I made straight for the tourist desk when I arrived at Venezia Santa Lucia station and got my 48 hour Hello Venezia travel card, which would provide me unlimited travel on the water buses for that time duration. I had detailed instructions, that I had printed out, on how to get to my bed and breakfast place. Accordingly, I took Line 1, after validating my ticket at the entrance to the boat lines, the main line that went along the Grand Canal and got off at 5th stop at Ca D’Oro. From there, I walked down a short street called Calle Ca D’Oro, then turned left at a large street named Strada Nuova. I suppose I must have taken the wrong turn somewhere here. I ended going up and down tiny streets and bridges, lugging my bags along under the stifling afternoon sun, but not finding the next place, on my printed instructions, which was a little square with a well. No one seemed to know anything about where any street was located because the people walking by all seemed to be tourists and the shopkeepers apparently didn’t live there or explore the area.
I finally managed to get some helpful response from an elderly man, who thought that Ponte Chiodo could be on the parallel road to the one I was on. Since there was no short cut from the road we were currently on, I had to go all the way back to the main road, Strada Nuova and find the right turning point. He was a very kind person, who offered to walk back with me to find the tiny square with a well. We crossed the square and went down a little street branching off its left corner. When we reached the end of the street named ‘Calle Priuli’, he pointed out the little iron bridge saying that I must cross it to get to my albergo. I was delighted when I crossed the bridge and found that the street name was now Calle de la Raccheta, as it was where my guesthouse, 3749 Ponte Chiodo, was located.
I rang the bell of the guesthouse with relief and the person who opened the door looked very Sri Lankan. I found out as I was checking in that he was also from Colombo. After giving me the keys to the gate, house and my room and showing me around the ground floor particularly where the tea and coffee things were located, he gave me a map of the city with some of the restaurants that they recommended marked on it. After chucking my luggage in my room, I left for St. Mark’s square as I had booked a walking tour. However, by the time I reached San Marco and made my way to the starting point of the tour, I found I had missed my tour group and I realised that it was impossible to locate them as there were so many tour groups around the place and thousands of people.
Feeling the heat of the sun draining me, I thought it would be best to explore indoors than walk about under the sun. So, I went to the Palazzo Ducale museum entrance which was the closest to me and got the St. Mark’s square museum ticket, an entrance ticket to the four museums around St. Mark’s square, including Palazzo Ducale and one other museum from a list. That was a wise choice for me as the Doge’s palace provided a cool refuge and great photo angles.
What fascinated me most was the bridge of sighs which prisoners walked across to their prisons in the old days. The bridge apparently was named so because of the sighs of the prisoners looking out through the lattice work for their last glimpse of freedom and the sky.
I finally came out of the side entrance and found St. Mark’s basilica on my right, but I wasn’t able to go inside since entry was closed after 5pm. I walked around the square before deciding to go back to my room and rest.
The next morning, I decided that I would go for a boat ride to the islands, after breakfast. When I sat at one of the tables in the garden, a man who was mowing the grass looked up and greeted me with, ‘Buon Giorno’. I returned his greeting and he put his mowing machine to a side and introduced himself as Mattia, the owner of the guesthouse. He asked me what I would like to have with breakfast and went inside to make my capucchino.
While I had my breakfast, Mattia came over for a short chat and asked me if I was planning to visit St. Mark’s square and the islands. I said I had visited St. Mark’s square the previous evening and planned to visit the islands today. He threw up his hands and said that he didn’t know why some website had put up these two locations as must-sees because all tourists simply went only to these two. “Is Paris only the Eiffel tower?” he asked rhetorically and continued, “There is so much more to Venice that people miss out on.”
“What would you recommend for the visitor to Venice?,” I asked.
He paused his tirade and thought a moment before saying, “A simple walking tour of the city as a start would give so much more insight to the beauty of the place.”
“Well, perhaps you should put up your recommendations on your guesthouse website,” I suggested.
He looked as if he had not considered that before and replied, “It is a good idea. I will consider doing that if only to stop myself repeating my frustrations to each visitor.”
After breakfast, when I went to his office to settle my bills as I was leaving early the next morning before the office opened, Mattia took out a map of the city and made a drawing of the walking route that he liked and suggested for the first time visitor to Venice. I decided to take his recommendation, as he was a Venetian and it was hard to come by Venetians in Venice, and follow the route.
I walked along Strada Nuova towards the Rialto Bridge area, passing an interesting, bustling market and some gondolas on the way.
Then, I had my first glimpse of the famous bridge at the end of the narrow street.
As I edged closer, the crowds increased.
I walked over the bridge where stalls were set up selling souvenirs and trinkets and went to the other side.
Proceeding through streets that were quiet in some places and busy in others, I felt like clicking my camera at anything that I found cute: a little dog standing at a shop doorway, parked gondola, pigeons at a water pump, Venetian masks in a shop window etc.
I reached Chiesa Dei Frari, which according to Mattia, was the second biggest and important church in Venice after St. Mark’s basilica and which he personally liked more. Chiesa Dei Frari was rather huge and imposing. I was not in the mood of exploring the church indoors but chose to sit on some steps nearby and simply enjoy the view from that angle. There were artists painting and selling their artwork near the entrance. Right across from me was an antique bookshop beside a street called Calle De La Passion.
After enjoying the views, I decided to make my way over to Campo Santa Margherita, which Mattia mentioned was around the university area and thus more quieter and less touristy. I was delighted when I accidentally captured on camera a pigeon swooping down, while taking a photo of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari during this bit of walk.
I passed a tiny square called Campiello S. Bocco, after this, and this square seemed to be a busy residential area, with people hanging out their clothes, buying things at the grocery store, collecting water in buckets from the well fountain in the middle of the square, flowers being sold in a shop. It looked like I had walked suddenly into the midst of the private lives of the people of Venice.
I walked on till I reached Campo Santa Margherita and searched for a shade from the scorching noon sun. I found a bench under a lovely, large tree.
After resting and enjoying the sight of stalls with fresh fruits in the square, I walked on towards Ca’ Rezzonica. Mattia had recommended it as a nice museum and as it was included in my St. Mark’s square museum ticket, I decided that I would go and visit the small palace museum. Going in the direction that the museum was located, I passed a fruit and vegetables boat shop.
After visiting Ca’ Rezzonica which was quite nice and had lovely views from its windows, I decided to go back to my room so that I could recharge my camera’s batteries while enjoying some lunch and resting my tired feet.
In the evening, I felt like taking the postponed boat trip to the islands, even if I would not have time to get out and explore the islands. So I walked to the Fondamente Nuove line and took the boat to Murano and Burano. I directly went to the back of the boat and out into the open seating area so that I could enjoy the view and the sea air. Feeling the sea breeze is one of the things I really enjoy, particularly on a boat ride. The route took me past a tiny islets with ruins.
The first stop was Murano which didn’t seem appealing with its factories lined up along its coast. My favourite island was Mazzorbo, which had the cutest looking streets with houses painted in all shades of colours lined along its small streets. A blue house would be adjacent to a yellow house or a pink house. I felt that I would like to stay in Mazzorbo or the neighbouring island Burano, if I had the opportunity to revisit Venice.
When the boat returned to its original starting point at Fondamente Nuova, I decided to extend my boat trip by taking the boat to Lido, which was the stop where the Grand Canal Line 1 ended. From there, I had a nice ride along the Grand Canal, passing San Giorgio, San Marco, Accademia, Ca’ Rezzonica, Rialto and Ca’ D’Oro.
When I left Venezia the next morning, I was happy with my 48 hours in the city and hoped to return some day to revisit.
How was your first visit to Venezia?
To be continued…. Firenze