Venice, Italy, July 2016

St. Mark’s Square

We said goodbye to Croatia and bon journo to Venice! After visiting the Venice of China and the Venice of Thailand, and probably a few more I’m forgetting, here we were headed to the real thing. We took a ferry from Pula to Venice which took about 3 hrs (the Adriatic Jet, below). It was fast, too fast to be outside on the deck for most of the trip. The cabin was enclosed and felt like an airplane. We had comfortable seats and we looked out the large windows. 

After two hours, the boat slowed because it was near the islands and traffic of the famous city. The deck was crowded but we could go out there and see Venice and nearby islands as we got closer. The ferry guide explained tour options (there were mostly day trippers returning to Pula on this boat) and mentioned three things I dread in travel: crowded with tourists (100,000 in a city of 50,000 permanent residents), expensive (23 Euros for a cappuccino at one cafe, added fees for sitting down at many restaurants), and humid (95% that day). I had my negative suspicions about Venice in July, but still this was unwelcome information. We would spend five days in Venice, until ML would catch his flight out. 

Bridge of Sighs, chalk artist:

After we got off the ferry, we hustled along with rivers of tourists in the heat past beautiful buildings and souvenir carts. We found the deli-style restaurant where we would meet AR, another friend traveling with us for a time. I had two tiny, disappointing, wildly expensive mini-sandwiches with strange meat inside; it seemed raw. But the a/c and the lemon sodas were delicious. We had just put down our luggage, trying and failing to be unobtrusive in the small space, and looking frequently onto the sidewalk out front when there he was! AR from Philadelphia! It was a happy meeting after planning online and by phone for weeks. It had seemed so unlikely but there we all were!  

Ah, and we were also in the hot, crowded day. We finished our snack, strapped the backpacks onto sweaty shirts, and joined the sidewalk throng again. It was hectic getting to the apartment with eight of us and our luggage through the bustling streets, but we found our fourth floor apartment and looked out the many windows at the miles of terraced roofs, church steeples in the background. We had balconies, too, and air conditioning. Our street (we were 2nd building on the right), rooftops from our apartment:

 It was a comfortable nest for us, only 15 minutes or so walking to St. Marks or to the train station, a church next door, a few restaurants nearby, and it turned out to be nicely quiet at night. Our kitchen with wooden shutters and terraced roofs outside:

My rather negative opinion of Venice changed the next morning when I went out early. Here at last I could appreciate the city built on water, the canals, the classic architecture, all without the crowds and heat. It was quiet. St. Mark’s Square was dignified and elegant. The garbage boats were collecting brightly colored bags of trash and shop workers were sweeping out front. I newly realized the uniqueness of the car-free environment. There are no vehicles here- no cars, motorbikes, not even a Segway or bicycle. Muscly men pushed wheelbarrows filled with boxes, garbage, luggage. These have a special small front wheel to help get up canal steps. Other men pushed carts filled with souvenirs. I never saw women doing these jobs or being gondoliers, by the way. Laundry was being hung out on lines against the buildings, brass hotel fixtures were being polished. Small boats moved on the canals.


I saw people fishing on the main waterway and one morning I saw three cruise ships move in, mountain-like and pulled by tugboats that looked like children’s’ toys. The morning was my favorite time in Venice. 

What could we budget backpackers do here? We walked around a lot, got lost, window-shopped. We enjoyed the classical music, chalk art, and other works of street performers. We went into churches, notably the church of saints Jeremiah and Lucy which houses St. Lucy’s 1700 year old remains as well as a medieval clock. We saw several free exhibits for a design and architecture festival that was taking place. Going into these centuries-old buildings was sublime. We cooked in our well-equipped kitchen and ate on our lovely deck overlooking the church next door as its bells rang out the hour. We walked around Venice in the evening, my second favorite time of day there. Once we saw a water ambulance, and once a water police vehicle. We took photos. The kids read the Thief Lord, a novel that takes place in Venice. We had gelato. I developed a taste for decaf cappuccino at a cafe near our apartment. 

Cheap thrills: decaf cappuccino and writing at a cafe, licorice, distorted Really at a design exhibit:

We found a city park, possibly called La Biennale di Venezia. The kids made friends there and enjoyed the little playground with a tiny zip line. We didn’t go on a gondola ride! Imagine that.

Church next to our apartment- check out the clock face with 24 hours!

The church bells in Venice ring at different times. I read that they used to ring the prayer times for monasteries. ML opined that this is done so that the bells all over the city don’t ring deafeningly at the same time- makes sense since there are hundreds of churches on this little island. We could hear and see in church towers that actual bells are rung or struck. We tried but could not see how this worked. It is a lovely sound; we experienced it in Pula and Zadar as well. We watched a few times in St. Marks Square on the clock tower as figures moved to hammer the bells on the hour. This tower, below, also displays the hour (in Roman numerals) and minutes (in five-minute intervals). 

We watched the turning of the hour more than once, and we saw a miniature that showed the mechanical works of the clock tower in the Marciana library on the Square. Other clocks I saw had four hands, and several showed planets and/or zodiac signs. 

Basilica on St. Mark’s, ceiling in Marciale, Venetian flag:

Venice was nice and I’m grateful we were able to visit. I’d love to see it in the off season and in rainy and snowy weather. I’ll always remember the cappuccino cafe and the quiet morning streets and our send-off dinner for ML (pasta with homemade meatballs, with drinks that couldn’t taste better: wine, champagne, and limoncello!) expertly cooked by Italian American AR. And it was AR who would now road trip with us through Italy! What would happen next? A few more pics of picturesque Venice:

And here we are, cheezin’ Venetian style 🙂


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