One night I had a vivid dream of a huge ballroom decorated with gold-leaf painted walls, heavy velvet draperies, and colorful settees. People with lavish costumes, their faces covered by intricate theater masks, danced by candle light to violin music. Some copulated in dark corners while others killed the human prey they had been hunting all night. It was a dark and sexy dream.
Until I woke up screaming! I realized I was the prey and my dead body was being dumped in one of Venice’s black, murky canals. I was probably remembering some elaborate scene from one of my Anne Rice books or my synapses had finally made the connection that Venice was the place where my relationship with Max had its last dying gasps.
It is true that Venice is a dark and sexy place, although for Max and me it was more like a beautiful battlefield! At every landmark I can recall a different spat–hands gesturing wildly and voices raised. But I digress. Let’s get back to Venice. The group of 118 small islands are separated by canals and linked by bridges. The ancient place is sinking into the marshes as we speak, and will someday in the future disappear into the Po and the Piave Rivers. Until then there’s many reasons to visit the World Heritage Site, including its architecture, its artworks and its unique setting.
I had the great fortune of visiting Venice twice–once in 2007 with Max when our love was fairly new and again in 2009 when my friend Tennille joined us. Poor Tennille–she had a front seat to our shenanigans. In fact, I invited her to play the role of peace keeper. She did her best.
Both times we caught the train from Verona Porta Nuova to the Venezia S. Lucia station early in the morning. We arrived in about an hour (but wasted 15 minutes while Max and I argued about what time we should buy our return train ticket for. I won that fight.)
Then, wouldn’t you know it, we argued for another 10 minutes about buying an one hour ticket for the vaporetto, the water bus that runs up and down the Grand Canal versus a travelcard that allows for 12 hours on the vaporetto. I said 12 hours, Max insisted on one. (He was right although I hate to admit it. We only really need the hour because we walked mostly everywhere.)
IMHO, the vaporetto is the cheapest way to see Venice, rather than a tour or water taxi. You pay once and then you can hop-on and hop-off the bus to wander the alley ways and stop at all the major sites. The Venice Card may be worth it if you’re staying for more than one day and want discounted admission to several museum, monuments, palace, etc.
Both visits, we had these sights on the itinerary:
- Fish Market
- Piazza San Marco
- Doge’s Palace (book the Secret Itineraries tour – 041-5209070) 16 Euros (check for multiple museum package….)
- Bridge of Sighs
- Basilica di San Marco
- Danieli Hotel
- Murano Glass Factory
- San Trovaso Ristorante
Rialto is the oldest of four bridges that span the canal. Originally built with wood, the bridge was once burnt in a revolt and collapsed several times before the existing stone version was completed in 1591. On either side of its center portico there are covered ramps with rows of shops. The bridge is crowded with shoppers, tourists and shop keepers so try to catch a glimpse of it’s beautiful architecture from a boat on the water. That’s the best way to view the bridge.
Rialto Fish Market
This centuries old market near the Rialto Bridge is a living example of history. Local fisherman pile in here everyday before sunset to be ready when the market opens at 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. Locals and visitors alike pack in to buy the freshest seafood. It’s a huge place and it’s worth a visit just to check out the weird stuff for sale from our vast seas and oceans.
Piazza San Marco
The social, religious and political center of Venice, Piazza San Marco (also called St. Mark’s Square or simply “the Piazza”) is a large open square shaped like a boot with several entry points. Many of the wonders of Venice are located here, including the Columns of St. Mark and St. Theodore where right in front you can hail one of those famous and expensive gondolas. Also, not far from the waters edge is the Campanile and across from it the Museo di Palazzo Ducale and the Basilica San Marco, toward the back is Torrel Dell’Orologio (the Clock Tower), and finally the long sides of the “boot”–Procuratie Vecchie and Procuratie Nuove, with their shops and restaurants.
The scene here is usually lively with street musicians playing some instrument, hordes of pigeons milling around and even landing on people’s heads, tourists taking pictures or dining in the outside restaurants, street vendors selling their goods, etc.
St. Mark’s Campanile
The bell tower of St. Mark’s Basilica, the Campanile is a austere brick tower standing a little over 300 ft. tall. The current tower was reconstructed in its present form in 1912 after the collapse of 1902, but the original was built in the 9th century and was plagued by fires supposedly from lightening strikes. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery–well the Campanile has over 10 replicas all over the world, including Toronto, Berkeley, California, Brisbane, Australia, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Barcelona and Vegas, just to name a handful!
It’s possible, for a small fee, to go to the top of the bell tower using an elevator for an amazing panoramic view of Venice.
This palace is built in Venetian Gothic style and was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the Republic of Venice. It became a museum in 1923. We took a tour of the palace’s many sections including the courtyard, the Museo dell’Opera, the Doge’s apartments, the many counsel chambers, the Bridge of Sighs and the prisons.
It was also within the palace that we saw an actual chastity belt. This device of torture for women was a metal cage for the vagina and anus–think metal thong with two small holes for urination and defecation. The holes had uncomfortable looking prongs that prevent entry… what fun.
Bridge of Sighs
Legend says that lovers will be granted eternal love and bliss if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the Bridge of Sighs as the bells of St Mark’s Campanile toll. Max and I kind of tried it–we kissed under the bridge on a gondola but not at sunset and there were no bells tolling. With so many factors to take into account for the blessing to work, it’s no wonder why our relationship fell apart. Oh well. Speaking of that chastity belt–if only they had a male version…
Basilica di San Marco
Connected to the Doge’s Palace is St. Mark’s Basilica, the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice. The church displays one of the best examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture. The interior is opulent with gold paint everywhere and the exterior has many arches, columns, and domes. Fun fact: Just upstairs and inside the church you’ll spy the Four Horses of St. Mark’s. Found in Constantinople in 1204, they were brought back to Venice (stolen spoils of war). But in order to transport them aboard a ship, they cut the heads off then cast collars to hide the cuts.
We couldn’t leave Venice without checking out the five-star hotel, called Danieli, where all the famous people stay. According to Wikipedia, everyone from Goethe, Wagner, Charles Dickens, Byron, and Peggy Guggenheim to Leonard Bernstein, Harrison Ford, and Steven Spielberg stayed here. Many scenes from the movie The Tourist, starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, where shot here also. The building was erected in the 14th century and remains one of the most posh places to be seen in Venice.
Murano Glass Factory
Venetians have been making glass on the small island of Murano since the 8th century. The families you’ll find there today are many of the same families that have remained since then. Murano glass has a very distinctive style and can now be found all over the world. But, you can go here to see firsthand how it is made and buy it in the many shops on this tiny island.
Unfortunately, by the time we arrived here I was tired and hungry. Max was taking his sweet time shopping for a gift for his mother. I was throwing him shade in every new store he went in until finally I insisted we go. He attempted to put up a fight but I know he was starving too.
San Trovaso Ristorante
At last I was ready for the pièce de résistance! Dinner at the restaurant that Max had been touting since before we arrived in Italy. San Trovaso, he said, had the BEST food in all of Venice. He had been there with his family years before. The restaurant specializes in traditional Venetian cuisine and the best Italian wine.
Unfortunately, it’s quite tucked away. I’m not exaggerating when I say that we were lost for over an hour looking for this place. As I mentioned earlier, I was tired, hungry and now cranky on this hunt. We were at each others throats by then. He nearly picked me up and threw me in the water! (The dream comes full circle).
When we finally arrived at the restaurant to find that it was…closed…we all nearly died. This was a knock out for us all. We ended up eating at the next nearest place but Max made sure to complain that it didn’t come close to San Trovaso.
At least on our journey to find San Trovaso we saw the back streets of Venice and more, including a cute boat museum.
The ride back to Verona was more of the same between me and Max and we split just a few months later. Travel can strain relationships if they’re already bruised–especially Venice with it’s maze-like streets that can bring out the worst in anybody. We’re still friends and he’ll probably get a good laugh out this, although he certainly won’t be with me on my next trip to Venice!