We clambered on board our ferry keeping in mind that this was the one before last we could catch to reach the airport in time. A huge disappointment as this was a closed ferry with only a small window at the front from which to take pictures from and the rest of the windows were covered in watermarks from the spray caused by other boats.

One advantage though — at this stage we were the only people on the ferry at this time.

Due to this restriction, it really was a flash tour of the Grand Canal — impressions only — having said that it is not possible to walk alongside the Grand Canal and, to my knowledge, there are only two places where you can sit at a restaurant and dine overlooking the water.

Some of the grander hotels have a room with a view and small balconies — heaven knows what their room supplements are! So we were stuck with what we got.

I did manage to capture some of the atmosphere — once again there are some beautifully painted buildings and buildings of amazing proportions and stunning architecture. One cannot help but imagine what Venice was like in its heyday and who created and lived in buildings like this.

Opposite on the near side of the bank stands this one — framed by the window and radar equipment of the ferry.

The rule in Venice is the same as everywhere — the bigger the building, the more ornate the building the richer and more important you were.

Wealth has always been flaunted here and continues to be.

However, amongst all this beauty there are the inevitable falls from grace.

One wonders if fortunes were lost and how or if the family money was just wasted away. This villa looked quite sad amongst the rest in this stretch, but was once a villa of enough importance to have a garden with trees.

In spite of the varying states of repair/disrepair, the Grand Canal is quite definitely Grand.

The buildings themselves are in a constant battle with the canal itself to dominate their space and the people around you.

Some resort to modern-day techniques to boost their frontage — colorful balconies stand out defiantly and say: “We are here!”

Man — as always — constantly tries to stamp himself on the nature of things as this speed boat dashing down the canal shows. I do not think I would like to have to pay his fine if he were caught.

This building has now been converted into apartments — got a few million euros to spare?

These buildings also house apartments now — starting at around nine million euros for a four-bedroomed apartment — but what a view!

I wonder how removal firms work in Venice — can you imagine hoisting a piano up to one of those windows from a boat?

With the view comes chaos. This is the start of rush hour on the canal. A sea of boats.

The large boat on the right is one of the municipal ferries. These are larger slow-moving ferries, there are a few seats at the rear and at the front — the rest is standing room only — much like the underground.

They are always packed to overflowing — shudder!

We formed an orderly queue to take this next picture.  Four of us vying for position and each taking four shots each before standing back and allowing the next person their opportunity — all without speaking — it really was quite remarkable.

This is the famous Rialto Bridge, one of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. It is the oldest bridge across the canal, and was the dividing line for the districts of San Marco and San Polo.

The first dry crossing of the Grand Canal was a pontoon bridge built in 1181 by Nicolò Barattieri, it was replaced by a wooden bridge in 1255 to accommodate the increased traffic to the Rialto Market on the eastern bank.

The new wooden bridge had two inclined ramps meeting at a movable central section, that could be raised to allow the passage of tall ships. The connection with the market eventually led to a change of name for the bridge. During the first half of the 15th century, two rows of shops were built along the sides of the bridge. The rents brought an income to the State Treasury, which helped maintain the bridge. Wooden bridges are, however, vulnerable and after it had been partially destroyed by fire in the revolt led by Bajamonte Tiepolo in 1310, it collapsed under the weight of a crowd watching a boat parade in 1444 and again in 1524.

In 1551, the authorities requested proposals for the renewal of the Rialto Bridge, among other things. Plans were offered by famous architects, such as Jacopo Sansovino, Palladio and Vignola, but all involved a Classical approach with several arches, which was judged inappropriate to the situation. Michelangelo also was considered as designer of the bridge.

The present stone bridge, a single span designed by Antonio da Ponte, was finally completed in 1591. It is similar to the wooden bridge it succeeded. Two inclined ramps lead up to a central portico. On either side of the portico, the covered ramps carry rows of shops. The engineering of the bridge was considered so audacious that architect Vincenzo Scamozzi predicted future ruin. The bridge has defied its critics to become one of the architectural icons of Venice.

Once you are past The Rialto Bridge you pass much of modern day Venice — the extras built on to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of tourists by car, rail and cruise liner — none of which I was inclined to photograph.

I did persuade our captain to let me stand up top to take one last picture as we headed back to the airport — I finally got my shot of the Venice skyline in the heat haze as we left.

We had done it — the best of Venice in a day!

Thanks to some good planning and despite enough good planning in other departments. I am sure the haste made all the difference between success and failure.

14 Comments

  1. This is a spectacular finish to your Venice visit, Nicola! The photographs are real and amazingly stunning. I love the “forced perspective” of the first few shots trapped in the boat.

    You’re right that money and wealth are on display — but I love the little pockets of despair you also share. That, to me, is the real heartbeat of Venice.

    The Rialto Bridge is just fantastic. Its rich history of dying and coming back to life over and over again is inspirational. I’m surprised it hasn’t fallen into the water again with all those people pounding on it all day long! SMILE!

    The last image is full of wonder, resolve, and a dash of sadness…

    1. I was rather miffed – understatement – about the boat, but as it was “rush hour” we could not risk waiting for the next one.

      I am hoping to explore those pockets a little more in another post.

      You are right there – the Rialto is amazingly beautiful and so strong – it is an incredible statement of beautiful engineering and it is remarkable that it has survived in its current version as long as it has – especially given the amount of traffic it gets and the shops it has as well.

      I think those sentiments sum up what I felt at the time – Venice is wonderful – we achieved what we set out to do and it reflects the underlying sadness which is and always will be Venice.

      1. You may have been miffed but you made it work! That’s what’s so great about you. You will not be defeated. You will find a way to make your plan work no matter what!

        Yes, I agree — there is a certain, ancient, melancholia that seeps through in these images of Venice you provide. Such beauty in such a wistful washing…

        1. I can be pretty dogged when I want to be!

          I think that Venice is GRAND – first and foremost because it has survived – it will always be at war with the water – it always has been and always will be – that is a constant battle it has to fight. Sometimes it edges ahead only to go two step back after serious weather.

          1. It is certainly an amazing city. I’m not sure if I’d spend millions of euros on an apartment, though. Do you think you could even get water damage insurance? SMILE!

  2. @ David – I am not sure I would want to either – on the other hand if the nice quite little island with its private villa should ever be that cheap …………..

    Not sure you would get water or fire damage insurance there – and heaven alone knows what the service charges are for the apartments !

    1. Oh, I’ll take the private island and villa! That’s a dream!

      I am curious about insurance in Venice. There are so many dangers. You’re right that if there’s a fire, how would it effectively be extinguished? Sure, there’s lots of water, but no real, firm, place to stage a rescue.

          1. The best advice is that you get insurance in your home country !

            That was what made me laugh – it also gives the impression that most if not all insurance companies in Italy are crooks ……….. Akismet is all seeing at times !

          2. Yes! Even Akismet knows you can’t get good insurance in Venice! So funny! Don’t buy local, but if you do, and file a claim, you’ll end up under the water — buried at sea! Ha!