Train to Venezia
We spent a few days in Tuscany and Firenze (Florence) and then headed off to Venice. We arrived at the Venezia Mestre train station from Firenze on a wet afternoon. It was a 5-hour charming train ride through the beautiful countryside of Italy.
We arrived in Venice at 1 pm and had 36 hours to ourselves to explore this city on canals. Mestre is the penultimate train stop before the last Santa Lucia station in Venice. We had booked an Airbnb in Mestre to save on accommodation costs. Also the fact that Venice is just a 10-min tram ride from Mestre, with a couple of Indian restaurants in and around, made it a good place for us to rent.
Getting around Venice on foot
Taking the tram from Molmenti station at around 3 pm, we reached Piazzale Roma (the tram stop for Venice) and officially entered Venice – the city on canals! Venice is made up of 117 islands which are linked together by water canals, and numerous big and small bridges. We crossed one such bridge and slowly started taking in the sights of the canals, water taxis, gondolas and vaporettis (water buses) all around us. Yes, you read it right. Water buses and water taxis! The way we have buses and taxis on land, Venice has them on its ancient waterways.
Tip: One can buy tram tickets from newspaper vendors, tobacco shops or vending machines for ACTV’s T1 Line which runs from Mestre to Venice (Piazzale Roma)
Venice – A Pedestrian’s Paradise
Water buses are a prominent mode of transport but Venice, still, is a pedestrian’s paradise. It is not a very big city and can be covered in a short time from one end to the other. From a tourist’s point of view, it is ideal to explore it walking and stopping at nooks and corners to enjoy it. There are hundreds of shops lined along the canals. Cafes, gelatos, delicious baked tidbits and beautiful souvenirs of Venetian masks, Murano glass wares and many others, all make this walk ever so fascinating.
So, armed with google maps of Venice on our smart phones, we started unraveling this labyrinthine maze towards Rialto bridge. All the paths are conveniently marked with directions for the major touristy places, so getting a bit lost here and there is not a big deal. 😉
Tip: The distance and time for walking depicted on maps here is just for reference. We took many more hours and walked more than double the distance mentioned here while exploring the various nooks and corners of Venice.
Soon enough, we leisurely sat at a pasticceria (bakery) near a canal, sipping on hot latte and munching on an cloyingly sweet chocolate cannelloni. The combination of the slightly bitter coffee with the sweet chocolate was not that bad! To add to the breezy experience, numerous gondolas rode past us carrying with them happy families with a big smile on their faces. These gondolas glided past us at just an arm’s length from where we sat, brushing on their happy excitement to us.
Again, we were off walking towards Rialto bridge. Rialto bridge is one of the oldest bridges of Venice across the Grand Canal. It is a crazily crowded bridge on any day of the year. (See the pics to witness the crowds) Lined with shops in the centre, the bridge is always full of tourists clicking away merrily to capture the best vistas of the Grand Canal, this romantic city offers.
We spent some time on the bridge admiring the beauty of the vistas and decided to head back to Mestre through Ponte’dell Accademia, another of the bridges spanning the Grand Canal. It was late evening and we decided to call it a day after a nice Indian dinner in Mestre. Our half a day in Venice had ended beautifully with plans being made for the next day 🙂
1) I would recommend Ristorante Indiano Bombay Spice and Maharani Ristorante Indiano in Mestre if you are craving for some Indian food. The former is located two stops prior to Molmenti station and the latter is just next to the tram station.
2) Unlike India, drinking water is charged steeply at all places in Italy, including restaurants. Hence, it is advisable to buy bottled water from supermarkets which are rightly priced. However, not all restaurants allow you to bring in bottled water for consumption.
The Water Taxi Ride
We started early at around 8 am by taking the tram from Molmenti to Piazzale Roma station. In just 10 minutes, we were in Venice. Acquainted with the place by now, we decided to take a water taxi to Piazza San Marco.
I must admit that riding a water taxi was a beautiful experience. Water buses were overcrowded. Gondolas were nowhere in sight. So just on an impulse, we jumped into a water taxi and were happy with our decision. Cruising at high speeds on the waterways of Venice was extremely thrilling. And with the just the two of us, it was romantic too ;). It was a 15- minute fast ride to the Piazza with the winds blowing through our hair and our faces . Soon, we touched the San Marco square and were standing in front of the huge palace.
Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco is a huge square in Venice and quite popular with the visitors. Hordes of tourists were scattered around the piazza.
The first magnificent building that we noticed from the waterfront was the Doge’s palace. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the Republic of Venice, and is built in the Gothic Venetian style.
St. Mark’s basilica is another marvellous building in the piazza. The facade of the cathedral from outside was splendidly opulent. It reminded us of the power and wealth this unique city wielded in ancient times. Wide-eyed, we took in the beauty of the square with sheer awe, mingling with the increasing crowds there.
After a leisurely Italian lunch, we wandered back to the square and decided to tour the Doge’s palace. Luckily for us, the queue for the entry to the palace wasn’t too big. We opted for the audio guides to be by ourselves as we did not want to be in huge groups. We wanted to marvel at the palace and its history at our own sweet pace.
It took us more than 2 hours to tour the Doge palace. The Courtyard, the Opera, the Doge’s apartments, the Golden Stairs, its Senate room, Secret chamber, Bridge of Sighs, Prisons, Armoury and other chambers narrated a history of its own. We went back into the olden times imagining how things would have been then in Venice.
Tip: Food and coffee prices are comparatively cheaper in the restaurants located in nearby lanes rather than at the shops located right in the popular piazzas
Strada Nuova – A Shopper’s Paradise
It was still early in the afternoon after touring the palace. We still had lots of time on our hands. So, we decided to walk down the cobbled paths of the city admiring a lot many cathedrals and residences along the way. (You can check them out in the map given above)
After a seemingly long walk interspersed with stops for coffee and gelato, we reached Strada Nuova. It is a street which was bustling with all the positive vibes a shopaholic could ask for! The street’s walkway is lined with all kinds of cafes and shops for both the keen shopper and the hungry tourist. We carried out a few impulse purchases on the street and kept on walking till we reached Santa Lucia station.
We had done a lot of walking in our one and a half days in Venice. And we did cover most of the touristy areas of this wonderful city. There are other attractions and places of interest nearby like Murano and Burano islands. These day trips are recommended if one has the time and inclination to explore 🙂 However for us, our trip to Venice had concluded that evening. With a smile in our hearts and memories to treasure, we again took the short tram ride back to Mestre, bidding adieu to Venice.