Venice, a city made up of 118 islands, is one of Italy’s most famous and recognizable cities. Located in the Adriatic sea, Venice is the capital of northern Italy’s Veneto region. The city is known for its canals, of which it has over 170, and for its bridges, of which it has over 580. Home to places like St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge, there are a never-ending amount of things to do in the city. My family and I spent two days in Venice back in 2015, and in this post I will be writing about how we spent our time there.
We headed into Venice from Florence, which is about a two hour train ride. If you want to purchase tickets for this same train ride, click this link.
As we arrived in Venice in the evening, we needed a place to stay for the night. So, instead of staying in a more expensive hotel in actual Venice, we stayed in a hotel just outside of the city itself. The hotel we stayed in was the Tritone Hotel, a four star hotel located a two minute walk away from the Venezia Mestre. I’d definitely suggest staying at the Tritone Hotel if you visit Venice; check out their website here.
We started our first full day in the Veneto region by heading on a ten minute train ride from the Venezia Mestre, the train station closest to our hotel, to the Stazione di Venezia Saint Lucia, Venice’s main train station, to get into the actual city. There, we met up with part of my dad’s family, Sophie and Sean, who had come to join us in Venice from England. As it was all of our first times visiting Venice, we decided to explore the city a bit before going anywhere in particular. On our adventure through the city we came across a lot of pretty buildings and canals shown above!
Next, we headed to one of the most well known spots in Venice, the city’s Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square in English). St. Mark’s Square is Venice’s main and largest square, and it is the only square in the city called a piazza, while the rest are defined as campis. This square, constructed back in the ninth century, is famous for the dozens of pigeons that can be found throughout the square. Recently, as the pigeons have done a lot of damage to the surrounding buildings, a law was passed forbidding the feeding of the pigeons. It wasn’t exactly successful though, as there are still many pigeons (and people!) that can be found in the square every day.
Speaking of the buildings surrounding the square, they include some the city’s most well known monuments. One of the buildings is the Basilica San Marco, or St. Mark’s Basilica in English. This Venetian-Byzantine style church is nicknamed the “Church of Gold” due to its very fancy and well-decorated exterior. Being a symbol of Venice’s wealth and power, the many mosaics on the church’s exterior make up enough mosaic to cover 1.5 American football fields (8000 square metres).
The basilica’s campanile, or bell tower, is almost 100 metres tall. It collapsed in 1902, after signs of a crack, yet killed no one except for the tower’s caretaker’s cat. The tower was then rebuilt in the exact same style, before being completed in 1912.
Another building near St. Mark’s square is Palazzo Ducale, or Doge’s Palace in English. Doge’s Palace, located just outside of the square, was built in two periods; the east wing was completed in 1340, and the west wing was completed much later in 1450. The palace is Venetian Gothic style, and it was once to residence of the Doge of Venice (hence its name), before becoming the museum and tourist attraction that it now is. Unfortunately we didn’t get to tour or go inside of Doge’s Palace, so this is the only photo of it that I have (shown in the distance).
Then, we headed out to explore more of Venice. Although we didn’t get to actually visit the cathedral up close, we did find a good viewing spot of the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (Basilica di Saint Mary of Health in English) just outside of the facade of the Ca ‘Giustinian, a 15th century palace. This cathedral is more commonly known as “the Salute”, Italian for health, as it was constructed in memory of the thousands of Venetians that died due to the Black Plague that devastated the city back in the 1300s. As you can see from the photo above, the Salute is a very beautiful building and it is probably even prettier up close.
After having a classic Italian pizza for lunch, from one of many restaurants throughout Venice, we headed on to go on a gondola ride! This was definitely the highlight of my time in Venice, as it was a really fun (and essential) experience to go on a gondola ride in Venice. Gondola rides, which allow six people per gondola, usually last 40 minute and cost about 80 euros. Back in the 16th century, there were an estimated number of 10,000 gondolas throughout the city, and now there are a much smaller number of about 400.
Though there are not as many gondolas in Venice today as there were hundreds of years ago, there are still many gondoliers in Venice. These gondoliers are required to wear black pants, a striped shirt, black shoes, and sometimes a special hat. They often sing to you while rowing through the canals, though don’t always expect them to do so. If you’re visiting Venice, I would 100% recommend going on a gondola ride! It is a once in a lifetime experience, and it is definitely worth the price.
That wrapped up our first full day in Venice! Sadly Sean and Sophie had to leave to go back to England that day, so we said our goodbyes before heading back to the train station and going back to our hotel.
On our second day there, we headed to Venice early in the morning through the train stations. When we first got into the city, we did some more exploring throughout Venice and came across quite a few picturesque alleys and canals (shown above).
Next, we decided to check out Venice’s Rialto Bridge, the oldest bridge spanning the Grand Canal. This beautiful bridge is a pedestrian oriented bridge, and as you can see it is often filled with tourists. Before the Rialto Bridge, a few earlier bridges had been constructed on the sight, however the Rialto has obviously been the only one to survive.
After checking out the Rialto Bridge, we decided to walk along the bank of the Grand Canal for a bit. The Grand Canal, being 3.8km long, is the main source of transportation in Venice, as it makes a reverse S shape through the city and passes by many of the city’s main attractions. It ranges from 30 metres wide to 90 metres wide, and it has an average depth of 5 metres. Many charming 13th to 18th century homes line the canal, making for stunning scenes throughout the entire canal.
The canal begins near the city’s main train station, and ends near St. Mark’s Square or in the San Marco neighbourhood of Venice. Only three bridges other than the Rialto cross the bridge, including the Ponte degli Scalzi, literally meaning the “bridge of the barefoot”; the Ponte deli Accademia, named after a nearby arts academy; and the Ponte della Costituzione or Ponte di Calatrava, a controversial bridge put into place in 2007.
On our walk we came across many shops, along with one where I bought the postcards shown above. We also came across an adorable Dachshund doggy, which I thought was so cute I had to include. As we had passed by the same store both days, this was actually the second day that we saw the same dog!
As it was nearing lunchtime, we stopped by a nearby cafe/restaurant for a meal. For dessert, we had this delicious Panna Cotta, an Italian dessert.
Our next activity of the day was going on a Vaporetto, or a steamboat/motorboat that is basically Venice’s version of a regular city’s bus. The name Vaporetto derives from the word vapore, meaning steam, as Vaporettos use steam to power themselves. Vaporettos are a very popular mean of transportation throughout Venice for Venetians, and they are also a great way to get around the city for tourists. My family in particular chose to go on one not exactly for transportation, but to take advantage of the great views the boats give of the Grand Canal as tickets on one of the buses are very affordable. (Vaporettos are the big, steamboats shown in the left of the left photo and in the right of the right photo)
On our Vaporetto ride, we passed by many water taxis driving through the canal. Water taxis are pretty much what you’d expect them to be; water versions of regular taxis, yet often with more expensive fares. We didn’t get a chance to go on a water taxi during our time in Venice, but I think that it would’ve been a really fun experience if we had.
That’s pretty much it for our time in Venice! I hope that this post was entertaining to some of you, or maybe helpful to any of you planning on visiting Venice anytime soon. Have you ever visited Venice? If so, how many days did you spend there? If not, how long would you like to visit Venice for? Let me know in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!