10.02.2010 - 14.02.2010
Venice was another of our must see places while we are living in close(ish) proximity and after a number of people telling us what a great place it is we decided it was about time we went. After a little bit of research we decided to go for the Venice Carnival.
With our newly purchased carnival-style masks, we arrived in Venice on Wednesday afternoon and immediately jumped on a bus from the airport to Venice itself. After reading reviews and talking to friends we decided to stay in central Venice at the surprisingly economical Locanda Ca’ Foscari; Venice is often said to be one of the most expensive places in Europe so we were pleased to find reasonably priced – and friendly - accommodation. Once off the bus we had our first experience of navigating around the canals and crossing the many bridges; central Venice is completely free of cars. After checking in we had a quick look around our hotel and had a Venetian tapa-style meal at Osteria La Patatina Al Ponte: a Lonely Planet recommendation.
The next morning we headed out, map in hand, to (hopefully) navigate our way to San Marco Piazza via Ponte di Rialto. By the light of day we got our first glimpse of why Venice is loved by all who visit; everything about it oozes character, the narrow walkways that are often only wide enough for one person, the canals with boats moored along their length, postcard canal bridges around each corner, the piazzas that appear at the turn of a corner……
The pictures below are one of the alleyways and the sign to the Vaporetto, Di standing by moored gondolas on the Grand Canal, the Grand Canal at high tide, Di at a lovely produce market (delicious pomodorini), the view from Ponte di Rialto:
After a few wrong turns we found our way to Piazza San Marco. Piazza San Marco is the main square in Venice and is where the tourist congregate (as we were to find in the coming days). To our surprise, when we arrived, we found that most of the square was flooded due to a higher than normal high tide. Not really wanting to get our feet wet we explored the Basilica di San Marco which, luckily, was accessible from our side of the Piazza. In the time it took to explore the amazing Basilica the tide had receded and we were free to walk around the piazza dry footed.
One of the most amazing things about Carnival is the masquerade costumes. It seemed that locals feel it is part of their duty as Venetians to dress up and let tourists take photos of them. It was after we explored the Basilica that we first came across the costumes; below is a selection of the amazing costumes and a picture of the flooded square.
After exploring the Piazza we headed off to find a place for lunch and found what would become our ‘local’, the Cava Tappi wine bar. For the remainder of the day we went to the Gallerie dell'Accademia and explored the Dorsoduro district. (Something rather funny just happenend, I am sitting on the sofa writing this blog with MTV on in the back ground and Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ came on and it is entirely shot in Venice, I never knew. The next song was Crowded House...). That night we had a lovely meal near our hotel before crashing to bed.
After another bread and jam breakfast at our hotel we headed back to Piazza San Marco to visit the Palazzo Ducale for the ‘Secret Passages’ tour. On the way we had our first experience of the traghetto. The traghetto is a large gondola which locals (and we) use to cross the Grand Canal inbetween the bridges. At 50c it is a bargain and has to be experienced. The Ducal Palace was the centre of government for the Republic of Venice. The tour took us through the inner workings of the palace including the armoury, minister of secrets (very Ministry of Magic-esque) and the prison where Venice’s famous son Casanova was held and, subsequently, escaped from. The photos below are: a group of tourists stuck by a flooded path at high tide, the traghetto coming to pick us up, a view out to sea from Piazza San Marco and an honesty box in the Ducal Palace. This box was used by the public to report fellow Venetian’s who they thought were breaking any of the republic’s laws:
That afternoon we caught the vaporetto up the Grand Canal to the old Jewish ghetto. The vaporetto is another public transport system in Venice. This was a great way to see Venice from another perspective and we definitely recommend it at least once. Once at the ghetto we got lost wandering through the many small alleyways and piazzas. This was a great way to get a feel of the ‘real’ Venice. After a lot of walking we found our way to the Al Prosecco wine bar in Campo San Giacomo. This little wine bar became one of the highlights of our trip as, over several glasses of prosecco and a cheese platter, we sat on the edge of the Piazza with the locals and watched the world pass by. That night we had dinner at Pizza at Al Sportivi in Campo Santa Margherita and finished the night with several more glasses of prosecco in a wee bar near home. The pictures below are: a gondolier on the Grand Canal, Ponte di Rialto from the Grand Canal, a typical view when walking through Venice, one of the smaller alleyways in the old Jewish ghetto and Di writing postcards at the prosecco bar:
The next morning we discovered what I wished we had discovered two days earlier, Antica Pasticceria Tonolo, an amazing little pastry shop. Here we (along with what felt like half of Venice) enjoyed a pain au chocolat and espresso, all consumed standing at the counter just as the locals do.
Today, we decided to go exploring further afield and set out for the islands of Murano and Burano. Our first stop was Murano which was a 30 minute ferry ride from Venice. Murano is famous for its handmade glass. Even though we didn’t end up buying any souvenirs it was very interesting to look around. Our next stop was Burano which was a further 30 minute ferry ride. Burano is an amazing little island where all the houses are very brightly painted – perfect for testing out the new camera lens. We enjoyed the sun and explored the island, which reminded us both of the Cinque Terra in western Italy.
That night, as it was the final Saturday of the carnival, we donned our masks and headed out to wander the streets and soak up the atmosphere. For our final dinner in Venice we had my favourite, seafood risotto, at Trattoria Pizzeria San Toma. The pictures below are: another typical street in Venice, the main canal in Murano, pigeons washing in one of the many water fountains dotted around Venice, Di and some of the brightly coloured houses on Burano, a Kimono costume on Burano, a lovely water taxi, a family out training in their gondola, a moored gondola at night and our masks:
Our final day started with another pastry and espresso at our new favourite pasticceria. The morning was spent seeing the parts of Venice we hadn’t seen yet. This was a nice relaxing way to spend our last few hours. The pictures below are: the view towards Giudecca from the south coast and a sculpture in front of Punta Della Dogana.
It was sad leaving Venice as it we both felt we could have spent much longer there, but we had a fabulous time and definitely recommend it to any of you have not been.