Just because you can’t afford a Gondola ride doesn’t mean you can’t go to Venice! There are cheaper ways of exploring those majestic water canals plus you get to watch people floating about in Gondolas and get inspired.
Venice is serene. Even with the thousands of people everywhere, it still maintains it’s grandeur and serenity.
Venice was part of our grand Italian tour. When we were done with Switzerland we moved on to Italy, with Milan as our first stop. After a couple of days in Milan we moved on to Venice. We took a train (They are very good and very fast) from Milan and spent 3 days taking in the beautiful, picturesque scenery. It felt like heaven.
Where we stayed
We stayed in Hotel Paris, a 3 star hotel that serves delicious breakfast. The hotel is in Mestre, the mainland part of Venice so we had to take a train to and from Venice central. The hotel was just 100 m from Mestre train station.
Mestre to Venice
We took a train from Mestre and in 12 minutes we were in Santa Lucia train station, Venice. We walked up to Santa Lucia cathedral to see the remains of St Lucia.
Her story is touching but her mummified body is a bit creepy. But all in all your faith will be strengthened.
We then navigated the mkotos (small passages) of Venice on foot.
We took our time really, laughed out loud, bought gelato from a mini shop, took many pictures and enjoyed watching solar powered flowers at Venice something University.
We made a stop at the Leonardo da Vinci Museum which showcases Leo’s (I get to call him that) genius through machines, infographics, paintings etc. And what do you know, we fell for the tourist trap and ended up buying t-thirts and some stuff we don’t really need from the souvenir shop!
From Leo’s museum we walked and walked and eventually made it to the cathedral dedicated to the virgin Mary, Our Lady of Deliverance. It was flocking with tourists but we didn’t mind really. We went in and looked around, prayed a bit, took pictures then left.
At that point the famous St Marks Square was on the other side of the canal. And since we couldn’t swim across (I don’t think that’s allowed) and we couldn’t afford a Gondola, our only option was a water taxi.
The water taxi story
As we got out of the cathedral, we saw the water taxi preparing to leave (undocking). We didn’t want to wait another 30 minutes for the next one and we also didn’t have time to buy tickets so we just ran for it, without tickets, and jumped in. When we got off and they asked for tickets, I just shrugged and gave an Oh-I’m-So-Guilty sheepish smile. Either the guy checking tickets thought I was insane or he didn’t have enough English words to tell me off, but he just nodded, smiled back and let us through probably thinking “Shame poor Africans”.
Then we were at the famous St Mark’s Basilica. Yes it’s as beautiful as the pictures depict it and yes it’s a must see and yes the gold inside is real! The square (St. Mark’s square) was overcrowded with people and pigeons (at a ratio 1:1).
We waited out turn and bought tickets for the museum, the Pala d’Oro and the Treasury. Entrance into the Basilica itself is free.
I’d seen many beautiful churches (I hadn’t been to the Vatican yet) but this one, boy oh! boy, so much gold! I just couldn’t believe it. Then we went into the Treasury and what do you know, more gold! The crusades must have been efficient! There’s enough gold in that church to eradicate poverty in Africa and it’s just sitting there for tourists to look at!
Ain’t all these tourist places just clever! Making sure you walk through their souvenir shops when you exit! We bought neck rosaries, hand rosaries and ring rosaries like true tourists!
At this time it was after lunch and we know Man shall not live on Gelato alone so we got some pizza. The shops around St Mark’s square are a bit pricey, but again Venice is pricey but hell for an African Europe is too pricey (Complaints for another day).
We walked around a bit past some fancy boutiques selling size zeros. Then off we went to the islands.
Glass blowing in Murano
We took a water taxi (bought tickets this time) to the islands of Venice making stops at Burano, Murano and Torcello.
In Murano we popped into a factory to observe the glass blowing process. They can mould glass into any shape!
The last supper
Then we had supper by a pretty little restaurant by the edge of the canal. I sat with my back to the water and there were no barricades. The lasagne was really good. Then Love told a joke and I laughed so hard I almost fell into the water. Thank God his reflexes were on point and that was my cue to change seats. After a long dinner we were ready to find our way back to our hotel.
We spent the last day chilling, eating here and there, had a horrible experience at some restaurant but that didn’t kill our vibe. We took the water taxi down the canals and back up all the way, admiring the beauty.
And the 1 hotel I wouldn’t want to step into, just in case it really is a highway to hell (I watch Supernatural!)
And when you tired, don’t be ashamed to sit down like a homeless person.
If you are in Italy, you have go to Venice, your wallet might be upset with you but your heart will love you for it.
1. Note that you will be charged a ‘city tax’ when staying in hotels in Italy and the amount varies city to city. We paid 3 Euros each (R42) in Venice. It’s a tourist tax, don’t ask the poor guy what it is, he probably speaks little English, just pay.
2. Validate your ticket ALWAYS. If you don’t and they catch you, you’ll wish you were back in Africa or wherever it is you came from. They will have the mafia come and throw you out of the moving train! Seriously though, you can be fined up to 240 euros (I read) that’s R3320! So just validate your ticket and don’t let your trip be spoiled, it just goes ti ti and it’s done.
3. Take the water taxi to explore the canals and the islands. Take pictures on the taxi and don’t mind people looking at you funny.
4. Dress modestly when visiting churches, a scarf over shorts is modest enough.
5. Don’t sit down on the chair on St Mark’s square if you are not prepared to pay. There’s musician playing nice melodies around the Square and there’s chairs tempting you to come and sit while you listen. DON’T, IT’S A TRAP. As soon as you sit you’ll be asked to pay a “sitting fee”. We read that before we traveled and we dodged that bullet.
6. There’s a ‘Left luggage’ place at Santa Lucia Train station if you want to leave your bags while you tour.
Then it was bye bye Venice, and off to Florence.