Water, water everywhere is what most people think about Venice. However, our experience was more like people, people everywhere.
It’s true. Roughly 30 million tourists flock annually to the area which is no more than 160 square miles. If it’s summertime (peak tourist season) and you don’t like crowds, you may want to only spend a day or two in the famous city of canals.
Another thing to think about is this: Venice is not ADA compliant. If your hotel isn’t on a canal, a water taxi will do you no good. Instead, you will have to carry your luggage through the tiny street and over bridges which consist of steps, not ramps.
Since our cruise departed Venice and my spouse and kids had never been, we stayed overnight and saw many sites in the limited time.
We arrived around 3 pm via the direct public bus from the airport to the Piazzale Roma – the last place cars can go on the island. It was only about a half-mile walk to our hotel but it was difficult due to having to cross several canals twice. It wasn’t the walking that was hard, but the carrying our luggage up and down the steps on the bridges. Once we got settled and met up with my in-laws, we walked back to Piazzale Roma to take the vaporetto for the Grand Canal cruise.
Now to enjoy Venice! We downloaded the Rick Steves free audio guide of the Grand Canal cruise on two of our phones. We split the ear buds between one of us and one of our children. By getting on the vaporetto (public water bus) at Piazzale Roma, we were the first ones on the boat and got seats at the very front. The audio tour starts at the next stop, which is the train station.
Our boat careened around the corner and palatial buildings greeted us on the way. The Grand Canal is wide – considered the major throughway of the city. Boats, gondolas and other vaporetti swam near us. Next thing we knew, we stopped at a dock where more people got on board. The tour was informative and explained various points of interest including both the Rialto Bridge and the Accademia Bridge, as well as the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and the hotel where George Clooney was married. Everything looked Venetian – that is Roman with a Byzantine influence. At the end of the 45 minute ride, we got off and walked back to St. Mark’s Square, passing by the Bridge of Sighs.
Throngs of people walked past us as we headed past the Doge’s Palace and to the church and tower. It was an Italian holiday and we watch military solders carry the flag. Then, we purchased some of the best gelato!
Walking back to the hotel was another experience. Instead of wide open waterways, we zig-zagged among alleyways and pedestrian-only streets. We crossed over the Rialto Bridge which was filled with shops along both side. I took a time-lapse video of the experience. A few times, we got turned around and the streets are so close together that our cell phone navigation system couldn’t find us. After about 25 minutes, we got back to the hotel and went to the Campo Santa Margherita for dinner.
After dinner, we walked back to St. Mark’s Square because that’s what Rick Steves suggested. In the evenings, many of the day-trippers have gone home and the crowds thin considerably. This was my favorite time. As dusk approached, we enjoyed crossing the Accademia Bridge where a man strummed his mandolin. Near St. Mark’s we window shopped at the many high-end retailers – Gucci, Chanel, Ferragamo and more.
Entering St. Mark’s Square at night was a completely different experience as an orchestra played near by. Walking around, we could enjoy the beauty of the magnificent architecture. We could have listened to the St. Mark’s Square audio guide, but I was toured out. Instead, we found a sidewalk cafe and ordered wine and tiramisu.
The next morning we breakfasted at our hotel and set out for the Frari Church. Located near the Piazzole Roma (and further from St. Mark’s Square), this cathedral was less crowded. Tintoretto, Titian and others’ paintings graced the walls of the caverness holy space. I felt I was in a museum, but no – this is an active cathedral and these paintings and sculptures were commissioned to be here. We did download the Rick Steves’ Frari Church audio guide and it helped tremendously.
Passing through the Campo Santa Margherita again, we stopped for pizza and went back to the hotel to gather our luggage for the cruise. Once on the boat, we had amazing views of the skyline. All in all, I felt we had enough time in Venice. The only thing I regret is not buying a leather purse along the way.