During our recent trip to Italy, we also visited Venice. As the girls had never been there, we thought it would be nice to show them around the most romantic city in the world!
To be truthful, I had never quite loved Venice in the past. It can be an overwhelming place to visit… it’s always packed with hordes of tourists and I have always found navigating the narrow lanes a bit claustrophobic. Besides, Venice can get really hot and humid in summer and freezing cold, windy and rainy in winter (been there, done that!). It is also extremely overpriced and very touristy. For an Italian anyway. I never really understood why people from all over the world would think so highly of it. Up until my last visit, that is.
This time, I decided to see it through my kids’ eyes. They eyes of someone who is used to living in a modern city like Sydney and has never seen a place like Venice before. And I fell in love. The weather was lovely, sunny for the most part and pleasant. The place was packed, but it wasn’t that bad.
I could see my kids looking at the old buildings with curiosity and wonder. All the intricate decorations and colourful facades, the narrow calli (lanes), the little bridges… there was something new to discover at every corner.
Venice is small and easy to visit on foot, so we walked our way from the train station to San Marco Square (and back). I love how you get to such a huge square passing through a series of very narrow lanes… it’s such a surprise!
The square is dominated by St. Mark’s Basilica and the clock tower on one side.
The beautiful arcades opposite the Basilica host cafes and shops.
On the other side, standing free in the Piazza, is the Campanile (bell tower) of St Mark’s Church.
On the right-hand side of St. Mark’s Basilica, you can see the Doge’s Palace and a column with the Lion of Venice.
Nearby, there is the famous Bridge of Sighs. It is an enclosed bridge made of white limestone and has windows with stone bars. It connects the New Prison (Prigioni Nuove) to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace and it was built in 1600. The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment. The bridge name comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice before being taken down to their cells.
A local legend says that lovers will be granted eternal love if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the Bridge of Sighs as the bells of St Mark’s Campanile toll. Though this smells like a tourist trap to me…
In front of the Bridge of Sighs you can take a ferry to visit one of the many islands in the Lagoon. We decided to take the girls to the little island of Murano, famous for its glassmaking factories.
According to Wikipedia “Murano’s glassmakers held a monopoly on high-quality glassmaking for centuries, developing or refining many technologies including optically clear glass, enamelled glass, glass with threads of gold, multi-coloured glass, milk glass, and imitation gemstones made of glass. Today, the artisans of Murano still employ these centuries-old techniques, crafting everything from contemporary art glass and glass jewellery to Murano glass chandeliers and wine stoppers.”
Some of the companies that own historical glass factories in Murano are among the most important brands of glass in the world.
We visited one of these factories and we got to see how they blow glass with a pipe to make different objects. We saw them making a vase.
And a horse. These artisans are so skilled!
After a stroll around Murano, we went back to Venice and we saw the Rialto Bridge, the oldest bridge across the Grand Canal.
Two inclined ramps lead up to a central portico. On either side of the portico, the covered ramps carry rows of shops.
After that, we just wandered around… soaking in the beautiful architecture.
The little squares (called campi).
The souvenir shops, selling glass and masks for the famous Carnevale.
We walked and walked, until we got back to the train station where we took our train back to Milan.
Venice can be very expensive, so we just had sandwiches. I have to admit though that I thought prices were lower than the last time I visited.
We did however have some amazing ice cream from the local Grom shop. Grom shops make very high quality ice creams using only very high quality raw ingredients. They do not use preservatives or artificial flavourings. Their ice cream is among the best in the world! If you are visiting Italy, I highly recommend you to try any of their shops!
RESOURCES ON MSM
RECIPES FROM THE REGION OF VENETO:
HOW TO GET THERE
All major airlines fly into Marco Polo Airport, located 7 kilometres north of the city on the margin of the Venetian lagoon. You can get to Venice from the airport either by sea (water transfer into the historical centre is a ten minute walk from the arrivals hall to the dock areas) or by land (taxi or bus) to Piazzale Roma.
Trains arrive in Venice at Venezia Santa Lucia station. See Trenitalia for timetables and the possibility to purchase advance tickets online. Immediately outside the station are the three separate “Ferrovia” ACTV landing stages where several different water bus lines stop. These will carry visitors all round Venice.
We went to Venice by train from Milan and it took about 2.5 hours.
Since Venice is mostly pedestrian, arriving by car is often a problem. The main publicly accessible area with the bus terminals and parking garages is Piazzale Roma. Parking fees for the garages around Piazzale Roma, when parking is available, can range from expensive to outrageous.