It took some convincing, but in the end Greg agreed that we should visit Venice for a couple of days. Not that I was dying to see this city or anything, but you cannot go to Italy and not see Venice right?
After we took an overnight sleeper train from Munich, we arrived in Venice bright and early Monday and made our way to our luxury accommodations – Camping Venezia Village. Yes, as the name suggests, we stayed at a sweet camping site in a funky little bungalow. The bungalow was super clean and had everything we needed so we were happy “campers.” After we dropped off our bags we caught a city bus just outside the campsite and arrived in Venice within 10 minutes.
Venice is like a labyrinth, with its countless narrow alleys, dead-end streets, numerous bridges and even more numerous canals it is so easy to get lost. Luckily there were plenty of signs for the main square, San Marcos, and the famous Rialto Bridge on most every corner, so as long as you are going to one of those two places you are good. Venice reminded me of Morocco with its narrow alleys lined with shops, so our walk from the bus depot to San Marcos, which should have taken 40 minutes, took a whole lot longer than that. You cannot walk by all those gelato, pastry and pizza shops without stopping to salivate. And that was just the food shops; there were countless more shops of Murano glass, leather goods, knitted scarves, and the obvious tourist goodies.
The tight and cramped feeling you get walking through the city end as soon as you enter San Marcos (or St. Mark’s) Square, which is a beautiful open square surrounded by amazing architecture, including the old municipal city buildings, St. Mark’s Clock, the Doge’s Palace and the very famous St. Mark’s Basilica with the St. Mark’s Campanile. The square is filled with pricey shops, gelato joints and lively cafés that feature dueling classical-music bands and expensive coffee. After you pay your cover to sit at one of these cafés (at least a couple of euros per person) you can sip your coffee and people watch for hours.
It is always crowded in St. Mark’s Square and that day was no exception. The lineup to go into the basilica was super long, but, luckily, our trusted self-guided Rick Steve’s audio tour told us that the easiest way to skip the line was to check your backpack where you would be given a ticket that you showed at the entrance to be allowed into the Basilica immediately. We did just that and, voila, were in the Basilica in no time at all. The Basilica’s interior was stunning and would have been worth the line. After giving our eyes a moment to adjust, we spent the next 30 minutes marveling at the beautiful gold, Byzantine mosaics that covered most of the Basilica. There was some serious artistic talent that went into the Basilica and it is a definitely a must see when in Venice.
During our two days in Venice, we did some serious walking throughout countless alleys and streets, crossed many bridges, strolled along the canals filled with gondoliers on its stripped attires exuding confidence while floating on their shiny black gondolas and admired the beautiful architecture that was present all over the city. The architecture was charming indeed; tall apartment buildings, all in earthy tones, were lined up one next to the other with most of its windows featuring colorful flower pots. Most of them were either on a canal or just across a narrow sidewalk from one. Some even had their own private bridge and dock right outside the front door.
A very important part of our trip is food, and Venice did not disappoint. We started our food sampling at a must stop for me, the market, where we tried some yummy dried fruits including coconut, kiwi, papaya, strawberries, cherries and pears. My two other must-have sweets, gelato and pastries, were rich and delicious as well. Greg’s savory palate was satisfied with a simple but very Italian thin crust pizza on our first day and a big and tasty pizza roll on our second day.
Our quick two-day stop in Venice was not too long, not too short, but just right.