We pulled into the beautiful and very crowded city of Venice in the mid-morning hours. As our ship passed St. Mark's Square we could see how crowded it was on that particular Sunday. As we pulled up to dock we could see some of the source of the crowds as there were at least 8 of the larger sized cruise ships already docked in the "large ship" dock area. Due to the much smaller size of the Silver Wind (our ship) we were able to dock at the much more convenient dock area. We were cleared around 12:30 and got off to join our tour group. We hoped on a small water taxi and meandered around the canals to a dock just outside of St. Marks Square. We met our tour guide and she took us to the Doge's Palace where there was almost no one in the main courtyard. Our tour guide indicated that the Palaces are more crowded in the mornings and relatively empty in the afternoons. We walked around the various floors of the Doge's Palace and our tour guide gave us the history on what a Doge was (an elected official during Venetian times). The Palace is now just a museum but it had courtrooms and many ancient paintings in it. It is connected to the prison via the Bridge of Sighs (look it up). We walked across the Bridge of Sighs into the prison wing and saw the various cells.
We then walked through the Basilica of St. Mark, which is a massive church. It took a while to walk through it as the line was very long and very slow. At the top of the church was the golden lion with eagle-like wings, which is the symbol of Venice. Our tour guide told us that one of the main reasons why the church and much of Venice has survived the annual floods is that the wood they used (a type of oak) for the floors and foundations instead of rotting when soaked, instead petrifies so it is incredible solid now.
Our tour then went to the obligatory sales site of a local glass factory. It was impressive to see a demonstration of how water pitcher was made from a glob of super heated glass in about 5 minutes. The sales room had many special deals for just that day (of course) and while we wanted to purchase something and ship it home, we just decided to hold off. We then walked back to the dock and caught our boat back to our cruise ship’s dock. We were planning to head out after dinner as it was our last night on the cruise with our friends but as it turned out a huge thunderstorm hit so we were glad we stayed onboard. It was the only rain we’d had in the entire week and luckily we were not out in it.
The next morning we checked into our hotel which was right next to the Venice Train Station and continued to walk around the city as we had another 2 full days in Venice before flying home. We walked a LOT that day. We went to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and got a glimpse into why she was so famous and such a lover of art and a promoter of many artists who would become very famous later. After lunch there as well, we were on a mission to have gelato so we journeyed to the shop that was known as having the best (it was good). We walked around a bit more and made it to the Rialto Bridge which is located near St. Marks Square and it’s a great vantage point to see how busy the Grand Canal really is. We had dinner that night in one of the local outdoor restaurants and watched all of the people and tourists walk by.
Our final day there was a bit of the same. Walk around a lot to see various areas, catch a museum or cathedral that we would come upon and eat outdoors and then get gelato. Not a bad way to vacation. We saw the Jewish Ghetto of Venice which is supposedly the original source of the word “ghetto”. There is a large monument built to commemorate the hundreds of Venetian Jews who were taken by the Nazis in WWII. Of the hundreds taken, only under 10 survived to return to Venice.
We never took a true gondola ride along the Grand Canal as it’s known as the biggest tourist trap in all of Europe (around $100 per person to take a 30 minute ride). We crossed the Canal once in a gondola. We walked almost the entire Canal, plus we took our boat the first day down the Canal so we felt that we had done the Canal well enough.
Venice was a site to behold. I had been there when I was 17 and it honestly hasn’t changed all that much since then. It’s a pretty timeless city although we heard that around 1,000 residents were moving out of the city each year and in a few decades Venice COULD become nothing more than a giant museum. It was Al’s first time seeing it so I think he can say he’s done it and now wants to see more of Italy.