A Day in Venice

Pedro at the door of the Pantalone Apartment.

Wednesday was our only full day in Venice. We were content to spend much of the day wandering the maze of streets and simply watching life happen in the city. Our Pantalone Apartment (even though it is named after the Commedia Dell’Arte character, we called the it Apartment of the Pants) had an espresso maker, so we drank coffee and took our time with a lazy morning. Finally, we packed up the things we had purchased the night before: bread, the yogurt, some spoons and a knife from a drawer, water, and Manja’s honey (a gift in exchange for the honey we brought). We walked out the door into the amazingness of Venice.

Shadows in the water look wonderful.
Santa Maria dei Miracoli was steps away from our apartment, and we passed it every time we left or came home. This is the back of the church, and I took a photo because it’s the view we saw most often.

I was stopped in my tracks while crossing one bridge, when I heard singing. Pedro was the thoughtful one and got a video. I just stood, mesmerized.

I could not get enough of the canal scenes. We were lucky to get beautiful weather on this trip.

Before I came, when I said we would go to Venice, multiple people responded to me that the city we really needed to see is Florence. After approximately two days in Venice, I think anyone who encourages people to go anywhere rather than Venice is nuts. I could live there maybe. It’s incredible. The water everywhere, the old old architecture, the absolute maze of streets and unexpected plazas. Even before we had seen Rome, and did not know what to expect, we knew Venice was outstanding. What could Florence have to beat out the canals and the maze?

Look at this. I instantly wanted to eat at that table.

Things I want to remember from Venice: workers whistling on boats, or while pushing carts through the narrow streets. Oh, porters in Venice! Everywhere. Our Airbnb apartment must have been in a relatively less trafficked area, because when we did enter places where there were a bunch of tourists, it was surprising to us.

We went first to the Piazza San Marco, and saw the biggest crowd of people we had seen on the whole trip. We got nervous about it and began wearing our masks outdoors while in Venice. Some spaces in the city are just jammed with people, especially with the narrow streets. When there’s no room to spread out, what can you do? On arrival in the piazza, I simply stood there agape, sometimes taking photos. The opulence is hard to comprehend, even while looking at it. The Basilica of San Marco is mind blowing.

We moved around the plaza and took photos in every direction, then eventually moved toward the water, looking for a place to eat, but every place with a seat was occupied or in the direct sunlight and it was too hot for that. We moved to some steps but were told not to sit. So we walked to find a place, but it was seriously crowded and we walked a very long time. We wanted a place to sit with a view of the water, and not finding one, we looked for a nice piazza, but then we didn’t care anymore and finally found a doorstep to sit on, in a narrow boring alley across from a Louis Vuitton artistic foundation. A man came to sit near us and smoke. A young guy came out of LV and vaped for awhile. It felt normal (non-touristy) and was nice. There were almost no other people except occasional delivery people. Like I said, the porters were everywhere. One guy wearing a DHL jacket hurried his cart through, piled with boxes.

San Giorgio Maggiore sits on a nearby island.
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute

We went back into the piazza and bought a ticket to ride the lift to the top of the St. Mark’s bell tower. The original building was intended for a watchtower and lighthouse, and was built in the ninth century. It turns out that in 1609, Galileo viewed Jupiter’s moons for the very first time from that bell tower. It collapsed in 1902 (it was a thousand years old!) and was rebuilt, so we did not get to stand where Galileo stood, but close.

There was no line to speak of and we showed our CDC cards and paid a fee and stepped onto the lift. We were told to ditch our masks and switch to the ones they provided. The “duck masks” Pedro says, and we went ”Qua Qua” to each other. The ride was quick and soon we had an outstanding view of the main island of Venice as well as some other nearby islands. It’s clear how congested the island is when you see it that way. You can hardly even spot streets from up there, just houses packed like a game of Tetris. We stayed a long time. There was a pleasant cool breeze and it was pretty romantic and special.

The bell tower was the birthplace of modern astronomy.
Tourists in the top of the bell tower all wore matching duck masks.
Another view of San Giorgio Maggiore.
Views from the bell tower were remarkable.
Tightly packed homes, businesses, and churches of Venice. It’s hard from this perspective to even guess where the canals are. I know this is looking northwest, because there is the long bridge!
Busy, busy port traffic here between the south shore of the island city and the barrier bar islands.

Suddenly the bells went off! It was SO LOUD. We saw the large bells, hanging right over our heads, but they did not move so it wasn’t the clapper. In the video you can see that I focused on the ceiling and mechanisms in there, trying to discern where the hammers were. It wasn’t until I got home and Pedro showed me a hammer in his video. The bells were so loud, people covered their ears.

After the tower we began trying to find things to see on purpose, rather than a result of wandering. The first place we found was the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta. As with most churches around the world, you can step right in. The interior was incredible. Jaw-dropping.

Remember this photo from yesterday? It’s the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta. I have to provide a bit of an explanation for some of my photos that seem to be unnecessarily cropped too close.
The streets and even some plazas are so narrow that it is hard to get a photograph that shows a whole church.

Then we found the Libreria Acqua Alta that Manja had recommended. On the way, of course, it’s like walking through a wonderland, and we could not stop taking photos. The “Bookstore of High Water” was super cool, with a very Portland-type kitschyness. The story of this place is that repeated flooding prompted them to store books in floatable vessels, like boats and bathtubs. Today it is tiny and crammed with books and thus there is very little room for tourists. There was literally a line to get into this extremely popular bookstore. But we went in, and enjoyed it, and even bought some souvenirs there. It reminded us to get souvenirs for Pedro’s kids, so afterward we started paying attention to shops, and when we found one I bought a couple things for my kids too.

Pedro got this great panorama of a square outside of the  Basilica Santi Giovanni e Paolo, or Basilica of Saints John and Paul. The white building right next to the enormous basilica is Scuola Grande di San Marco, Venice’s hospital and the site of a medical museum.
The back door of the bookstore opened directly onto a canal. The “fire exit” sign indicates that people should swim to safety.

Next we decided to go find Giulio the painter, who had been so delighted to meet Pedro the day before. Probably it made him feel closer to his fiancée to be talking with someone from her country. But how was it possible to find him when nearly every place we had been was a result of wandering around and getting lost? We did some sleuthing and used my camera to zoom in on a photo I took at the time, and found a street sign in the photo. Pedro used the street name to GPS us back to the location. Viola! He was there. We bought two of his paintings, one for each of us. He remembered us and gave Pedro a discount. At that point it was 7 pm and we were hungry.

I found where I wanted to live in Venice. Right there with the big garden and lots and lots of windows opening up onto the garden.
Watching Giulio as he rolled up one of his paintings for me.

Prior to our trip and during our trip, we had been advised not to eat at places that were near tourist spots because they would be low quality and expensive. During our last walk, we had passed a nice quiet restaurant that was nowhere near anything, and the people eating seemed mellow and possibly local. I insisted we find it again. So we circled a few times trying to find it. The thing is, when you are in a maze of streets, there are multiple ways to get anywhere. Pedro’s GPS was finding a new route for us each time. It was funny getting lost again, but we eventually found it. I take full responsibility, but this was our worst meal of the entire trip. Service and food was terrible. I didn’t even eat my scaloppine with lemon sauce, and had only my insalata mixta and some of Pedro’s pizza. As usual, after waiting 15 minutes after being completely finished, we had to track down a waiter and ask to pay our bill. Since we had not seen our waiter during our entire meal, this was the first time he noticed I hadn’t eaten, and he asked if everything was ok. I told him it was non molto bene and troppo limone, and he said, ”No no! The sauce has lemon in it!” He was trying to argue that the sauce was correctly prepared, but I didn’t have the Italian words to say, ”Sure, then you eat it, buddy.”

I don’t want to end on that negative note. The best thing about the place was that it truly was quiet. Almost zero tourists walked that street. Furthermore, the entire time we sat there, we were in Venice! And I finally got to use some more Italian words than good morning, and thank you, for a change. Scroll up and see that 99.5% of the day was one of the best days of my life. After we paid, we were both tired and full enough, and we found our way back to the Apartment of the Pants and despite sleeping till 10 that morning, we were ready to sleep again by 9 pm.

10 thoughts on “A Day in Venice

  1. Ahh, thank you for the photos from the Libreria! You look lovely! I can tell how crowded it was and I’m not a fan of that. Maybe in the winter it’s better. Also, it’s great to see Venice from above, I was never anywhere higher up. So you didn’t use any boat at all, not even their ‘bus’? Your photos are so pretty, especially of the shadows on the water, that little table just above the surface, and your future home. Looking forward to visit! 🙂

    1. I’m glad you got to see more photos of Libreria Aqua Alta, since it’s a place you are interested in. Thank you for recommending it. The bookstore was one of the key memories of the day. And yes, you will understand how crowded it was, because as a blogger/photographer, we wait, we take a bunch of photos, then we only post the photos that work. So my photos don’t show that most of the time it was shoulder-to-shoulder. I waited SO LONG (while blocking the aisle behind me) to get the shot of the canal from inside the store, till finally there was a 2 second break between people. (Did you notice the cowboy books in the tub? Love them.) But they were all wonderful friendly people, and a stranger using his English as a second language noticed Pedro and I were together and asked if he could take our photo on the pile of books.

      We did not use the boat taxi. Not even sure how to find and pay for one, or where we would go if we got on. We saw them heading out for other islands, but we didn’t have time for other islands. Everything is so close, the taxi would have been extra effort and expense, and we were having a blast walking and getting lost in the canyons. We did really want to ride a gondola, just to say we had, but there was no time. My future home looks big enough to have a guest room, so you are all invited! It will have to be my third home, because first I’m buying the one near your parents in Piran. Then I would ride boats all the time, going between my homes on the Adriatic.

      1. Yeahh! I support your plan. 😀 I didn’t ride a boat taxi, or gondola, but a sort of boat bus, with fixed stops and relatively cheap. Once in February it was like in a movie on that boat. Venice floating by in a mist… Dream. Ahh, a tub full of your comics! I’d try to hide in a corner in that shop and just watch the water and people pass.

  2. Another fine photo tour. It was heartwarming to have glimpses of your shared humour with Pedro. The singing gondolier was good, and the bells deafening – so it wasn’t all that quiet, then 🙂

    1. Qua! Qua! Pedro and I laugh constantly. He reminded me yesterday of a joke from our trip, about doing eye workouts. During the trip we were noting which parts of our bodies were weak and needed a workout. He complains of poor vision close up and in low light. He said he was going to have to start exercising his eyes, pushing them so they would get stronger, by rubbing in pepper and staring at the sun. I’m still giggling over that.

      Venice was quiet and loud, which is probably appropriate for a city. I’d like to know it better and know how to go directly to the quiet places when I needed them. But even wandering around unsteadily with our necks craned back was not all bad as a strategy, as we often came across quiet places. I feel lucky to have been in the tower when the bells chimed. It was a bonus for our 10 Euros to get up there.

  3. I am glad you didn’t listen to people about not going to Venice, it was wonderful. Scott was a good hubby and got us (and the couple traveling with us) a gondola ride that was part of a large flotilla. But we lucked into having the gondola with both an accordion player and a singer. It was so romantic and sweet. As always, I enjoy seeing your photos!!

    1. Oh Kimberly, an accordion player and singer? That does sound perfect. Oh my goodness. I already knew Scott was the kind of guy you want with you on an adventure, and this is another example. I am so glad you had this experience and thank you for sharing it with me. Looking at these photos must have taken you back. ❤

    1. Omigosh, I know, right. The scene of it was burned into my mind and then later when I was reviewing photos from the trip, I saw that I had taken a photograph, and it was exactly what was in my mind. Venice is a dream. Seriously. I was travelling for two weeks and all I want now is to go back to Venice. I KNOW it’s what everyone else does. I know it’s famous. I don’t care. I want to go back.

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