Friday, March 27, 2015

La Dolce Vita in Veneto - My memorable travels in Venice

Venice - GondolasVenice is just like how I had imagined it upclose. Charming, beautiful, decadent, old world. I have never seen anything like it. 

Mijo and I absolutely enjoyed this trip. Venice is truly La Serenissima!

The sun had just set when we arrived to our Venice hotel. Earlier that day, we had a five hour layover in Amsterdam. The flight from Amsterdam to Venice took a little over an hour. From Venice's Marco Polo airport, we took a bus all the way to Piazzale Roma.  That was the last time we were going to see any land vehicles in four days because it is all water transport in Venice. And then we took a water bus or vaporetto to our hotel. 
Venice - Ponte degli Scalzi

 While waiting for the vaporetto, I met two friendly Filipinas who were also waiting for the same boat. Our brief conversations in Tagalog brought happiness to my tired body and mind. I am glad that whatever circumstance that brought them to Venice, they feel fortunate and they are enjoying every bit of their time there. I stayed at the back of the vaporetto during the first 10 minutes of the ride. 

The remaining faint sunlight created stunning visuals of Venice. All the colors were muted and there was a blue haze over the city. I was admiring the entire scene how the streets are filled with water and boats move to and fro. This was my first glimpse of Venice. I have never seen anything like it!

Venice - Grand Canal

Hotel Bucintoro is on the eastern end of Venice in a district called Arsinale. I am not sure if they name the districts based on the vaporetto stop because the nearest stop from the hotel is Arsinale. Or maybe it is the other way around? 

St. Mark's Square is four blocks away or four bridges away. Blocks here are separated by creeks or sisteros and you need to cross a bridge to get from one sisteros to another.

Even though it was dark already, Mijo and I didn't waste any time. We walked around the area to try to get familiar with the location. We went to St. Marks Square or Piazza San Marco. It is grand! 

Tourists were still hanging out and taking pictures at the square even after 10pm at night.  At this point, I couldn't wait to see it in the daylight.
Venice - Piazza San Marco evening

I woke up early the next day to check the views from our hotel room. We get a view of the Riomaggiore church,  the Arsinale bridge and St. Marks capanille from afar. I was secretly satisfied of this fact because I was the one who picked the hotel.
Venice - Hotel Bucintoro room with a view 

 We tried to see a lot of sites the first day since the forecast was rain the next day. Of course, the main attractions are Piazza San Marco, the Rialto Bridge and a Gondola ride. We even walked around the other side of the Rialto bridge and got to see the Basilica dei Frari.

Here are my views of Piazza San Marco.

I  took this photo from the southwest corner of the piazza. Depending on the time of day, the view of the piazza changes. In any case,  the views are equally stunning.

Venice - St. Mark's Square

I took this photo from a vaporetto. The campanille dominates this side of the skyline. The piazza is huge and you can spend a day or two just checking out its museums and buildings.  

Venice - Piazza San Marco canal

Even in the evening, the piazza oozes with romance. At night when there are less people, I like it when I hear the clacking of shoes against the concrete floor. The piazza creates an echoing sound this time of the day. 

Venice - First evening


We stopped for a gelato break at Manuel Caffe when we finally reached the Rialto bridge. I asked our server if the caffe serves alcoholic drinks and if they sell a bottle of prosecco. We planned to ride the gondola with style. We decided to get a bottle and our server graciously offered us two plastic cups.
Venice - Gondolas

Before we rented a gondola, we made sure they allow alcohol or at least a bottle of prosecco on the boat. We wanted to do the gondola ride the right way. Mijo and I cheered all the people we saw with our prosecco. Salute!
Venice - Gondola ride proseccoVenice - Gondola ride view 1a

Here's a short video of a segment of our gondola ride.

  There are several locations where to take gondola boat tours. They all have standards rates and duration but the difference is the route. The standard daytime gondola ride lasts for 40 minutes for €80. The gondoliers don't sing like they do at the Venetian hotels, though, our gondolier Esteban sang a couple of Eros Ramazotti pop songs for us. I think this was the highlight of the day. This is like the epitome of Venetian experience to me. Sipping refreshing prosecco was the cherry on top. 
Venice - Gondola ride view 1  

The ride was slow and this allowed us to truly see Venice from its canals. We learned from our gondolier that it takes years to learn how to stir a gondola.
Venice - Gondola ride view 5 Venice - Gondola ride view 10 Venice - Gondola ride view 4 Venice - Gondola ride view 3 

 San Marco church and museum
We went to check out the church on a Sunday so the church was closed to tourists during services. The church's museum was open, however, and this provided us a glimpse inside the church and hear the mass. We went back the next day to check out the church.
Venice - San Marco church

Mosaic galore! There are mosaics everywhere you look.
Venice - San Marco church mosaic ceiling Venice - San Marco church art

I noticed that the church is lit when there is a mass going on. The museum is dark when no services are happening. I took the picture on the left from the museum when there was a service going on. I took the picture on the right from the pews when there was no mass.
 Venice - San Marco church inside Venice - San Marco church interior

The Byzantine influences are very evident in the arts. The frescoes and paintings have lots of gold in them. My photos do not do justice because the details are just phenomenal.
Venice - San Marco church artifact 1Venice - San Marco church artifact 2

Venice - San Marco church artifact 3

From the museum, there is a door that leads to the church balcony. I recommend stepping out because the views are stunning from the church. 

Here are the views from the church's balcony.
Venice - San Marco church view 2 Venice - San Marco church view 1 Venice - San Marco church view 1 


For a fee, an elevator ride take you to the top of the Campanille. I would suggest going to the Piazza early enough because there maybe a long line to the Campanille by 10am.
Venice - Campanille 

Here are the views from the Campanille.
Venice - Campanille view 4 Venice - Campanille view 3 Venice - Campanille view 2 Venice - Campanille view 1 

 Rialto Bridge 

I found that walking around Venice is like walking in a maze. The city streets are very tiny and can wind and turn. Add the waterways and the bridges, it is easy to get lost. Thank God that someone thought about putting these signs along the way. 
Venice - Rialto sign

Walking along Venice's tiny streets is a treat in its own. I found small shops selling souvenir items some of them made of glass. Later in the trip, Mijo and I would discover the island of Murano to see where and how the glass items are made.

Here are the view of the Rialto Bridge.
Venice - Gondola ride Rialto bridge Venice - Rialto Bridge 

Venice - Rialto Bridge view

Here's a short video which includes the Rialto bridge the during one of our vaporetto rides.


We also made time to visit the Gallerie dell Accademia to see the works of Venetian artists. The Accedemia is located in the Dorsoduro neighborhood of Venice.
Venice - Accademia facade 

My favorites are Gentile Bellini's Processione painting and the Miracolo painting. They are both in Room XX or 20.
Venice - Accademia Paolo Banquet Venice - Accademia Bellini Processione Venice - Accademia Room 20Venice - Accedemia Bellini Miracolo 

I also noticed the marble floors of the Accademia. Look at that beautiful design!
Venice - Accademia floor 

Neighborhood Walks in San Polo, 

Santa Croce and Dorsoduro 

After crossing the Rialto bridge, we found ourselves lost in the San Polo, Santa Croce and Dorsoduro neighborhoods of the city. Luckily, we stumbled into the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. It is a massive Gothic basilica with lots of Venitian arts inside by artists like Titian, Bellini and Vivarini. They also have arts by Donatello.
Venice - Basilica dei Frari Venice - Basillica dei Frari inside 

Walking around these neighborhoods allowed us to see a different facet of Venice.
Venice - Scuola de San Giovanni Evangelista Venice - Houses
 Venice - Ponte Degli Scalzi stairs

Lots of posters too!
Venice - Posters

 Palazzo Ducale 
There was one day where it rained. We decided to use this time to visit the massive Palazzo Ducale.
Venice - Palazzo Ducale 
Palazzo Ducale used to be where the doge lived. A doge was an elected ruler of Venice for a lifetime of term. The museum showcases the splendor of what used to be the doge's home during Venice's heyday.
Venice - Palazzo Ducale columns Venice - Palazzo Ducale courtyard

The rooms, or sala, are decadently adorned with painting and works of art from ceilings to the walls. After a while, the rooms start to look the same but they are very different. I recommend pacing yourself so you don't burnt out quickly.
Venice - Palazzo Ducale Sala de Colegio Venice - Palazzo Ducale room 1  Venice - Palazzo Ducale entrance stairs Venice - Palazzo Ducale helmets


On our last day in Venice, we decided to take a long vaporetto ride to a nearby island called Murano. This is place is famous for its glass making shops.
  Venice - Murano canal 
Venice - Murano glass blowers

We also had a chance to check out the Glass Museum also in Murano.
I enjoyed the short film being shown in the first room. The film is about Murano glasses and how each glass is made one by one by hand and how the designs are formed using small pieces of colored glasses. How creative!
Venice - Murano Glass Museum Venice - Murano Glass Museum chalise Venice - Murano Glass Museum Vistosi sculpture Venice - Murano Glass Museum blanket

There are also lots of shops to buy Murano glass souvenirs. I noticed that smaller stores do not sell the same merchandises. If they do have similar pieces, the prices are about the same.
Venice - Murano glasses Venice - Murano glass candies

Here is a souvenir bowl I bought. I decided to use it as a tea candle holder. Look at what the tea light can do!
Venice - Murano souvenir

 Food and Wine 

I love Italian food. A popular Venetian dish is anything with anchovies. I tried a dish with anchovies and caramelized onions paired with a bottle of Primitivo at an enotica called Vino Vino. Delicious!
Venice - Vino Vino

 Venice - Vino Vino primitivo Venice - Vino Vino anchovies 

On another evening, Mijo took me to a nice dinner at a place called Osteria Oliva Nera near Arsinale. It was a wonderful meal with great service and food.
Venice - Osteria Oliva Nera Brolio Chianti Venice - Osteria Oliva Nera olives Venice - Osteria Olive Nera squid polenta Venice - Osteria Oliva Nera seafood mix 

Our server even wrote the dessert menu by hand! Chose to share a panna.
Venice - Osteria Oliva Nera dessert menu Venice - Osteria Olive Nera panna cota 

They even served us free samples of their homemade limoncello. 
That one was potent but tasty!
Venice - Osteria Oliva Nera Limoncello 
(I didn't take a picture but they also gave us a free small bottle of olive oil to take home with us.)

To augment our light breakfasts and very late dinners, we had snacks. One of our memorable snacks was at Toletta. It is near the Accademia.

Venice - Toletta Snack bar

I also had the most delicious almond cake ever. This was at Le Cafe near the Accademia bridge.

Venice - Le Cafe almond cake 

By the way, our hotel included the breakfast. Here's what my typical Venetian breakfast looked like.

Venice - Hotel Bucintoro breakfast

Venice is amazing. There are more attractions and sites that Mijo and I were not able to see due to time constraints so I would love to go back one day. 

In the meantime, Mijo and I can go back to Vegas and check out The Venetian again. :)

Grazie e ci vediamo, Venezia!


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