Approaching Venice

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!

8 comments

  • Wow! These are some of the best images yet! What magnificence! The water is everywhere and quite lucid. You must always be alert and on point. I wonder how many thousands of dollars of coins and money and artifacts have been lost in the waters by tourists over the centuries?

    I love the “speed pays” meme for getting into the city. How much quicker is the speedboat compared to the slowest boat?

    I would love to just go and hang out in Venice — but is that possible? So many tourists. Lots of queues. It’s too many people for me. I’d be lost in the din of the crushing humanity. Are there quiet, private pockets of Venice? Or is the whole city just a, big, golden, amusement park?

    • Venice is delight to photograph as you always have the wonderful rule of thirds as you always have water, land and sky !

      I have to say I wondered how many cameras and handbags has been lost in the canals! I took a huge risk and traveled light and left my camera case behind! Not that it would have saved the camera from much water damage.

      A quick look around suggests that the private speed boats get you there in about 15 minutes as opposed to 30 to 40 minutes depending of course on route and eventual destination. Both ends of the route – i.e leaving the airport and arrival at the Grand Canal have speed restrictions for all boats including the speed boats. There is a game of wave wars between a lot of the pilots – the smaller boats are much faster but have to slow down in the wake of other boats which are slower but cause more wake in their passing.

      Patience my friend I am about to reveal all ………… well not all but at least some of my experiences of Venice on foot!

      • It must be a wild experience to live in Venice. There’s no real earth around you. There’s always the threat and promise of danger in that water.

        I can see how the tourists would love the slow ride — while the regulars want to get there ASAP.

        Ah! I will be patient again and wait for the next installment! Thanks for that heads up! SMILE!

        • It is hard to contemplate not having land around you and water everywhere. You are always at the mercy of the water and it is of course uncontrollable.

          It would be a nightmare to have to live and work in Venice!

  • If you are on land and away from the water – what little of it there is – it is a blessing as it cools you down ! It also keeps the air fresher and blows the infamous stink in someone else’s direction!

  • Pingback: Venice on Foot: San Marcos « Boles Blogs

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