Monday, June 07, 2010

Italy Day 11 - 6th September 2009.

As promised yesterday, I'm going to finally catch up with posts about our Italian trip last year and the Caribbean cruise earlier this year as there are a few UK trips to mention as well and it's all getting a bit silly now. If I don't get a move on, by the time I get them finished, readers will need a degree in archaeology to make sense of them.

Anyway back to Italy and we're on to Day 11 so in the final stretch. That morning we left the stunning scenery of Lake Como and set off on the 200 mile drive across to Venice. The route took us past Milan and on to Brescia, Verona and Vicenza before pulling into Venice just after 1pm.

Well when I say Venice, I really mean Mestre which is where we parked the car and switched to the train that runs out along the causeway to Venice.

We'd been told that Venice might be a bit 'busier' than usual as two important festivals were taking place on that day.....the Venice Film Festival and the Regata Storica. Busier turned out to be a gross understatement.

The main event, as far as visitor numbers was concerned, was the Regata Storica which is a huge parade of boats and boat racing that they claim has gone on for thousands of years but I suspect they mean hundreds.

In any case the place was rocking and not just because Venice is slowly sinking into the water. It was packed.

The crowds meant that my memories of Venice aren't all that positive. It was almost impossible to see much of the Grand Canal and so we took the opportunity to explore the back streets of the city although streets may not be the correct term.

Venice truly is a unique place. Many other cities may claim to have Little Venice areas where modern, expensive boats can cruise along waterways to lakes or even the ocean but Venice is the real deal. For that reason alone it's worth a visit but I wouldn't go much out of my way to return.

These were the first few photos taken after we exited from the railways station and I have to admit that the first view you get from the top of the station steps takes your breath away. It's just SO different from anything you'll have seen before and in our case, it was made even more unreal as a water ambulance went speeding past us with lights flashing and siren blaring. It almost took out a few gondolas with its wake but the gondoliers are nothing if not expert in both keeping their balance and keeping their passengers within the boat. Welcome to Venice !

These next photos show how the crowds along the Grand Canal made sightseeing almost impossible and even trying to get along the canal to find some quieter areas took forever.

Once away from the Grand Canal, things got much better and we could enjoy the narrow streets and other canals. I loved seeing all the shop windows that had masks for sale and they came in all shapes and sizes, colours and styles. There were lots of lovely quiet piazzas and even totally empty areas as, by now, most of the tourists were watching the regatta.

Usually 'streets' had no walkways at all and so boats were the only way to get around and it was cool to see commercial vessels plying their trade alongside the tourist laden gondolas.

Finally we arrived at the crown jewel of Venice, St. Mark's Square and it was strange to be glancing around at buildings so familiar from tv and movies. Again it was relatively quiet here and as the birds outnumbered the tourists, it was like walking onto the set of Hitchcock's The Birds as they were everywhere, looking for handouts, literally.

Views of the square and surrounding area leading to the Grand Canal were slightly disappointing as the buildings were often covered with huge advertising signs. However it was awesome to get to see the Doge's Palace and, of course, St. Mark's imposing bell tower which then led us out to the open area by the canal.

Here is one of those panorama sites which shows St. Mark's Square and the Doge's Palace better than any photos I took.

After finally being able to take in the views across the Grand Canal, we headed back along the busy waterways and narrow streets towards the railway station for the short train trip to Mestre and the rental car.

We'd only spent about 6 hours in Venice but with the crowds there that day, it was long enough. It had been a long day since leaving Como and we wanted a hotel not far "down the road" and so we stopped at the Hotel DaVito just 10 miles south of the city.

So....Venice; well it was fantastic to see and experience parts of this unique water city. Would I want to go again ? Maybe. But certainly NOT during a festival !

And thanks to Daphne and Stephen for the use of some of their photos.


Daphne said...

I liked the little canals and the back streets best. I would like to go back and see more - - but I agree, on a quieter day!

rhymeswithplague said...

Bravissimo to the photographers!

I've heard that Venice smells awful. Does it?

Jay said...

I LOVED Venice!! And I wanna go back! But you already know that.

I'd love to be there for the Film Festival, and I'd love to be there for the regatta, but it would be nice if it wasn't both at the same time, I must admit. The restaurants must get busy.

Milo said...

I had a 5 day holiday in Venice a couple of years ago and thought it was THE most amazing place I had ever been to. Absolutely incredible. We were staying fairly close to St Mark's square and did a huge amount of sightseeing. The churches are jaw dropping and going inside St Mark's cathedral is also a must. There is sooo much to see, I would definitely recommend going back. And you can take the vaporetto (water bus) all around the canals, sitting outside, and it take you past the isle of the dead (cemetery). The whole place is just amazing when you think of the history. And inside the Doge's Palace is also highly recommended.

We went in low-ish season (was spring or autumn) and it was still extremely busy but not as busy as when you went I don't think.

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