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Published: September 16th 2013
Basilica di San Marco
The journey from Dubrovnik to the airport is a reasonably lengthy and costly one but affords you the most magnificent views as you travel along the coast most of the way. We have come to love the European taxi drivers. They arrive on time to pick you up and they get you to where you need to be on time. On the down side they usually reek of cigarette smoke, drive like men possessed and sit on their horn the whole way hurling abuse at every other driver on the road. Hey you can't have everything! Our flight to Venice was with Croatian Airlines. We had flown with them from Munich to Dubrovnik but on that occasion our plane was actually a Lufthansa plane (Lufthansa and Croatia Airlines are aligned.) On this occasion our plane was not a jet but a smaller propeller plane. Personally I like my planes 'big' so I won't pretend I wasn't a little anxious! Turned out there was no need to be because the flight was fine. Our three internal flights have been hassle free which has surprised us a little because of some of the horror stories we have heard about flying within Europe. Our
Basilica di San Marco and side view of adjoining Palazzo Ducale.
preference would be to travel by train because you don't waste time sitting in an airport but sometimes the train journey is just too long so it makes more sense to fly.
We arrived in Venice just after 7.30pm and caught the Alilaguna Water Shuttle to Rialto Bridge. We had done our research on the net the night before which was wise. The alternative is a private water taxi and they are pricey! We are talking $157 as opposed to $22 per person on the shuttle. It was dark so it wasn't as if we could see very much during the journey in any event. Admittedly our hotel was less than 150 metres from the Rialto Shuttle stop where we got off so this was a good option for us but may not be if your hotel is not near the Grande Canal. Our hotel was another beautiful boutique hotel just minutes away from the Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco so ideally located. It has a delightful terrace rooftop bar and on our first night in Venice that's where we sat with a glass of wine in hand and a view of the Venetian skyline . . .
The Bridge of Sighs
a little bit of paradise!
On our first day in Venice we did nothing more than walk some of its numerous passages and paths. Being in Venice is a little like being lost in a labyrinth! Surprisingly, for a couple who has made being disoriented an art form while travelling in Europe, we had little trouble finding our way in Venice. Street signage is good, especially in the heart of the city. It's also somewhere where you really don't care if you do get lost it is just so beautiful. Venice is like no where else we have been in Europe, around every corner there is another amazing door, window, bridge, view, palace, church, piazza, canal . . . breathtaking. And then there is the shopping . . . a mix of low-end trinket stores and middle market to high end boutiques make for great window shopping. The things I would have liked to have bought had I had a bigger suitcase and a larger purse!
Day two and we headed to Piazza San Marco (St Mark's Square), the main public square of Venice whose origins can be traced as far back as 828 AD although the area
Piazza San Marco
of the piazza was not defined by the erection of buildings until 1172 AD. Dominating the piazza is the Basilica di San Marco, the famous Roman Catholic Cathedral and one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture in the world. Full of intricate mosaics and elegant marble work it is absolutely magnificent. Behind the main alter is the Pala d'Oro, a stunning gold altarpiece decorated with priceless jewels. Also housed within the cathedral is St Mark's Treasury, a substantial collection of sacred art, objects and jewels. The history of the Basilica di San Marco is fascinating. Learning of just some of its history during our visit made the experience of being there all the more incredible.
Adjacent and connected to the basilica is the Gothic Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace), the residence of the Duke of Venice who governed Venice until the early 1800's. The interior of the building has beautiful sculptural decorations and art work completed by famous Italian artists, massive council chambers, opulent residential apartments, prison cells, torture chambers and the Bridge of Sighs which connects the prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace. Legend is that it was called the Bridge of Sighs because prisoners
On the Gondola!
would sigh at their final view of Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells. One of those prisoners was Casanova . . . and could also very nearly have been Clive. We always, and I reiterate always, do the right thing when it comes to the taking of photos. If a sign says you can't take photos then we don't take photos, if it says no flash we don't use flash. Sometimes there doesn't seem to be any logic to the request for example when you are outside a building or in a garden. Having said that the logic is probably that they want you to buy the souvenir book but anyhow we adhere strictly to all the rules. Not the case for a large percentage of tourists who merrily click away without any regard for what is a simple request. Sometimes offenders are reprimanded and sometimes the officials turn a blind eye, probably out of sheer frustration. So on this particular day at the Doge's Palace when numerous tourists were taking photos and not being cautioned (in spite of the no camera signs) you can appreciate that we were a little disgruntled when Clive, trying
The Rialto Bridge
to rearrange the contents of his bag, pulled out his camera in its camera case and was pounced on! We were not even inside the building but outside in the courtyard! Some days . . .
Of course you have to take a gondola ride when in Venice so after another walk to the Rialto Bridge (the oldest bridge in Venice) that's what we did. It's not a cheap exercise but one of those things you have to tick off because how do you explain having visited Venice and not having been on a gondola? Yes it's touristy and expensive but it was fun and we are glad we indulged. We're not sure though what we enjoyed more, the ride or listening to all the gondoliers banter and laugh with one another!
On our final day in Venice we caught a water taxi to the Murano Glass Factory on the island of Murano. Murano Glass cover the cost of your fare to the island but you have to find you own way back, that is, 'we will bring you across to the Island to buy but after you have bought (or not) then you are on your own!
A view of the Grand Canal
Watching the glassmakers perform their craft is enthralling and walking through the showroom an experience. The price of some of the pieces is mind blowing. A chandelier can range anything from $1,500 to $250,000! Anyhow an expensive chandelier we did not buy but a nice ornamental piece of Murano Glass we did. However we didn't spend the required $1000 to entitle us to free postage and packaging so the challenge will be to get it home in one piece!
Later that afternoon, after wandering through the Murano village with it's many shops and cafes (and buying a few gifts) we took a water bus to Burano, a fishing village about 15 minutes further on from Murano which is famous for its lace work and brightly coloured houses. Burano was a delightful surprise. It was settled by the Romans in the 6th Century but did not become important until the women started making lace in the 16th Century. The colours of the houses follow a specific system originating from the 16th Century and to this day, if you want to paint your house you must have government approval to ensure you paint in a colour permitted for the lot your
Standing on one of the many hundreds of bridges that cross the many hundreds of canals!
house stands on. Oh and a bonus of visiting Burano is that I purchased a hand made papier mache Carnevale mask. (To Clive's relief I finally found one that I liked.) The mask is the Medico della peste (Plague Doctor) and Clive says I like it because it has a big nose and reminds me of him . . .
We saw and did so much more in Venice than I am able to say here but it's time to end this entry! What I will say to finish is that Venice is unique and beautiful and captivating and fabulous and so very much more than we expected. We so did not want to leave. Next time we visit we will stay longer!
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