Day 1: Tuesday
We got to Venice on the train at about 1:30, figured out the Vaporetto (Venice mass transit equivalent of a city bus) and got to our hotel, Pensione Guerrato a little while later. After unpacking we headed out for a short vaporetta cruise (we bought the 48 hour transit pass) before heading to Rialto Bridge to meet our guide, Alessandro Schezzini for back-to-back walking tours. The first, the “offbeat” Venice tour took us on a walk through the back streets and alleys, accompanied by opinionated commentary from Alessandro. That was followed by the bar tour, hitting three bacari (Venetian bars) where we drank wine and ate cicchetti (tapas-style hors d’oeuvres), while chatting with Alessandro and the other folks on the tour. Luckily the last bar was close to our hotel. We managed to stumble back, stopping along the way to pick up a few slices of pizza to supplement the cicchetti.
Day 2: Wednesday
After breakfast we packed up and stored our luggage with the hotel. This was the first of only two one night stays on our itinerary. We had a busy day in Venice. We did four Rick Steves audio tours: Grand Canal, St. Mark’s Square, St. Mark’s Basilica and Frari Church. We also searched for some geocaches and wandered through Venice. Highlights for me were St. Mark’s Basilica and Frari Church. Both had amazing (but very different) art. Frari was on a much smaller scale but had the added advantage of no crowds.
After dinner, we headed to the train station for our night train to Munich. We had booked a two person sleeping compartment with bunk beds. It sounded romantic and old movie-ish, but like many such things, the reality didn’t quite live up to expectations. I actually slept pretty well–after the long day in Venice that wasn’t hard to do. Anne found the bed uncomfortable and didn’t sleep well at all.
Thoughts on Venice
Venice was visually spectacular. Perhaps my pictures give a small sense of what it’s like, but they don’t really do it justice. Every time we turned a corner, we saw another arresting sight. Unfortunately, many of those sights are packed with tourists. It is possible to escape some of that by wandering the tiny streets and alleys, some so small that two people can’t pass in opposite directions.
What bothered me about Venice was a certain theme-park vibe. There are so many tourists and so few Venetians that we were either surrounded by tourists or by no one at all–the back streets feel almost abandoned. According to the guide book, there are only 60,000 people living in the island part of Venice and the number is declining by about 1,000 a year. The rest of the people who support the 20,000,000 tourists a year commute from the mainland.
Of course Venice has been in decline for the last 500 years or so and yet it’s still here and still beautiful. We enjoyed our visit.