Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Venice, Italy

Tue, 2/6/15

Today we would be heading to Venice from Milan. Our train to Venice today would be departing at 10.35 am and it would take about 2.5 hours to reach the Venezia Santa Lucia train station. Our train ticket cost EUR 37.50 which we bought at Milano centrale ticket machine. You could get a promo ticket if you purchase it much earlier which can be done online. Our ticket had a designated coach and seat. Unfortunately that day, our coach no. 9 had faulty air conditioning so the Trenitalia staff told us we could find seats at other coaches. We moved to 2 coaches away (it was too stuffy to stay put ), luckily no one was seated there until we reached Venice.

ticket to Venice

inside the train

Venice, or Venezia in Italian, is built on an archipelago of 117 islands formed by 177 canals in a shallow lagoon, connected by 409 bridges. In short, it is an island! It is located in the marshy Venetian Lagoon  between the mouths of the Po and the Piave Rivers. The canals serve the function of roads, and almost every form of transport is on water or on foot. It is car free! It is connected to the mainland by the Via della Liberta causeway. Cars can pass through the causeway but need to be parked at Piazza Roma, then you need to travel by foot or water transportation , the waterbus or vaporetti. You can also take the traditional gondola, but this is mostly for pleasure rides. A 30 minute ride via the gondola cost EUR 80 during the day and EUR 100 at night (starting 7pm)! This is the standard official rate as shown on signposts across Venice. If you ask the gondola driver (or gondolier) to sing for you, you might be charged more! A gondolier can be recognized by his signature striped shirt and hat.

Venice areal view. Image taken from here

crossing the Via della Liberta towards Venice

a Vaporetti
Gondola rates signage

the inside of the Gondola

A gondolier in action

A gondolier. Image taken from here

The buildings of Venice are constructed on closely spaced wooden piles. The foundations rest on plates of Istrian limestone placed on top of the piles, and buildings of brick or stone sit above these footings. The piles penetrate a softer layer of sand and mud until they reach a much harder layer of compressed clay.

The original population of Venice consisted of refugees from Roman cities near Venice. Other sources reveal the existence of fishermen on the islands in the original marshy lagoons. The first church erected was that of San Giacomo in the year 421. All facts excerpted from here

We arrived at Venice as per schedule and were mesmerized with the view of the Grand Canal coming out of the Venezia Santa Lucia train station. We stopped by at Quanto Basta, a halal eatery very near to the train station, and on the way to our Hotel Marte. We ordered a regular size (the maxi size was too big!) Margherita pizza (tomato and mozarella cheese) for EUR 5.50. We could watch the pizza making live from our table. It tasted really good as we were also famished. We then had the gelato (EUR 3.4 for 2 scoops) which came as a great delight under the scorching hot sun, it was the beginning of summer!

Venezia Santa Lucia train station

the Grand Canal view just outside the train station

Quanto Basta halal signage

Quanto Basta facade

our Margherita pizza was yummy with the succulent creamy hot cheese
pizza size and kitchen where you can watch live pizza making

Quanto Basta's gelato

enjoying gelato by the Grand Canal

We then continued to walk to our Hotel Marte, which was just 5 minutes away and refreshed ourselves a bit before venturing out again. We had to climb up the stairs for check in, and thankfully our room was just next to the check in counter. Our basic room cost EUR 100 for 1 night with free wifi and free breakfast of hot drink and croissant which we had at the cafe just below the hotel the next morning. We were greeted by a lady and her grandmother I assumed, who guessed our nationality correctly! Bravo senorita!

Hotel Marte facade

inside the room at Hotel Marte

our free breakfast

view in front of Hotel Marte
the bridge in front of our Hotel Marte

After refreshing ourselves, we walked to Piazza San Marco, or St Mark's Square, is Venice's biggest square where the San Marco Basilica , San Marco Campanile and Doge's Palace are also situated. The Doge's Palace was the residence of  the Doge of Venice, or supreme leader of the former Republic of Venice and now functions as a museum. The San Marco Basilica was first built in 828 as the chapel of the Doge and is now the Roman Catholic cathedral of Venice. San Marco Campanile is the bell tower of the San Marco Basilica and is 98.6 m tall, originally built in the 9th century as a watchtower or lighthouse. You can actually go up the bell tower to get an areal view of the Piazza overlooking the lagoon. For more facts, refer here

San Marco Basilica

San Marco Piazza

Doge's Palace

San Marco campanile

A bit of walk from the main Piazza to the connecting Piazetta San Marco lead us to the Molo or the quay at the Venice lagoon where gondolas are parked. We sat by the quay for a while, taking in the view of the sea and the busy Piazza with all walks of people. We then proceeded to walk to the Ponte di Rialto, one of the 4 bridges crossing the Grand Canal of Venice. It is the oldest bridge crossing the Canal, built in 1811. Unfortunately, it was under restoration during our visit, so we couldn't get a good picture of the bridge and there were many people too.

Venice's Molo lagoon quay

Ponte de Rialto

view from Ponte de Rialto

From the Rialto bridge, we walked towards the direction of the train station, effectively covering 3 of the 6 boroughs or sestieri of Venice: San Polo, San Marco and Cannaregio by walking. We crossed from San Polo to Cannaregio via the Ponte degli Scalzi bridge, crossing over the Grand Canal back to the train station.

views of the Grand Canal

the bridges of Venice

old Chiesa (church) of Venice
a narrow lane in Venice

the smaller canals of Venice

We then spent time shopping for souvenirs from the plethora of stalls selling fridge magnets, key chains, t-shirts, Venetian masks, Gondola driver costume and Murano glass, among others.  Dinner was Pizza at Quanto Basta again and another round of gelato. Interestingly, while walking around looking for souvenirs, one of the waiters at a trattoria (restaurant), asked a couple in front of us to come in his restaurant for free wifi, which he assumed were from Korea. Then looking at me with covered hair, he offered us halal food. So free wifi for Koreans, halal for Muslims were their marketing pitch ;)

souvenir stalls

Venetian mask

We hung around the ponte (bridge) in front of our Hotel Marte until nightfall and were rewarded with a stunning view of the Venice sunset from the bridge and some beautiful songs rendered by a live strings and guitar ensemble from a nearby restaurant. It was so beautiful that I recorded one of the songs.

sunset in Venice

dusk setting in Venice

beautiful night lights in Venice
walking in the Parco Savorgnan, next to Hotel Marte, the only green lung in Venice

Ah good night Venice, tomorrow morning we would be leaving for Rome.



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