The main island of Venice is shaped like a fish. It is connected to the mainland or “countryside” by a parallel train and auto causeway. When the train stops, we dragged all luggage to the Water Taxi stand, paid to jump on, and then took the boat to the wrong landing and still have to drag the luggage across bridges and steps to get to the correct neighborhood. Actually, it is kind of fun winding through the narrow streets, viewing the reflections from the watery canals, seeing the cute little shops, and the multiple plaza. It is easy to get lost even with a map. Thanks to google maps and Charlie to get us settled.
We stayed in a small hotel, nothing fancy but certainly clean and convenient to the the main square of Piazza San Marco. That first afternoon, Charlie and Gabrielle left us to explore a little but mostly to take a private gondola ride. Several years ago Janet and I took the same gondola ride, but with our moms in the back seat. Oh yeah, I don't lie! We got back together and went to Piazza San Marco for early drinks and live music, soaking in the atmosphere and the surroundings. We then were off to dinner at a restaurant highly ratedby Trip advisor. The wait was too long. The host offered to take us to another restaurant that he said had the same owner and menu except no fish. OK, we want pasta anyway. He then walked us to the hidden restaurant of the same name. This place was in need of refresh, but the food was good and there was live music. The evening ended well.
We started the day with a paid guided walking tour; no free tours here. The guide was very knowledgeable and directed us around the Venice landscape, streets and exterior sites. We all got a nice overview of the tremendous history. Our walk took us by Marco Polo’s family home, on “Milion” street. There is a big sign affixed to a particular home which is readily seeable by gondola passengers; however our guide thinks the actual home is farther down the street, but still on Milion street. Apparently, as revered asMarco Polo was he was also ridiculed by fellow Venetians as being a grand “exaggerator”. They chided his address and his stories of a million Chinese, a million towns, a million this and a million that, etc, etc. What a funny story.
The next tour was with the same guide and we travelled through the Doge's palace, the dungeon, over the bridge of sighs and its cathedral. The actual halls of power are amazingly decorated. Venice, unlike Florence and the Medici clan, wanted to retard the growth of power within one family. The Venetian council selected it leader every 2-3 years from the elder statesmen of the group. Should the leader get too uppity, he would be exercised, and his portrait removed from the wall of the Doge palace, and replaced with a painted sign indicating his transgressions.
We finished the afternoon by visiting the out of the way “Basilica Dei Frari”. This church had some bizarre sculptures and then some fantastic main altar paintings. The most renowned painting is Titian’s “ Assunta” (Assumption of red cloaked Madonna). This is a Titian gallery of sorts. The side altars are something else as well, with one which had a giant sculpture of 4 Africans carved with black stone acting as pillars holding up the roof of a moseleum.
This day was concluded by an In-house dinner with cooking lessons at the home of a Venetian couple. They were lovely, friendly people who had a very large 3 story home. Their living quarters were on the 2nd floor. We agreed to a meeting point and Giorgio came to lead us through the winding streets to his home. He spoke no english but seemed friendly enough.
When we arrived we were greeted by Santina who spoke little english and a charming young Brit named Anna. She was going to be our facilitator. Everyone thought we had booked through the “Italian Language School”. Surprise, no speak Italian. Thankfully, Anna was there to keep the friendly chatter going. The menu was varied, the cooking methods simple and the ingredients healthy. There wine was good too. Santina and Giorgio had been conducting a greet and meet cooking class for several years. Anna had stayed with them as her host family on her study abroad program. She loved Venice and had returned to live here and maintain her friendship. She really was a sweet person and made our evening thoroughly enjoyable. We would recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and experiencing the same thing. See some photos below of our great time.
On our final day we water taxied over to slender Murano Island to view all the artful glass stores and factories. We had purchased a signed glass sculpture when we were here before, but our kids purchased some nice items. Murano is much calmer then Venice, so our waterfront meal was more relaxing. We did notice some signs protesting the invasion of Chinese made glass products warning against damage to the island’s reputation. From our eyes, there is some glass that looks rather mass produced, but clearly the really artistic glass work with flair stands out; just be careful where you shop.
We water taxied back to Venice to pickup the stored luggage and then tagged alone with our kids as they waited for their train to Rome and the flight home. We greatly enjoyed spending time with family. We may be more home sick now, but there are still many adventures ahead. See some more pictures of our great time in Venice.