Yesterday we drove over from Florence to the waters edge overlooking Venice at San Guiliano. We crossed the mountains at Bologna, getting down to 2.5 degrees C, then weirdly up to 17 degrees when we passed through a really long tunnel going under the mountains. We soon passed into the flat lands around Venice. After supermarket shopping and a nice long dog walk round the park next door the sun was beginning to set.
We were up early this morning in anticipation of our visit to Venice, surely on everyone’s bucket list. We had booked a gondola tour in Venice so we thought we had better leave the girls in the van. So, I was on tiring out Lola duty, as we headed off for a run at first light around the park before the other dog walkers were about so she could hoon around off lead. We were rewarded with the most fabulous view of Venice in silhouette at sunrise. It’s a great bit of green space, 2.5 miles of flat tarmac tracks for a run. Lizzy was thrilled to get Kevin to herself without being attacked by Lola for a play flight, everyone was happy.
We called in at reception for tram tickets and walked the ten minutes up the road to the tram stop before the long bridge connecting Venice to the mainland. Within minutes a sleek and gleaming electric tram whisked us across the waters and into Venice with the other commuters and tourists. We then opted for the 25 minute walk across the city rather than the water taxi and had a very pleasurable traffic free amble down alleyways and over little bridges navigating the tiny streets to St Mark’s Square. I had not twigged that the route we were following actually went across the water at one point, which was a quick €2 gondola ride, so clever how that is all built into Google maps.
Venice is such an iconic and photogenic place, it’s impossible not to love it. After all the narrow quaint alleyways, St Mark’s square, Bascilica and Doge’s Palace is such a spectacle of opulence, beauty and craftsmanship. We are so lucky to see it in the bright sunshine and relative emptiness of January. We just had to stop for a coffee in the square.
We walked to the edge of the Grand Canal and looked across the waters to Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute across the canal and the small islands of Guidecca beyond. after a few photos. It was soon time to dash to the meeting point for our gondola cruise.
It was only €30 for a guided tour via Trip Advisor and it seemed like the thing to do in Venice. Well obviously about a hundred other people had the same idea 😂 There was a large crowd already waiting as we were handed our head sets and gondola number stickers based on the language selection for our tour and up to 5 people per gondola according to the advertising.
We followed behind the young guide who was conducting a dual Spanish / English tour as another group headed off for French / Italian. We then had about 10 minutes of our 50 minutes walking down along the waterfront and down narrow, scaffolded and unremarkable alleys with a tour that sounded a little like a ferry announcement system, first one language then another, with about the same level of interest and enthusiasm of a tannoy. When we got to the gondolas our guide announced she was not actually going on the gondolas with us and we could turn off the headsets tour over?!
There was then a fair bit of chaos with the actual boat loading despite our numbered stickers. However, it worked out well for us, as some of the passengers for our boat load had jumped the queue and boarded with someone else, so we got a gondolas to ourselves 😀. Our gondolier was well worth the tour on his own though. He explained his son was with us as he was in training, as he, himself had followed in the steps of his father and grandfather. He spent most of the rest of the time singing slightly out of tune (not per the Cornetto advert though) or exchanging banter with all the other gondoliers. He explained they were all like his family as they all grew up together, as 2nd / 3rd generation gondoliers. They certainly seemed to enjoy themselves, the 11m long gondolas take some skill to get round the corners and seem really quite unstable but these guys handle them with real skill down the busy waterways.
It was a lovely peaceful journey around the majestic Venetian buildings, many sadly in a state of elegant decay. I would love to have made that trip in the heyday of Venice, amongst the elegant society that built the city. We finally emerged into the Grand Canal to return to base where we disembarked. We headed to the Rialto Bridge through the streets of designer shops. It was well time for lunch and we found a top rated restaurant off the main streets where we had the most fabulous lunch. I had sea bass stuffed ravioli with bottarga and cherry tomatoes to start and we shared grilled seafood main.
It was time to head back to our girls after lunch with another walk right across the city to the trams. We have tried to pick up only the best souvenirs from our favourite places, ideally made by local craftsmen. Today we picked up the most beautiful cuttlefish made by Morano glassblower. It has a pearlescent finish and is just perfect, a great memento but now wrapped in many layers of bubble wrap to get home, so no photos!