Our Anniversary to Italy: Part 20 – What we did in Venice!

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Emily Jablon:  Daraius and I went to Europe in September to celebrate our 2nd anniversary for ~2 weeks.  It was my first time in Italy so I was very excited!  In Italy, we visited Varenna on Lake Como, Milan, Venice, and Rome.

Since we were in Europe, we visited a friend in Strasbourg, France and also spent a night in Zurich.  We started our trip with a one day layover in Chicago to see friends!

Activities In Venice

Daraius in Venice

Our Anniversary To Italy – Trip Report Index:

Here’s what we did in Venice:

We learned of many of these activities from the Rick Steves’ Italy guidebook.

We loved walking around and getting lost in the evening and night in Venice.  The crowds had disappeared, and it was very romantic to be alone and hear the lapping of the water and the lights reflecting from the buildings and canals.

Activities In Venice

1.   Doge’s Palace

We arrived early at the Hilton Molino Stucky Venice, but were told our room was not ready yet.  So, we left our luggage and went back to the main island for some sightseeing.

The hotel has a free shuttle to the main island which stops at San Marco, on the main island where all of the major tourist sites are located, such as St Mark’s Basilica etc.

Activities In Venice

The Hilton Offers a Free Shuttle Boat to the Main Island

We started by touring the Doge’s Palace which was the residence and government quarters of the Doge, or ruler of Venice.

The tickets were 16 euro each (~$22), though there may be discounts.

Activities In Venice

View of the Back of Doge’s Palace From the Grand Canal

The courtyard of the Doge’s Palace was very large and could hold a lot of people.   We were glad there were only a few people visiting!

Activities In Venice

Doge’s Palace Quiet and Empty Courtyard

The Doge’s Palace was spectacular, and it was difficult to imagine that the government operated out of such beautiful quarters (especially since we had just gone to the local BMV before our trip!).

Activities In Venice

Emily Appreciating the Opulence of the Doge’s Palace Courtyard

Once inside, we admired the beautiful entryway, and then climbed the Golden Staircase.

Activities In Venice

Emily on the Golden Staircase

The Golden Staircase was meant to show visitors the Doge’s wealth and power.

Activities In Venice

The Golden Staircase Shows off the Doge’s Wealth

Then we went into several different government rooms which had amazing ceilings with ornate sculptures…

Activities In Venice

Every Ceiling was Elaborately Decorated

and artwork on the walls.

Activities In Venice

The Walls Were Covered in Art

The Doge’s Palace was used as a government building as well as a residence for the Doge.  However, we didn’t see any living quarters, such as bedrooms.

Activities In Venice

Daraius Outside the Doge’s Palace

We also saw a collection of what were once state-of-the art weapons.

Activities In Venice

Doge’s Palace Weapons Collection

We made a quick stop outside the famous Bridge of Sighs and actually passed through the bridge when we were inside the dodge’s palace.

Activities In Venice

Emily on the Bridge of Sighs, Happy She’s not a Venetian Prisoner

2.   St. Mark’s Basilica

The next day, we toured St Mark’s Basilica, one of the most famous churches in the world.

Dress code was strictly enforced here (no short shorts, tank tops, etc), but men and women receive free cloths (like sarongs) to wear on their shoulders or around their waist if they need to cover up.  However, I would not rely on this since it could change at any time!

Activities In Venice

The Entrance to St. Mark’s Basilica

Restoration work was going on so you couldn’t really see the entire church without scaffolding.

Activities In Venice

Daraius in Front of St. Mark’s Basilica

There is no entrance fee to the church.

I loved the architectural details in the old church.

Activities In Venice

Architectural Details of St. Mark’s Basilica

You could spend all day touring the building and still find something new to appreciate!

Activities In Venice

Emily Enjoying the Details in St. Mark’s Basilica

We also went into the treasury which had some nice old challises and bowls, jewelry and other war booty.  It was 3 euro per person and it came with a free English audio guide.  Daraius didn’t care for it much, though.

3.   Piazza San Marco

After St. Mark’s, we went to Piazza San Marco, which is located just outside of the church.

Activities In Venice

Emily Appreciating the Sites in Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square)

Inside the square, there were lots of wonderful buildings, such as St. Mark’s Clock Tower.

Activities In Venice

The Ornate St. Mark’s Clock Tower

There were many cafes in Piazza San Marco that had live music.

Activities In Venice

Chairs Outside of Caffe Lavena in the Piazza San Marco Cafe to Listen to Music

There’s also a tower in the square, St. Mark’s Campanile, but we never made our way inside.  Actually, we stood in line, but didn’t wasn’t moving, so we bailed out.

I imagine it had some pretty views on Venice and its canals!

Activities In Venice

Daraius in Front of St. Mark’s Campanile

Instead we went for gelato at Caffe Lavena which is on the square.  They had beautiful chandeliers.

Activities In Venice

There Were Chandeliers in Caffe Lavena

There were a lot of flavors but we shared a gelato to keep our costs down!

Activities In Venice

Emily Enjoying the Gelato at Caffe Lavena

4.   Traghetto Ride

In the afternoon, we went for a traghetto ride, which is an extremely short and cheap gondola ride across the canal.  Regular gondola rides last ~40 minutes and cost 80 euros or ~$109.

We learned about the poor person’s gondola ride from the Rick Steves’ Italy guidebook.

Activities In Venice

The Gondola Stand run by Paul & Shark Clothing

It cost 2 euro or ~$3 for a Traghetto ride across the canal.  But the ride is only 2 to 3 minutes!

Activities In Venice

Traghetto Schedule With Different Prices for Locals vs Tourists

We thought this might be at least a 5 minute boat ride, but it was only across the water to the opposite side!

Activities In Venice

Traghetto Rides Only Take you Across to the Other Side

It was a 2 euro ride, so at about 1 euro per minute it is probably the cheapest way to get a ”gondola” experience.

Activities In Venice

Emily at the Traghetto Gondola, Only 2 Euro

Maybe it would have been worth paying the high price for an actual gondola!

We wanted to save money so tried the traghetto.

Activities In Venice

Daraius and Emily on the Traghetto

Rick Steve’s writes that you’ll look less like a tourist if you stand.  We tried standing, but I’m sure the camera gave us away!  It was fun but wobbly!

Activities In Venice

Emily Having fun Standing up in the Traghetto

5.   Slow Boat Bus Tour

The buses in Venice are actually boats that take you around the stops on the canal and rivers.  We decided to take the route suggested in the Rick Steves’ Italy book, which highlights interesting sites around Venice!

We took a water bus from the Hilton Molino Stucky to the train station and switched to the #1 slow water bus at the train station.

Activities In Venice

There was a Timetable so we Knew the Schedule

We wanted to sit in the front, but it was blocked off with boat equipment and chained up.

The back of the boat had no views, so we decided to stand towards the front of the boat for the tour.  We started in the evening and it was dark by the time we finished.  It was very romantic!

Activities In Venice

Emily Standing in the Boat

It took about 45 minutes to 1 hour to complete the trip.

Along the way, we saw some homes with beautiful Venetian Gothic architecture.  Many were former palaces that have been turned into government buildings or museums, like the Museo di Storia Naturale di Venezia (Natural History Museum).

Activities In Venice

We Sailed by the Museo di Storia Naturale di Venezia (Natural History Museum)

Some have seen their ground floors flooded and others have taken great care to ensure theirs don’t get flooded.

Activities In Venice

Daraius on the Slow Boat

We also saw the Turkish Exchange and the German Exchange.  And of course the famous Rialto Bridge

Activities In Venice

Emily Excited to see the Rialto Bridge

and lots of gondolas.

Activities In Venice

We saw Lots of Gondolas While Riding the Slow Boat

It was really romantic to be on the boat at sunset.

Activities In Venice

Enjoying the Sunset From our Slow Boat Ride

Before our last stop, we passed St. Mark’s Square and saw the Clock Tower, dome of St. Mark’s Basilica, and the Doge’s Palace.

Activities In Venice

Passing by St. Mark’s Square, St. Mark’s Basilica, and Doge’s Palace

6.   Venice at Night

Walking in Venice at night was much more enjoyable than during the day.  It’s very romantic when it’s dark, the light bounces off the water and the street musicians come out to serenade lovers!

Activities In Venice

As Expected, Venice is Very Romantic at Night

It is less busy because the tourists who visit for only a day leave in the evening.

Activities In Venice

Daraius Enjoying our Walk to the Rialto Bridge

After the boat tour, Daraius and I walked to the Rialto Bridge,

Activities In Venice

Emily Appreciating the Quiet at the Rialto Bridge

and then to the Rialto Market where we discovered a carnival shop.

Activities In Venice

Rialto Market Carnival Shop

We liked our evening slow-boat tour so much that we took another ride along the grand canal.  It was nice seeing the beautiful homes along the canal, and some of them we could see inside, which were richly decorated and had ornate chandeliers.

We really liked Venice in the evening and nights, but I didn’t like the crowds during the day.  Daraius doesn’t mind crowds as much as I do.  But I felt that Venice was more crowded than India!

Activities In Venice

Where did They Come From?

Bottom Line:

I always wanted to visit Venice since I was a child, and miles and points helped me get there!

Families would really enjoy Venice because there is lots of stuff for kids to do.  We liked the romantic atmosphere of Venice in the evening after the crowds left!

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34 Responses to Our Anniversary to Italy: Part 20 – What we did in Venice!

  1. This is some excellent info and is well appreciated! My wife and I will be be making our first trip to Europe in April with the majority being in Italy and 3 days in Paris so your experiences really help me out in planning out activities/tours/dining/etc. Every time I look up info on or talk about Italy I seem to run into the name Rick Steves, I guess the guy must be a legend for passing on travel tips there.

  2. Next time you are there, check out the nearby islands – Burano and Murano….both can be easily done on a day trip! Burano is probably the most colorful island I have ever seen. It was great to get away from the crowds for a day :) I posted pictures in my blog: http://missvacation.blogspot.com/2013/07/venice-2013-day-5.html

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  10. @Gabriel – The Rick Steve’s guides are worth every cent. I wish he had them to countries outside of Europe as well. Check out our Paris trip report as well.

    @Yi – Those are great pictures! I’ve been to both islands, but didn’t get a chance to visit with Emily this time.

  11. Well then that’s a reason to go back next time :) I have been there twice and for sure I would like to go back for the third time.

  12. looks like Rialto Bridge got painted (maybe its just the lights). I was there in 2010 and it had lots of graffiti on it. Still love love love Venice though. I actually didn’t go there at night till my last night there (stayed in Mestre) and was kicking myself. Much cooler temperate, far less people and just a more relaxed and pretty environment. Also loved Lido at night with the music and bands and mostly people having a nice time. Get the water bus 3 day pass.

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  26. I loved Venice as well on my vacation in 2012.
    I’m planning to visit Europe again this summer, on a ‘Viking River Cruise’.
    Is there any way that I can use Points & Miles to pay for passage?
    ‘Barclays Arrival Card’ was one suggestion. Thanks!

  27. @George – You can get ~$440 towards most travel expenses with the Arrival card, so that’s a good pick!

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  29. Yi, those were beautiful pictures, thank you for sharing them. I love how you color coordinated with the buildings.

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  33. Anyone reading that’s going to Venice, you need a Minimum of 4 full days. A couple of days is a disservice.

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