We flew from Vienna to Venice, landing bright and early. We proceeded to run to the water taxi terminal on the advice of the ticket agent, to wait about 30 minutes for the next water taxi over to the Cannaregio area of Venice, which is about ~35 minutes from the main canal and tourist areas. The ride was nice – its amazing how many boats there are! Ours of course had to be the one “eco-” hybrid boat that we saw in the canal, so it took about an additional 25 minutes to arrive.
However, we showed up and were able to drop our bags at the hotel, which is a gorgeous old building with incredible light fixtures made of the famous Venetian blown glass. We also got a canal view room!
Then, we went to wander our area of Venice, called Cannaregio (a short ride from the Murano island, which is famous for its blown glass). We grabbed lunch at a fabulous local restaurant, where they have such limited kitchen space, they prepare the food in the dining room. It’s bustling, vibrant, and absolutely incredible. We shared scallops, a seafood pasta, and a lasagna bolognese, all of which were fabulous. We also got to watch the table next door get their caccio e pepe prepared in a giant wheel of Pecorino Romano, which was a ton of fun. We think they were Spanish, and we all kept excitedly exclaiming about each new dish that came out.
Then, we walked the canals for a bit, making out way to the end of our island, and then winding our way back to the small Jewish community here in Venice. There seems to be a bustling community of Jewish and Hassidic folks, Hebrew lettering on stores, and several Kosher restaurants. Such an interesting little area!
After that, we made our way back to the hotel to see if we could check in to our room. Of course, I had to take some additional photos – and ended up getting too excited, heading down the stairs to get a “water level” shot, and of course, fell halfway into the canal! Fortunately, the camera and phones were all saved, and I got to dry my jeans (and shoes) as the Venetians do from our beautiful window overlooking the canal. I think the Italians clearly on a date sitting on the stairs got a kick out of watching me fall, but everyone was in good spirits afterwards! Also amusingly, when I sent out my jeans to get laundered (they were covered in moss and silt), the housekeeper took one look at the wet pants and said “Canal? Ah, okay” very knowingly as though I’m not the first person to make such a tragic mistake.
On day two of Venice, I realize` I may have to turn in my Italian card, between falling in the canal yesterday and then stopping to tie my shoe in an apparently inappropriate area of the grocery store, much to the dismay of the nonna who remarked “T’scusi” (exCUSE you) sassily when I tried to excuse myself and move out of the way (she made no sound to alert me that she was casually waiting behind me in the ten seconds or so I was otherwise preoccupied). However, the meat section of the grocery was quite compelling.
On a bright side, we saw a totally different side of Venice on our second day than we saw exploring the previous afternoon and I feel like we’ve seen a good chunk of tourist and normal Venice life. The previous night, we did dinner at a beautiful family run restaurant rather late, and we spent the time before it wandering through the city. We finally started to see tourists close to the Rialto Bridge – it seems to take a lot to bring them out to the area where our hotel is, which is fantastic.
So, we started the morning with a beautiful ride through the canals to Murano island on our free private water taxi, courtesy of the hotel. The water taxis are much more popular than the gondolas, which we’ve really only seen (and, tragically for the couple who paid extra for a singing gondolier, heard) in the most touristy areas of town. Murano Island is where the main glass blowing industry is, and they really make some incredible works of art, from chandeliers to jewelry to commissioned glass art pieces. According to the staff, a smaller chandelier takes about 15 days to make in total, including 2-3 to complete the pieces, 4-5 to cool, and then the remainder to assemble and finalize.
Anyhow, apparently most of the blown glass in the souvenir shops is (shockingly) from China, so anything not produced or sold on the island is a bit suspect. Then, we took another water taxi (again, somehow provided courtesy of our hotel – they must have saved us about ~150 Euro in taxi fees today, as nearly everything is a 30 or so minute ride) to San Marco, which is the main square and absolute tourist central. According to the water taxi driver, Venice has a population of 50,000 people (and depleting as they move to the mainland), while it gets about a million tourists a month. We knew it was going to be touristy when we started recognizing people we had seen on our water taxi from the airport as we were walking onto the main drag on San Marco (and you only ever hear American English, usually with a southern twang).
San Marco is probably the second most crowded place I’ve ever been, outside of the Forbidden City. It was packed to the point of discomfort, and subsequently not a ton of fun to meander. However, we did see the Doge’s Palace, which is the prime real estate of Venice and where they are having a huge 500 year exhibition of an artist called Tintoretto, who apparently did a lot of work in the palace and in Venice more generally. There is beautiful architecture, nice art, a golden staircase, incredible ceilings. They also have a really huge prison, which is connected to the main building and of course concealed in a gorgeous facade.
It’s also where the famous “bridge of sighs” is, so named because prisoners would sigh as they were escorted to their cells. Also famous for being quoted by Lord Byron: “I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs; a palace and a prison on each hand.”
After the palace, we headed to lunch where we had more delicious seafood, including fried calamari and a crab pasta. It was a pretty old school restaurant, and the main proprietor seemed to be enjoying his friends with many bottles of wine while simultaneously overseeing the lunch service. Then, we took a short walk around the streets surrounding San Marco, which were similarly teeming with tourists, who were very excited to see sights such as a restaurant, lingerie store, vegetable stand, and souvenir shop in that order on the tiny alley. We also checked out a grocery store, where I apparently offended the aforementioned nonna.
Next door to the Doge’s Palace is the St. Mark Basilica, which had another 30+ minute line, so we ended up skipping it but wandered the square instead before heading back to the hotel on the water taxi. We did pass the famous Florian coffee shop, which has velvet couches, murals, waiters in tuxes, and a grand piano and accompanying band playing live music outside on the way, but it was 12 Euro for a cappuccino so we skipped it.
Our final evening, we had dinner at an artisanal Venetian restaurant in our neighborhood, as the tourists were a bit overwhelming to say the least. We may have missed some of the “sights” but I think we’ve seen some cooler pieces of Venice in the process.