the most famous bridge in Venice, the Rialto bridge across the Grand Canal

Four days in Venice, discovering highlights and hidden corners, culture and great food. This city breathes a special atmosphere; so brace yourself for a barrage of photos!

I have never been to Venice before. To everybody who always said that it was such a lovely city, I told them I thought it was highly overrated. But I have to admit that I was wrong.

view of the Grand Canal, immediately meshmerizing

palaces along the Grand Canal

and many more palaces along the same Canal

doors and windows, ‘street’ side

a fabulous balcony

and Sofia’s blue door, on the Canal

From the moment we got on the vaporetto – the water taxi – that would bring us from the railway station where we arrived to our hotel further down the Grand Canal, I loved it. All of it. From the trip down the canal, with its incredible palaces on both sides – you don’t know where to look! – to the narrow streets and the small bridges crossing smaller canals and to the spectacular palaces and museums with paintings, frescos and ceilings – where you still don’t know where to look! This entire city breathes special atmosphere; some parts are really touristic, of course, but it is easy to get lost in the maze of alleys and canals. Soon you try to find your way through neighbourhoods where normal people live, and shop in small grocery stores, away from the designer outlets and the art boutiques. Only to turn two corners, and be confronted again with an age-old bridge across the Grand Canal, or a 12th Century church full of old masters.

gondolas awaiting customers

the Grand Canal at night

some of the palaces seem to be inhabitat, even

a colourful boat, Canal transport

everybody his or her own jetty

and then there are the numerous smaller canals

at every time of the day, even dramatic sunset

this is near the Rialto market, the town’s open fresh products market

that means fresh vegetables

and lots of fresh fish

who do not always agree with having been caught

and half-way the day, the market area is being cleaned again (courtesy Sofia)

another view of the Rialto bridge

and the San Marco square, with very few tourists

but still plenty of souvenirs, like these carnival masks

and the San Marco basilica, at the end of the day

arched gallery around the square

and a marble staircase of the Palazzo Ducale, at the far end of the square

with decoration in detail

high water on the San Marco square

reflecting the lamp posts – for the last time, perhaps!

another sign of the times, no tourists at the terraces

even a free musical performance doesn’t change that

in the evening, most of the water had gone again

There is no point mentioning each and every monument we have seen is this city, or document it through photos; there are guidebooks and websites much better equipped to do this. I will just post a few of the more unusual pictures. Of an almost empty Piazza San Marco, because the tourists haven’t returned yet in mass to Venice; there are tourists, of course, but we almost never have to make reservations, and if there are any waiting queues, they are for a few minutes, not the hours I read about on other blogs. Of the Campo Giacomo dell’Orio, a lovely square in the late sunlight, and equally lovely on a Sunday morning, when the locals are out in force. Or of  drying laundry, on the day after several days of rain, when it looks like entire Venice has been washing the bedsheets. Or in fact, of a lot of other things, Venice is so photogenic!

We had found a nice hotel in a 17th Century building on the Grand Canal, really convenient next to a vaporetto stop and one of the few bridges across the canal, walking distance to the museums on both San Marco and Dorsoduro, and close to a range of great restaurants and bars. Except that on occasion high water, a combination of spring tide and wind directed onshore, puts large parts of Venice under water, and then ‘close to the Grand Canal’ is most vulnerable! Hmmm. No boots in the luggage of course, but Venice wouldn’t be Venice if those would not be instantly available on the streets as soon as the threat occurs. On our first day we had already experienced the high water close to San Marco – indeed the lowest point of the city – and noticed the raised walk ways that were being put down in the most flood-prone areas. Many shop doors were being barricaded against invading water, and lots of Venetians appeared on the streets with boots, well prepared. But this was also going to be the first time that the flood barriers that close of the Venice lagoon were going to be used, the barriers that had been begun 17 years ago, and had been completed only recently – four or five times over budget. Obviously, Venetians had little faith in them, they have lived here too long already, but lo and behold, against expectations the barriers worked! And for the first time Venice didn’t submerge during spring tide! And we didn’t need boots. A historical day! (For Venice, not for us wearing no boots.)

the Palazzo Ducale and the tower at the San Marco square, from the water

also high water for the gondolas at the end of the smaller part of the square

no work for the gondoliers

neither for this one (admittedly, at 80 Euros per half hour, not something your average tourist woudl easily do)

a sign perhaps, the gondolier’s hats pinned against the wall in a kind of flee market stall

away from the tourists streets, normal people keep their plants

one of our favorite squares was the Campo Santa Margherita, for a drink in the afternoon

here you find the local vegetable store, one of the few non-touristic shops

with, let’s face it, an excellent selection

In the four days we spend in Venice, we stroll the streets, from the little alleys and the campos – the squares – in front of obscure churches, and over the little bridges across the little canals. We skip the gondola, but we do travel up and down the Grand Canal; we take a boat to the outlier island Murano. We admire the incredible private modern art collection of Peggy Guggenheim, as well as the rich paintings of the Venetian school from 13th to 17th Century, in the Galleria dell’ Academia. And we manage to find some really local restaurants among the thousands of tourist traps. Home-made raviolis with scallops, and another one with truffles. Best pizza of my life in a small place near Sant’ Elena, and best sabayon; best sandwiches in what became our daily breakfast cafe. Coffee – espresso, not even the almost solid ristretto – comes in quantities you could conceivably sniff up like a line of coke.

Great place, Venice. Definitely not over-rated.

another favourite square of ours, the Campo Giacomo dell’Orio

this is – or was – the Jewish ghetto, already 400 years ago

with taller buildings, smaller apartments, and just about enough room for the laundry

laundry, in any case, being a thing in Venice – matching the colour of the houses, even

and just another neighbourhood photo

we have seen many churches from the inside, this was one of the most remarkable sculptures in one of them

and the sunlight on the wooden choir, always a thankful subject matter

couldn’t resist this one: plastic boots are for sale everywhere as soon as the flood threatens

and the view from our hotel room, at the end of the day – isn’t it lovely, Venice?

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