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krisek Venice - A travel report by Krys
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Venice,  Italy - flag Italy -  Veneto
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krisek's travel reports

In the rain, Venice seemed to be really sinking.

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Venice's uniqness is unquestionable. It is one of our planet's most striking cities. A visit there certainly becomes unforgettable. It seems to be floating in the sea. But in fact it is slowly sinking.

Gondole parked at Piazza di San Marco with a view over Lido
Gondole parked at Piazza di San Marco with a view over Lido
I had been to Venice on a couple of occasions before. Last time in 1998. So, when Ryanair offered €20 return tickets (all charges & taxes included), I could not resist. I booked my ticket for a short visit a few weeks before I was to travel and tried not to think too much about it. I just wanted it to be an update trip without too many expectations. Although I was hoping for good weather. In the last ten years or so I read many articles about the risks of Venice disappearing really fast due to the instability of the lagoon it was built on and the rising level of the sea. Many photographs emerged of Venice flooded in many places, the most famous of which was the Piazza di San Marco, the lowest point in Venice, covered with knee deep water. A number of statistics and measurements also surfaced summarising the water damage in the last century and predicting the destruction of the entire city.

When I arrived, I noticed little change since my last visit. I did notice on Piazza di San Marco standing water in the drainage points, but I thought it was from the morning rain, which welcomed me on arrival. Later on, however, when the sun came out, the water disappeared and Venice appeared to me exactly how I remembered it. I did not notice any changes in the constructions, the canals, prices, locals' attitude towards visitors, etc. There was only one difference I spotted... Just see below.

Favourite spots:
Piazza di San Marco - photo from the Bell Tower
Piazza di San Marco - photo from the Bell Tower
Piazza di San Marco, once called 'the perfect entry to the world' was dramatic, as always but its quality was terribly reduced by a sea of plastic chairs laid down on the piazza for a concert of some kind. Also the scaffolding on the Basilica di San Marco was disappointing. And yet, no other piazza in Venice could rival this one. Not only for size, but also for this magnificent layout, the archways, and the Basilica at its end.

As a new experience, though, I would have to say that I also loved the Riva Cá di Dio and Riva Schiavoni (vaporetti ##2, 5, 41,42, 52), with a line of gondolas for hire and views over the Lido and the magnificent Church of Health. It was also a busy route complete with a few cafes and bars, perfect for people watching and sipping espresso. It was a funny feeling to realise that I had not had the same impression about this great spot of the city before.

What's really great:
Sandro in his gondola
Sandro in his gondola
The virtual lack of vehicles in the city most definitely contributed to its charm. Feet and boats only move people and things around Venice. Mainly motorised boats, many of which were water buses (vaporetti) and simply private vessels cruised around the canals, substituting motor vehicles.

If one could afford it (€80), then a ride in a gondola was a really great fun. It all depended on the gondolier, however. Skills were not everything. The mood and sense of humour also counted. I would recommend Sandro, who worked at the back of Piazza di San Marco in some sort of cooperative. He knew what he was doing, and for a young chap, he seemed to be good-humoured. That spot, by the Hotel Cavaletto, actually was great for hanging out and watching the guys work their gondolas. On this trip, I discovered that not all gondoliers had to be suspiciously aggressive and pushy, as I remembered it from my last visits to Venice.

Canale Grande - from the Rialto Bridge
Canale Grande - from the Rialto Bridge
Venice has a large number of sights, much about which had already been written. So, I will just say a few words, where I liked to take pictures. There is enough space here to mention about three of them.

The first. The bell tower at Piazza di San Marco. The ride up in the lift cost €8 and the views to all four sides of the world were spectacular. Depending on the time of the day, certain sides would be better for photographing that the other.

The second. The Rialto Bridge. The Canale Grande looked truly spectacular from this bridge. This would unlikely be an original tip, and many people did in fact take many shots there. Famous bridge, famous views.

The third. The bridge at the Academia. The canal looked great in both directions, looking outwards or inwards of the city. The Church of Health looked its best in the afternoon sun.

Hotel Cavaletto (Best Western), a few feet from Piazza di San Marco
Hotel Cavaletto (Best Western), a few feet from Piazza di San Marco
There are many hotels in Venice, none of which should be expected to be a good value, actually. Everything seems very expensive in Venice, particularly restaurants. Some of the hotels are quite plush and posh, based in palaces. They are surely a great venue for a romantic and over-the-top escapades to Venice. Many hotels have entrances from both the water (canal) and from a street. The most extravagant of ways is of course to arrive at a hotel by boat and from the boat enter the main lobby! One of those hotels was the Best Western Hotel Cavaletto. It was right next to Piazza di San Marco. It was not cheap, but the location could not be beaten.

There are a few cheaper hotels in Venice near Piazza Roma, near the train, coach and bus stations, and the municipal car park. They look a bit less glamourous, but they location is good for public transport. Also many vaporetti operate to Piazza Roma, so not so bad for the rest of the city, too.

Floating shop
Floating shop
I did not go out at night in Venice. Apart from its nightlife during the masked carnival, the city does not feature famous clubs. However, while wandering about, I came across two nightclubs. It was much too early in the evening to judge them, but here there are their names: Antico Pignolo Night Club, and Martini Night Club. Both were based in the centre, and both would be hard to find, as they were tucked in narrow lanes. However, a couple of signs, painted on the pavements, pointed in their directions. Obviously, at night it might be tricky to find them, considering I got lost amongst the canals and little alleys in full daylight!

Garibaldi street
Garibaldi street
Garibaldi street with cafes and shops was great for sitting down and watch people ferrying their shopping bags and their faces saying 'so where should we have coffee?'. Compared with the rest of the city, where alleys were mainly very narrow, Garibaldi street might have looked unusual and less cosy, but there was something about it... Also it was not lined with as flamboyant palaces and mansions as those along some of the canals, but rather simple merchant houses, whose ground floors were converted into places of work - mainly small businesses associated with trade, hospitality and entertainment.

Venice also had beaches. They were located away from the main central island, but were reachable by water taxi or a bus. Some of the views towards the lagoon were spectacular. Anyone's read or seen a film adaptation of 'Death in Venice' by Mann?

Caffe Internazionale Di Dal Mas
Caffe Internazionale Di Dal Mas
At the San Zaccaria Jolanda (Castello Riva Schiavoni), there was this very unsophisticated eatery Caffé Internazionale Di Dal Mas serving typical Italian food with all dishes, ranging from grilled shrips to spaghetti to tagliatele to tortellini, etc priced at €9, double espresso €6, and bottled beer €5! The portions were tiny, but almost adequate for a small lunch snack. Also, its spaghetti was tasty, with the pasta cooked 'al dente' to perfection! Sadly my beer glass and the fork were not clean. Yet the view over to the Lido was hard to beat. But there were many other restaurants along the walkway with similar setup and views.

A few nice restaurants along the Canale Grande, some close to Ponte Rialto, where competition was rife, offered really good deals with medium pizzas going for €9! In the past, I associated Venice with prohibitive cover charges (which were charged as soon as one sat down at a table or touched cutlery), but this time, I thought it was rather fair.

Other recommendations:
A view from the Bell Tower
A view from the Bell Tower
When travelling to Venice through the Treviso airport, one had to obtain a coach ticket from a booking office at the airport (best to get the 7 day return €10) or at Piazza le Roma in Venice to/from the airport. There was a great demand for the ride in Venice, as at least two Ryanair flights were leaving in the evening, and there were definitely less seats on the coaches (usually two or three of coaches leaving at the same time) than people wanting to travel. The drivers had no mercy and many of the travellers had to frantically run to the terminal to get their tickets.

Published on Tuesday July 7th, 2009

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Sun, Dec 04 2011 - 12:06 AM rating by italian-link

Very interesting and informative, Venice is a great and unique city to visit.

Tue, Jul 07 2009 - 10:04 AM rating by basia

Krys, a great report, as usual, a lot of interesting information and insights. I was in Venice a few times, but always willing to go there.

Tue, Jul 07 2009 - 10:00 AM rating by porto

Superb Krys, Venice is a great city to stroll around with a camera.I love those piazzas and pizzas!

Tue, Jul 07 2009 - 09:12 AM rating by eirekay

Worth the five stars for the pictures alone! The wonderful text is just gravy!

Tue, Jul 07 2009 - 09:04 AM rating by orlen

Great report Krys, you're making it a habit ;)

Tue, Jul 07 2009 - 07:56 AM rating by jacko1

Great report Krys, as usual you have a good eye for detail and the info that brochures don't contain, you're right about the Campanile, best views by far over Venice and St. Marks Square.

Tue, Jul 07 2009 - 07:39 AM rating by pesu

I love Venice and your report with the exquisite photos showed me again why... :)

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