more frustrating. There were numerous times where my gps would route us one way wanting us to take 8 Euro water taxi to get across the canal. We did not want to spend the money plus it would take more time to wait for the taxi so we would have to walk out of the way to find a bridge to cross the Grand Canal.
Despite my frustration I will say that I had probably the best Italian meals of the trip while we were there. It was fantastic and the wine was amazing, and to be honest I really do not like wine, but this restaurant had the best wine I have ever had and it was super cheap. Always ask for the Casa Rosso (house red), cheap and usually good. That is one thing that I could not quite figure out while we were over there. It seemed that no matter the overall quality of the food almost all the prices were the same. So if you went to a restaurant that was supposed to be very good the prices were the same as a restaurant that the food was just ok or not very good. My point is that here was no correlation between food quality and price, or at least I did not see one. This was both a good thing and a bad thing. We got some extremely excellent meals very cheap or at least cheap from our point of view, but on the flip side we also paid a lot for some meals that we did not care for.
As far as food goes TripAdvisor or the Yelp app was super handy. I would highly recommend that you make sure to download these and use them regularly. I would also say that being able to use data over there on my phone was a life saver. If we were not able to I think we would still be wondering around the mean streets of Venice looking for landmarks. I was lucky in this regard as I have been a T-Mobile customer since I got a cell phone and they have some amazing deals when it comes to traveling abroad. Now if I could just figure out a way to get some kickbacks for prompting them, o well.
While in Venice we saw all the sites. San Marco square, which is the most touristy place in Venice and pigeon central. There are literally thousands of those bastards everywhere. I liken them to rats with wings, but some people think they are neat, so whatever you like there are tons of disease carrying rats with wings in the square, so enjoy. The San Marco Basically is also very pretty and one of the most spectacular building in Venice, and that is saying something.
We also did the Secret Itineraries tour of Doge’s Palace which was recommended by Rich Steves. This one was highly recommended and I am not sure why. Don’t get me wrong it was a neat tour, but nothing spectacular to me, and I am a history guy. But it was neat to learn more about one of the most famous Venetians, Casanova. Yes, the guy that was famous for his way with women was from Venice. I did not know that and it was certainly interesting to hear about his life and such. It was also neat to hear more about the politics that went on in Venice, so for those reasons it is a neat tour. I guess I would say check it out, but if not you won’t miss too much.
The Bridge of Sighs was neat for historical reasons apparently it was the bridge that lead criminals from the court to their cell or to their execution. It is called the Bridge of Sighs because when criminals would walk across it they would look out the tiny holes and sigh knowing that was their last glimpse of freedom or in some cases life.
We did not go into St. Mark’s Basilica I am not sure why, other than I am sure the line to get in was an hours long wait. But I did look online and see the pictures of what it looks like inside, and it does look pretty amazing. I will also say that every church that you go in is amazing, each one is more beautiful than the next. So not seeing that one I am ok with as there are plenty of others that I am sure were just as specular.
The Rialto Bridge is one of the other famous landmarks in Venice. It is a giant bridge that crosses the Grand Canal, which is another frustrating aspect of Venice. There are only like two or three bridges that cross the Grand Canal so the city is basically two islands connected by three bridges. So that again makes it very difficult to navigate. I learned while I was there that when Hitler pulled out of Italy he could not bring his men to destroy the bridge as he thought it was too pretty. And honestly there was no real strategic value in the bridge, as if you are in Venice you probably got there by boat and so destroying that bridge would do nothing to slow down the allied soldiers. It appears for once Hitler was not a total ass hole.
As I mentioned Venice is an island that is basically cut in half by the Grand Canal. To the south is another island called Giudecca, to the north is a more famous island called Murano. The reason this island is famous is because of glass. Not just any glass mind you handmade blown glass which the island has been making for about 700 years. I had a few different people tell me that we had to go there and check it out. We took their advice and went to Murano, which was about a 10 Euro ride there so not too bad. However the island is very small and literally all that is there is a few restaurants and shops selling glass items, vases, and figurines. That is all that is there and this really bizarre blue statue thingy. Still it was neat to go to, but honestly I am not sure I would go back there if I went back to Venice. I really wanted to buy something while we were on the island, something unique, a vase or something bizarre. That is how I shop for art, it has to be weird otherwise what is the point of buying it. Sadly I didn’t buy anything, looking back I kind of wish I did, but maybe next time. I guess my point is that there is really almost no reason to go to Murano unless you plan on spending some somewhat major cheddar on glass items. You can also buy Murano glass in Venice, but at times I had this feeling that maybe it was from China. You have to be careful of what you buy.
Santa Maria della Dalute, Santa Maria Glorisoa dei Frari were two other churches that we visited along the way. Both were pretty amazing but della Dalute certainly looks more spectacular on the outside. Another thing I learned was that the symbol of Venice is the lions with wings, which I never looked up why. But there was a cool statute of it in a square that we just happened to come across. That is one thing that is always neat about foreign cities you will always come across something cool that was no on your list to see, and most of the time it is just around the corner.
I also wanted to mention that one thing we did not do was ride in a gondola. We kind of wanted to do it, but goodness it is expensive, like 100 Euros. So let that sink in 100 Euros which is like 112 dollars or so to ride in a boat. I know what you are thinking, but you are in Venice you have to ride in a gondola. I didn’t regret not doing it, but I think it could have possibly changed my mind about the city, but I assure you that that 100 Euros was spent better somewhere else.
Regardless of how neat Venice was for some reason I still did not care much for it. The supposed romantic city was anything but as it was super crowded and extremely hard to get around. While it was certainly a cool place it was just not for me, and honestly I cannot really put my finger on why. I think this is a place where you have to go to see and say that you were there, not sure I would ever go back. Although I think a nice blown glass vase would look nice on my mantle….
Check out my other Post about Italy