On the Canals of Venice…

“Venice is like eating en entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.”

-Truman Capote-

The Grand Canal
The Grand Canal

It’s hard not to be in awe of a city almost 2000 years old, built on a platform of wood…..millions of logs from mountains as far as Croatia and Montenegro, driven into the ground, supporting marble palaces and towers of epic proportions.  It’s a city that walls you in as you wind your way around 118 islands, all connected by over 400 bridges, 30o0 alleys and 170 canals. This incredible destination was built to escape the Barbarian invasions of the Hun, and has survived war, fire, plague and the regular flooding of St Mark’s Square with high tides.  It is a city of testament, a survivor of whatever the universe may throw it’s way, including the more than 20 million tourists a year that descend like locusts, wave after wave of modern day conquerors.  It’s about carnival masks and bustling squares, singing gondoliers and grand canals.  It’s about the gentleman watching out the window no matter the time or day, as the square below fills with tourists eating gelato and locals gather in the bars for a game and typical Venetian tapas.  Venice is crowded and crazy, a magical and unique street free labyrinth.  It is a city not only worth experiencing, but one that commands any travelers attention.

We pulled into the Santa Lucia Train Station via the Thello night train (an adventure in itself) in a bit of a panic.  I had received an email that the apartment we had so carefully planned and reserved for two nights had been flooded.  Not to worry, they were just putting the finishing touches on a brand new luxury apartment and were happy to provide it to us.  As we made our way to our new meeting point, we very quickly learned that Venice and it’s many steps and bridges are not suitcase friendly.  ** If you are traveling with luggage and children in tow, plan your location wisely and utilize the water buses!  Our new apartment was a laborious 5 storey climb, and while it offered incredible views of the Rialto Bridge out one window and the St. Mark’s Campanile out the other, we were disappointed to discover the hot water was not functioning, and the power was apt to go out when we tried to use the stove.  Again, a lesson in travel and a test of our optimism.  Dealing with difficult owners, cold showers and blackouts will eventually happen, and it’s how you choose to deal with it that will make or break your stay.

Getting lost in Venice

Getting lost in Venice is inevitable, and it’s practically a right of passage.  Surrounded by so many tourists who are also disoriented in the narrow alleys, can easily become overwhelming.  And don’t get me started on the selfie stick sellers.  They were everywhere, and were completely obnoxious.  (Although I’m sure many locals feel the same way about us tourists) We found ourselves most enjoying the places away from the piazza and the main tourist sights.  The girls loved walking along the Grand Canal, checking out the many vendors.  We thoroughly enjoyed the view as we crossed the Pont dell’ Accademia over the Grand Canal, walking our way along the outer city edges towards the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute.  The open scenery from the Fondamenta della Dogana alla Salute is beautiful and worth the walk.

The girls on Pont dell’Accademia

Piazza San Marco

Grand is the only way to describe St. Mark’s Square.  It’s a concoction of religion, politics, food, art and people watching.  Religion is front and centre in the beautiful Basilica di San Marco, with it’s ornate facade leading to the open Grand Canal. The gothic style Doge’s Palace is known as the heart of Venetian civil and political history.  The Campanile Bell Tower looms 97 meters above the square, adorned by a golden Archangel Gabriel that rotates with the winds, warning of high water as he faces the Basilica.  The infamous 1499 Clock Tower displays the time of day, phase of the moon and dominant Zodiac sign.  And what square would be complete without space for cartwheels, and well fed pigeons.

Cartwheels in St Marks

A Gondola Ride on the Canals of Venice

By the 16th century there were 10,000 gondolas on the canals of Venice.  Today there are just over 400, and it is about the most overpriced, touristy thing that you can possibly do in Italy….and I’m not ashamed to admit that I loved checking it off my bucket list!  Gondolas of today are very regulated, with each gondolier wearing the traditional black pants and striped shirt.  Even the fares are controlled, you can find details here.  The ride lasts 40 minutes, is more expensive after 7 pm and your route will be decided by where you get on.  We got on near our apartment, and enjoyed passing by the homes of both Casanova and Marco Polo, before passing underneath the Rialto when we returned.

Villages of Glass, Lace and the Oldest Region of Venice

On the advice of a local, we also spent several hours doing the tour to Murano, Burano and Torcello.  I will cover that in more detail in an upcoming blog, but I have to say I absolutely loved this excursion, especially the vibrant colors of Burano, and the kids loved the glass blowing demonstration.  I’d absolutely recommend taking this tour with kids.

Venice was off the beaten path of our Italian adventure, requiring additional planning and time to see.  I am so glad we made the trek, surviving the experience of such a unique and historic destination.  Will I rush to head back?  To be honest, probably not.  Venice does not call to my soul the way Rome, Tuscany or the coastline of Italy does.  But I am so thankful for the opportunity to have witnessed it, and to have shared the narrow alleys and waterways with the people I love most.  We now had Disney, Paris and Venice under our belts, and were ready for the slower pace of the Italian Riviera.  Time to shift gears…..

Next up….Framura and the Cinque Terre!

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”

-Miriam Beard-




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25 thoughts on “On the Canals of Venice…

  1. Thanks for this. My two are desperate to visit Venice! I love getting lost in new places (provided I’m not rushing to get anywhere!) That’s when you can make the most delightful and unexpected travel discoveries.

    1. I hope you get a chance to go! Having had the experience to know how different Italy can be in off season, I’m thinking I would have loved Venice so much more if we hadn’t made our first trip in the summer. It’s one of those places you will research before you go, and learn such an incredible amount about when you arrive. The kids will love it!

  2. I love Venice, such an amazing city with the colours, sights and sounds. We especially enjoyed strolling and getting lost in the maze of streets, although I didn’t enjoy too much the bugs which seemed to feast on me!! Looking forward to your Cinque Terre posts too – another favourite of ours!

  3. Getting lost in Venice is inevitable, now that is very true. wise words right there. Anybody that doesn’t get lost simply didn’t explore enough.
    I loved Venice and what a great place to visit. Thank for sharing this article.

  4. I haven’t been to Venice in years but these photos really make me want to plan a return visit. It’s such a beautiful city with so much history. And such amazing food!

  5. I’d love to visit Italy! Despite us being from Europe and travelling around is so easy we have hardly taken advantage of it!

  6. We loved Venice – and even managed to score a (shared) gondola ride for 1 Euro! It was one of the best travel experiences – watching the buildings drift by and seeing Venice for the water level. Just magical!

  7. Despite the unreliable power and cold showers, it sounded like you had a wonderful time. I’m looking forward to hearing about the recommended excursion. Loved seeing all the photos of Venice.

  8. Without a doubt, one of the most amazing locations on the planet. I’ve been here twice and I could easily go back. Just watched a doco on Venice – it really is an incredible place. It would have been an amazing visit for your kids too, quite a surreal place.

  9. Getting lost in Venice is really unique! i had a map and my good sense and nothing works. It was great, Venice was a nice surprise for me, but I know what you mean if you compare it to Rome.

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