We planned this trip to celebrate our first anniversary. My leaves for the year were over, so we planned a weekend trip.
Day 1 – 19 November 2022
We had a morning flight to Venice, and we reached there by 11:30. We found a ferry service that would take us very near to our hotel, so we took it even though we had to wait 45 minutes there. When we got down at the stop, we walked to our hotel, dumped our bags in the room, and started exploring the city.
We walked to Piazza San Marco, often known in English as St Mark’s Square and the principal public square of Venice. Piazza San Marco is in the heart of Venice. It is 590 ft (180 m) long and 230 ft (70 m) wide, and is the only “piazza” in Venice, since the rest of the squares are called “piazzales” or “campos”. It was established during the ninth century, but adopted its current size and form in 1177, and was paved one hundred years later. The most famous buildings in the piazza are St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace, the Museo Correr, the Campanile (the Basilica’s bell tower), and the Torre dell’Orologio. It was very crowded, so we decided to take pictures again the next day.
We went inside the Basilica Di San Marco, the cathedral church of the Catholic Patriarchate of Venice. It is dedicated to and holds the relics of Saint Mark the Evangelist, the patron saint of the city. The church is located on the eastern end of Saint Mark’s Square, the former political and religious centre of the Republic of Venice, and is attached to the Doge’s Palace. Prior to the fall of the republic in 1797, it was the chapel of the Doge and was subject to his jurisdiction, with the concurrence of the procurators of Saint Mark de supra for administrative and financial affairs. The Basilica’s interior is predominantly gold-coloured, hence its nickname “Chiesa d’Oro” (Golden Church). The church was as beautiful from the outside as it was from the inside.
We then walked to Ponte Della Paglia to see the Bridge of Sighs. The enclosed bridge is made of white limestone, has windows with stone bars, passes over the Rio di Palazzo, and connects the New Prison (Prigioni Nuove) to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace. The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment. It was built in 1600.
Then, we went to the Ponte di Rialto, which is the oldest of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal in Venice. The current structure was built in just three years, between 1588 and 1591, as a permanent replacement for the boat bridge and three wooden bridges that had spanned the Grand Canal at various times since the 12th century. The Rialto Bridge’s 7.5-meter (24-foot) arch was designed to allow passage of galleys, and the massive structure was built on some 12,000 wooden pilings that still support the bridge more than 400 years later. The bridge has three walkways: two along the outer balustrades, and a wider central walkway leading between two rows of small shops that sell jewellery, linens, Murano glass, and other items to the tourists.
Finally, we went to the Ponte Dell’Accademia, which crosses the Grand Canal towards its lower, southern end, linking the San Marco district with the Accademia gallery in Dorsoduro. It offers two of the best views in Venice, looking along the Grand Canal in each direction. On one side lies the dome of Santa Maria della Salute, and on the other is the quieter bend that eventually takes the canal towards the Rialto Bridge. When we reached the bridge, it was crowded because of an ongoing protest procession.
We went back to our room and took some rest before going out for dinner. We booked a table at Ristorante La Piazza Venezia, where I ordered grilled mixed fish and Rishi ordered grilled chicken breasts and wine. Both dishes were tasty. We took a longer way back to our hotel.
Day 2 – 20 November 2022
We got ready and had breakfast at the hotel before heading out.
We walked to the Rialto Bridge to get a gondola ride. A gondola is a flat-bottomed, wooden boat. It’s 36 feet long, weighs 1,300 pounds, and is hand built in special workshops called squeri, of which there are still a few today. Gondoliers own and maintain their own boats, and the crafts and careers are often passed down from father to son for generations. A gondola is like a luxury car. Although black is the official colour, many are ornately decorated and have comfortable seats and blankets. The gondoliers must wear black pants, a striped shirt, and closed dark shoes. It was too cold, so our gondolier was wearing a jacket on top, so we couldn’t fully see the striped shirt. They usually have a banded straw hat but don’t always wear it. Gondoliers stand up to row and use only one oar, as this is the best way to row through the narrow canals of Venice. Singing is not a requirement for a gondolier, but ours sang a few lines as it was serene early in the morning. Overall, it was a very fun experience.
After our ride, we walked to Piazza San Marco to get tickets for our day trip to three nearby islands. We had 45 minutes until our boat, so we clicked some more pictures at the square. It was still crowded like the previous day, but we didn’t have much choice.
Our first stop was Gino Mazzuccato Murano Glass, which is one of the few ones left on the island of Murano that still has its own production of glass artworks since it was founded in 1958. All the products are made using the old techniques of the Murano glass art tradition. The techniques have been developed through the centuries by the greatest glass masters of this island, who learned and repeated these gestures till they got the perfect product. We watched the demonstration of the production of glass and listened to the explanation of the techniques and their history. After the demonstration, we were directed to their shop, where we bought a glass pendant.
We had 30 minutes before the boat would leave for the next island, so we decided to walk around a bit. Murano is a series of islands linked by bridges in the Venetian Lagoon. It lies about 1.5 km north of Venice and measures about 1.5 km across, with a population of just over 5,000. It is famous for its glass-making. Murano was initially settled by the Romans and, in the sixth century, by people from Altinum and Oderzo. At first, the island prospered as a fishing port through its production of salt. In 1291, all the glassmakers in Venice were required to move to Murano. The island gained fame for glass beads and mirrors when exports started in the following century. The island later became known for chandeliers. The primary industry on the island is still glassmaking, despite a decline that began in the eighteenth century.
We then had a long boat ride to Torcello, which is a sparsely populated island at the northern end of the Venetian Lagoon. It was first settled in 452 CE and is known as the parent island from which Venice grew. It was a town with a cathedral and bishops before St. Mark’s Basilica was built. We spotted Ponte Del Diavolo (Devil’s Bridge), a concrete-and-brick arched bridge with no railings. The origin of the name is uncertain. One version says that Diavolo was the surname of one local family. However, there is a legend about this bridge—about the love between one young Venetian girl and an Austrian army officer. He was killed by a stranger, and the girl made an agreement with the devil to save her lover. We walked to the ruin of the Basilica Di Santa Maria Assunta, which is a notable example of Late Paleochristian architecture, one of the most ancient religious edifices in the Veneto, and contains the earliest mosaics in the area of Venice.
Finally, we reached our final island, Burano, which is another island in the Venetian Lagoon. It is known for its lace work and brightly coloured homes. The name Burano derives from “Porta Boreana,” the north gate of the old city of Altino, abandoned by its inhabitants to escape the barbarian invasions. There are two legends that explain why every house in Burano is painted a different colour. According to the first legend, the fishermen decided to paint their homes with an identifying colour so that they could return to their homes and not get lost even in the thickest fog. The other legend has it that the various colours of the houses identified the different families of the island, which, although not in large numbers, had the same surname, so they called each other by nicknames or the colour of their home. The colourful houses are gorgeous, and there are plenty of spots for taking photos.
After our wonderful day trip, we returned to Venice. I searched for a sunset spot and was directed to Ponte dell’Accademia by the internet. When we reached there, we realised that the view was definitely charming, but it was not possible to see the actual sunset from this location. It was already too late to search for a new spot, so we stayed there for a while, enjoying the beautiful view of the Grand Canal in the golden light of sunset.
We then walked to Santa Maria Della Salute which is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica located at Punta della Dogana in the Dorsoduro sestiere of the city of Venice. The church was designed in the then-fashionable Baroque style by Baldassare Longhena, who studied under the architect Vincenzo Scamozzi. Construction began in 1631. Most of the works of art housed in the church bear references to the Black Death. The Salute is a vast, octagonal building with two domes and a pair of picturesque bell towers at the back. The main facade is richly decorated by statues of the four evangelists, recently attributed to Tommaso Rues. The octagonal church, while ringed by a classic vocabulary, hearkens to Byzantine designs such as the Basilica of San Vitale. The interior has its architectural elements demarcated by the colouration of the material, and the central nave with its ring of saints atop a balustrade is a novel design. The great dome represents her crown, the cavernous interior of her womb, and the eight sides represent the eight points on her symbolic star. When we entered the church, Sunday mass was going on, and it was very crowded. We found an empty spot in a corner where we sat and admired the interior.
After visiting the church, we decided to rest before exploring some more.
After our rest, we went to Libreria Acqua Alta Di Frizzo Luigi which is famous for, essentially, two things: its unique method of storing books, and its beautiful decor. Libreria Acqua Alta literally translates to “high water bookshop”. “Acqua alta” means “high water” in Italian, and in Venice, it is the name not only of this bookstore but of the flooding that Venice experiences each year. As the name suggests, a sizable portion of the efforts that go into running Libreria Acqua Alta is dedicated to making sure that the inventory doesn’t get ruined when the bookstore is flooded. The books at Libreria Acqua Alta are stored in bathtubs, rowboats, canoes, and, most famously, a gondola, in addition to on high shelves. This gives the interior of the store a delightfully chaotic feel, almost like you’re wandering around inside a treasure chest of books. The shop was about to close, and they were starting to lock all the places one by one. We were among the lucky last few people who got to see the displays that day.
Then we walked around a bit in search of a good restaurant where pre-booking tables was not necessary. We found some great outdoor restaurants along the Grand Canal near Rialto Bridge. But many of them needed reservations, others were too expensive, and the Google ratings were also not that great, so we didn’t eat there. Finally, we found a bar that had an option for takeout, so I bought Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia (spaghetti in squid ink), which is a famous Venetian dish. Rishi got a pizza for himself from a pizza store. We had some time while my food was getting cooked, so we explored some more and came across Teatro Goldoni, which is one of the opera houses and theatres of Venice. We took pictures from outside because it was already closed.
We then went back to our room and packed our bags for an early morning flight back to Amsterdam. We had to walk a long way to catch a bus to the airport since the ferries don’t work until 8 in the morning and we had a 7 a.m. flight. It was a great way to celebrate our first anniversary, we enjoyed our trip thoroughly.