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9 Intentional Experiences to have in Venice, Italy
June 4, 2019
Amazing homemade pasta and sauces, cobblestone alleys that lead to open squares and arching bridges, creamy flavorful gelato, unique history, Gothic architecture, and a master gondolier who leads you down the Grand Canal and into smaller waterways. Welcome to Venice! There is no place like it on Earth. During our 4 days in Venice, Italy, there were 9 intentional experiences we had. Here’s what we did.
Warning: This is a long post with a bunch of pictures.
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Taking the Train
We took a train ride from Salzburg to Venice during the day so we could see the changing landscape. You can read about my visit to Salzburg here. The trains in Europe are easy to maneuver, clean, on time and worth the wonderful scenery you wouldn’t get to see elsewhere. We purchased point to point tickets and reserved seats because we had a specific schedule to keep. If you want to be more flexible then buy a Eurail pass.
First, we were in the thick of high hills like the movie scenes in Heidi (which btw was filmed in California). The Austrian homes are white with dark wooden roofs and have intricate wood carved balconies with mountains as a backdrop. Next, the homes were a goldenrod yellow with a Tuscan feel and everywhere you looked were wine vineyards. The mountains were still the backdrop and every available space on the hillside had a vineyard. Then the closer we got to Venice the flat land covered in Tuscan colored homes turned into water where the train stopped.
Upon exiting the train station the scenery changed again into Gothic architecture and waterways for days.
Rick Steve’s Audio Europe App
As soon as we arrived we began our first tour. The Venice-Grand Canal Cruise starts at the train station and ends at St Mark’s Square. It was a 45-minute tour which pointed out all the important sights along the way. Thankfully it was the crash course we needed to begin exploring this incredible city. Rick Steve’s has multiple tours that we used during our time in Venice. Be sure and download them all to get the most out of your time.
Getting Lost in Venice
One of the first tips you are given is to allow yourself to get lost in Venice. In my opinion, it’s because you don’t have a choice. You will get lost in Venice and if you tell yourself it’s okay you will fair much better. My friend and I got lost as soon as we arrived. The alleyways are so narrow that the GPS on your phone will put you on a different walkway then you are on. Asking the shopkeepers didn’t help because they don’t live on the island as it’s too expensive. Prayers and the store landmarks on my GPS are what got us to our destinations.
St Mark’s Square
St. Mark’s Square is a happening place. The mornings are quiet however as soon as the cafes and sites open it’s game on. Spend the money and get a treat from one of the cafes. It’s pricey but it gives you a front row seat to all the action.
Not only did it give us a chance to rest our weary feet we spent a good hour soaking in all the Vitamin D we could. We sat in awe thinking “We are in Venice. Can you believe it? We are here! We are actually here!” Adorable kids chased the pigeons, people took photos, and loved ones kissed. It all happens in this square.
St Mark’s Basilica is a one of a kind church with Roman style arches, Greek columns, Byzantine mosaics, Islamic onion-shaped domes, and French Gothic pinnacles. Talk about eclectic. Mosaics illustrating the whole story of Christian existence cover the ceiling throughout the entire building. The priest would use these as visual aids while preaching. This Basilica was built with extreme intentionality. The Greek-cross floor plan symbolizes perfection instead of the more common Latin cross of the crucifixion which emphasizes man’s sinfulness. The central dome mosaic has the resurrected Christ riding on a rainbow raising his right hand to bless the universe. I love this picture of Christ showing his triumphant power over sin and death.
A few tips that you’ll be glad you knew ahead of time.
One, In order to visit the Basilica, read the sign and find the location to check large bags before you get in line. I know it feels weird to drop off your large bag a block away be that as it may everyone does it. If you have waited in line you can come back to the front of the line for your entry into the Basilica however it feels unsettling to cut in front of everyone.
Two, the St Mark’s Basilica tour is free. However, once you get inside there are 3 small sights that require separate admission. Just do it. Especially if you want to get on the roof and see St Mark’s square from above. It’s so worth it.
A Gondola Ride
My PIC (Partner in crime) and I debated whether or not to take a Gondola ride. I’m not going to lie, it was expensive! Price aside when will you ever get to experience a Gondola ride? Wouldn’t you rather say I rode a Gondola in Venice Italy rather than at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas? Heck, YES! There is no comparison. Overall I’m so glad we did.
Is it worth the trip? Yes, but only if you want to see world famous glass artists create a masterpiece right before your eyes in a matter of minutes, one of the 10 most colorful cities in the world, a leaning bell tower, the aqua lagoons surrounding Murano and ladies embroidering delicate original Burano lace by their tombolo (or lace pillow). Each lady has a technique in which they specialize so many hands will work on the same piece of lace. It was intricate and fascinating. We signed up for a Get Your Guide Tour which had a more convenient departure time than Gray Line Tours.
Wanna create your own glass artwork? Again through Get Your Guide, we signed up for a private lesson with a local artisan, Massimiliano Caldarone. WOW! This experience was personal, fun and memorable. Massimiliano is extremely professional, patient and talented. He explained the history of Murano glass and answered all the questions we had. It’s something I will never forget.
Here I am making a glass pendant with the help of local Venitian artist, Massimiliano Caldarone.
Stay in a Monastery
Istituto San Giuseppe is the Monastery we called home during our stay in Venice. It’s used as a school during the week where children of all nationalities are dropped off by Mom and Dad. I had flashbacks to my college days in Boston because the room we stayed in reminded me of my dorm room. Even with simple furnishings it was clean, a great location and had everything two girls needed. Check out www.monasterystays.com for more ideas.
Wait, isn’t Venice sinking?
Yes. I asked a local tour guide and she shared that it usually happens during fall and winter. It’s a phenomenon called the acqua alta. Rick Steve’s has an article explaining more here. As we strolled through Saint Marks Square we saw wooden platforms stacked all over the place. At first, I thought they were booths for the local artisans who sell their wares. In actuality, these are the wooden platforms people walk on to keep from getting wet. So yes Venice is sinking but they have a solution for now. Sounds like a reason to visit Venice sooner than later.
I’m not sure I will get back to Venice with a world full of wonderful travel options. But if I do I’m sure I will have more intentional pieces to share with you.