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