A Month in Venice, Issue 37

Venice is mysterious and magical! We first visited in May 2011. We took the Frecciarossa from Florence to Venezia Santa Lucia  and arrived at about noon. It was a strange sensation to go from an ultra-modern train and a station designed in the Mussolini era to a public place without cars, scooters, or bicycles. 

From that point on, we either walked or took water transport. We only stayed for 36 hours and did much of the predictable. We visited San Marco, Ponte Rialto, window shopped for Murano glass, and explored the canals by vaporetto. It was only a one night stay,  so we splurged on an incredible five-star hotel, the Baglioni Luna

The Second Trip – Acqua Alta

Our hotel provided proper rubber boots - these can be bought at little kiosks
Acqua Alta

We went back two years later, a weekend break from Il Sasso. Night had fallen when we arrived.  We had reservations at the Carnival Palace  in the Cannaregio, a very walkable destination from Santa Lucia. There were stacks of school gymnasium tables with short legs and cement surfaces strewn along the road. The next day, municipal workers had set them out as instant raised sidewalks. It was  acqua alta season. 

The tides were not too high. Thus,  I would rate the impact over the next  few days as more entertaining than adventurous. From the comfort of my hotel room, I enjoyed watching the Venetians install front door floodgates and the water rising to submerge the sidewalks. The Carnival Palace provided rubber boots so we always had dry feet.  It was Easter weekend. Despite high tides and rain people jammed the streets. We made it to Murano but spent most of the time really learning to navigate the city.  We knew we had to go back.

Venice is mysterious and magical!

We rented an apartment in the Cannaregio for four weeks in late February 2017. It was located five minutes from the train station, important because the area around Santa Lucia serves as the transportation hub for vaporetto services. 

Our first short trips had taught us the secrets to finding our way around.  Also, we were prepared. We had agreed on which churches and museums to visit. There were tickets to see an opera at La Fenice  and to an intimate performance of La Traviata in a palazzo. We committed to visiting each neighbourhood or sestri including the Lido. 

Carnival costumes

For the first two weeks it was Carnival. Everyday, ordinary people walked the streets in spectacular costumes. I wish that we had arranged costume rental and made reservations to attend a ball. On the weekends, human traffic jams formed in the calli. Piazza San Marco overflowed with visitors.  

We enjoyed the madness on the first weekend but decided to go to Bologna to escape the last weekend of Carnival. An easy one hour train trip away, Bologna made for a great weekend escape. It is home to the world’s oldest university, an amazing network of  arcaded sidewalks, and great restaurants. We also made a day trip to Verona. It has an impressive Roman arena and a functioning bridge that dates back to the Empire. I would like to spend more time there.


The Doges Palace, Basilica San Marco, Academia, and the Peggy Guggenheim make up part of the traditional tourist hit list. Highlights of our visit included:

  • Scuola Grande of San Rocco has a collection of 50 Tintorettos  which Jacopo Tintoretto started in 1575 during the Great Plague and completed in 1587. The museum provides mirrors to view the ceiling masterpieces. It is next door to Basilica Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari 
  • Torcello and the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, which has mosaics from the 12th and 13th centuries. This small island rewards the one hour trip by vaporetto with peacefulness
  • Finding Fondamente Misericordia and de la Sensa, two canal side  streets in the Cannaregio not overrun by tourists. Hardware and grocery stores cater to the local population. The restaurant clientele is largely Venetian. 
  • Having lunch in the hot sun at  Osteria Al Squero, across from Squero di San Trovaso    where craftsmen build and repair gondolas.
  • The joy of discovering Bellinis, Tintorettos, Titians, and other paintings and sculptures in small neighbourhood churches that never make it into the guidebooks. 


Canals come in all sizes

I think that the real joy of Venice is in the memories that it imparts, more than any other place I have visited. 

  • I loved the early morning and evening tranquility. No traffic noises, just the muted sounds of the occasional vaporetto. 
  • Using traghetto and shopping at the Rialto market
  • Sitting canal side with an Aperol spritz at our local bar, Al Parlamento . Better still, as a regular not having to order.  
  • Images of municipal workers in high-vis gear having a glass of prosecco standing at a corner bar before heading home.
  • Discovering tiny out-of-the-way restaurants 
  • Un’ombra con cicheti (Venetian spelling) deep in an area inhabited by locals
  • The stillness of the neighbourhood canals away from the tourist areas
  • The echo of footsteps walking home late at night

I could go on. You will never get this experience on a two day visit. Venice is timeless so take the time to visit properly. A week is good, a month far better to enjoy mysterious and magical Venice. 


  • Look up when walking through the maze of calli, fondamente, and rio tere. Yellow signs show the way to various areas. 
  • Don’t eat at restaurants along Rio Terà Lista di Spagna.  This street leads from the station to Ponte delle Guglie.  They are universally awful and designed as traps for cruise ship passengers and day trippers. Similar spots at many squares should be avoided.
  • By all means, have a glass of prosecco and a sandwich at Caffe Florian on Piazza San Marco. A worthwhile experience but don’t choke when you get the bill. Ten years ago a glass of white, a mineral water, a sandwich with potato chips – €65. A block away,  €15!
  • Venetians do not like day tourists. I have experienced the difference in service given to day tourists and long-term visitors in a 30-second time span.  The barista went from ice to nice when a regular told her he had noticed me around for several days. 
  • Crusie ships are a problem    .  The 6000 or so that work in the industry don’t live in the old city. “No Grandi Navi” signs mean no big cruise ships. Those signs are everywhere. The vast majority of the sixty-thousand people that live on the man-made archipelago do not like cruise ships so take the train, stay a while, and help preserve this beautiful, fragile city. 

The usual reminders (plus one new one):

  • Buy better, buy less, reduce, repair, reuse and recycle 
  • Shop local, support local businesses, buy from local farms, and support local artisans and manufacturers
  • Wear face masks where required, wash your hands, practice social distancing, hydrate, and exercise
  • Join the Australians – cancel Facebook and Instagram!

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