We were on a mission — to get the real flavor of Venice in an afternoon. If we liked what we saw, we would come back and spend more time exploring.
Venice has an undeniable reputation for being one of the “must see” cities in Europe — the famous floating city — or the famous sinking city — or should that be stinking? It is a city of water and of gondolas, rich in history and culture and once the trading center of Europe.
Our ferry took us along the north coast of Venice and around to San Marcos, past all the canal outlets and gave us a good view of what Venice was like behind the scenes. Once again we got reasonable seats on the ferry and I was able to take photographs out of the side windows as we motored past. I was surprised to see that there was room for greenery on the main island — this canal looked particularly shady and inviting.
This channel is relatively quiet compared to the southern approach with most ferries only running in the tourist season. You have to cross water to reach Venice one way or another. The fare structure is based on how fast you cross that water. The old large slow ferries are cheapest, ours was mid range — small in comparison to the Municipal Ferries — and not the slowest and attracted a slightly higher cost. A speed boat transfer cost three times as much, but six of you can get to your destination in real style very quickly.
This route is an ideal for a slower approach, you have time to anticipate some of the experience that is about to unfold before you — there are grand old villas — much like the one we stayed in the previous two nights — still hanging on to their glorious past and reminding us of their grandeur in times gone by. The entrances to each canal are different, some wide, some narrow, all with differing styles of bridges and architecture.
You continue at a fairly sedate pace until you turn the corner and the chaos of Venice hits you full on — your senses are assaulted by the architecture, the water, and the people and the thousands of boats of all sorts sizes and descriptions. You are now approaching San Marcos, one of the main ferry and gondola hubs on the island and home of Piazza San Marco, the principal public square in the city and the social, religious and political center of Venice . The initial view is dominated by the campanile — or bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica after which the square is named.
As you get closer your focus is once again drawn to water level and to the magnificent arches of the Doges Palace.
The Doges Palace forms one side of St Mark’s Square and as you round the corner the hustle and bustle of St Mark’s is laid bare for you to see. Teeming with people and boats all hustling and bustling for space. It the background in the right hand corner you can see the dome of St Mark’s Basilica.
Zooming in you can see where the Doges Palace merges with St Mark’s Basilica. St Mark’s Basilica is the Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark — the father church of Venice. It is the most famous of the city’s churches and one of the best known examples of Byzantine architecture.
Originally, it was the chapel of the Doge, and has only been the city’s cathedral since 1807, when it became the seat of the Patriarch of Venice, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice. Its opulent design, gilded Byzantine mosaics, and its status as a symbol of Venetian wealth and power, from the 11th century on the building earned it the nickname Chiesa d’Oro — the Church of Gold — talk about flaunting your wealth!
This link shows the amazingly beautiful gilded statues and relief work on the roof of the Basilica in fantastic detail. I can recommend looking at the largest version to fully appreciate the craftsmanship.
Time to leave the chaos of the canal behind — the jetty is in sight — time to disembark, time to sample Venice on foot!