On our second day in Venice we got up early and went straight to St. Mark's plaza (Piazza San Marco) to do the church and museum.
We stood in line for the basilica and after about 1/2 hr of waiting for it to open they let us in. Wow, what an incredible church! The domes, the mosaics, the art. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!
The church is free to enter -- but then you pay money to see each "attraction" in it. We paid for all of them -- the treasury, the alter, and the museum. But my advice would be to just pay for the museum part. The gold and jeweled alter is cool, but not worth the money to see. And the treasury is mainly relics, which aren't really my cup of tea. The best part is the museum which allows you to go upstairs both inside and outside of the church and shows more history, art, mosaics, and more.
Here's some pictures that I took on the "outside" part of the museum...
We spent about two hours in St. Mark's and then took the water bus back to Rialto to get food.
We used the "gelato index" to get some cheap lunch and delicious gelato.
Then we set out on what was quite possibly the longest walk across Venice ever, but it was so much fun!
Guided by my Eyewitness Travel book we walked from Rialto to San Polo to Dorsoduro to the main channel to the mouth of the grand canal by Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute.
First major attraction we hit was the went to the old church, Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. Built in medevil times and filled with all kinds of beautiful art (Titian, Donotello, Bellini, etc.)
Then we walked all of the adorable canals in San Polo and Dorsoduro. I went totally tourist and took a million pictures, but I seriously could. Not. Stop.
I think at this point the Mr. said "NO MORE pictures in front of canals!"
On our journey we spotted some really cool stuff. Like this mask shop the supplied the masks for the movie "Eyes Wide Shut."
And a gondola repair shop (Venice's version of an auto body shop, ha!).
In these less touristy areas we found much cheaper wines, cheeses, and gelatos than we'd seen anywhere else, so we stopped a lot to nosh. Like at this little wine bar.
We ended up on the main channel which was really cool to see too. Lots of bigger boats and more giant old buildings.
We ended up at Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute and the mouth of the grand canal.
Salute was built in the 1600s as a votive offering for the city's deliverance from the plague. It was free to enter, so we did.
It's a gorgeous Byzantine-style church.
I call this picture "Pre-Feminism" -- the two statues depict a nun hugging a cross and a mom hugging a baby -- basically saying that women have two choices, motherhood or church service. I love it!
Also the view outside of Salute is spectacular.
And there's our hotel! The Westin Europa & Regina.
Exhausted we walked back to our hotel for a quick rest and clothes change. Did I mention that Venice was really hot? It was.
Then we ended the day by touring the amazing Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale di Venezia) - which is, in fact, open into the evening in the summer (despite what our dumb concierge told us).
We spent over two hrs looking at all of the the massive rooms and beautiful art. The ceilings in particular are gorgeous.
Oh and the views from inside of the palace aren't too bad either. I could live there. I'm just sayin'.
Touring the palace, it was apparent what a power house Venice was in it's hay day. So much wealth and prestige. Being a bit of a history geek, I loved reading all of the history of Venice. An interesting note is that after Venice was on the decline, Napoleon invaded it and stole a lot of Venetian art, which partly explains why France still has such an amazing art collection.
The Mr. really liked seeing the old "Council of 10" weaponry and the prisons attached to palace. Actually we both really enjoyed the prisons.
One final note on Venice: I know a lot people don't like Venice because it's super touristy, and while yes, it is a tourist mecca, we really loved it! (Just follow the "gelato index" and avoid menus in 5 languages). It's gorgeous and romantic. And it's like taking a step back in time to the 1500s. It's crazy to think Venice was a world power back then, but now the city is pretty much 100% supported by tourism -- kind of a Disneyland with real history behind every canal, palace, and plaza. I'm glad that even though the proverbial "Merchant of Venice" is long gone, that tourism can keep Venice alive.
Next up? Florence!
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