Built on more than 100 small islands in the Adriatic Sea, Venice is a mosaic of beautiful bridges, busy canals, charming piazzas, winding alleys, and Renaissance and Gothic architecture. We spent three lovely days there, and savored every moment.
On our first day in Venice we traveled about 90 minutes through the Venice Canal from our docking port in Chioggia (more on that to follow.) Cruise ships have been banned from Venice since last year, but Viking’s work-around seems to be a good one.
Approaching Venice from the south, we enjoyed sailing past several colorful fishing villages. As the breathtaking Venetian skyline came into focus, we were enthralled to see this incredible city rise up from a different perspective. The St. Mark’s Campanile (bell tower) was the first landmark to come into focus, followed by the domes of the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute. One of the first shops we saw was filled with intriguing carnival masks.
Several months ago, we learned that our travel plans would intersect with those of our dear friends Heather, Gabriel and Graham Torok. We were determined to get together! Despite a few changes in our itinerary, the travel angels worked their magic and we met for a delightful dinner followed by gelato and a walk back to our dock through Piazza San Marco and past lots of interesting shops. It was wonderful to share a bit of this incredible place with such good friends.
All things Venetian seem to center around Piazza San Marco. With its long, covered arcades and bustling wide-open space, Napoleon called it “the finest drawing room in Europe.” We won’t disagree.
Doug (aka Papa Latte) couldn’t leave Venice without a visit to Caffe Florian. Serving delicious cakes, savory snacks, and unparalleled coffee on elegant silver trays since 1720, Caffe Florian is the oldest continuously operating coffee house in Italy. It also has the distinction of being the only such establishment to serve women from the day it opened. We spent a lovely Sunday enjoying our morning coffee (my affogato might have included gelato and hot fudge!) while people watching and listening to a sweet selection of Italian music.
Speaking of food, Venice offers a variety of specialties from fresh seafood to mouthwatering pasta to decadent sweets including gelato. As we wandered through the alleyways, we were lured into several shops for a few free samples and tempting displays!
The magnificent architecture of Venice is incredible to see, but it’s facing precarious times due to the effects of the salinity of the water on the stone walls as well as shifting. Buildings are built on logs that are driven into the sea bed and become petrified by the brackish salty water and ever-flowing tides. Metal rods run the length of the buildings walls with braces on the outside to provide stability.
The gondolas of Venice have become a symbol of the city. The gondoliers go through a 400 hour training protocol including an apprenticeship. It’s a profession that is usually passed down through generations, and only 3-4 new licenses are issued annually.
And nothing says Venice like the Bridge of Sighs. People crowd to take photos of this iconic landmark day and night, but Heather captured it beautifully at dusk.
I previously mentioned that cruise ships are banned from docking in Venice. Some cruise operators dropped it from their itineraries altogether and others utilize a nearby industrial port. Viking found the delightful seaside town of Chioggia perched on the south end of the Venetian Lagoon.
Called “Little Venice” because of its historic landmarks, narrow alleys, bridges, and canals, Chioggia offers a low-key alternative to the busy-ness of Venice. We spent a lovely Saturday wandering around this charming town of canals, markets, churches, and a beautiful beach.
We arrived at Mercato Ittico al Minute, Chioggia’s fresh fish market shortly before closing time. The local seagulls seemed to know it was time for a free sample!
Continuing on our walk, we arrived at the picturesque Sottomarina Beach. Sottomarina features miles of sand, bars, plenty of umbrellas, an amusement park, and even a special section for dogs.
As we sailed away from Venice, we were treated to a beautiful fireworks display from Duomo di Santa Maria Assunta which was celebrating the Feast of the Assumption. It was a lovely way to end three memorable days in our final Italian port.