Venice, Italy

I’d like to introduce Venice with a video.

Hop on the vaporetto with me for a glimpse of the Grand Canal.

The Grand Canal from a vaporettto

The Grand Canal from a vaporettto

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Venice was my favorite city in Italy. It was different from the other places I’ve been. The canals gave it a unique characteristic that I haven’t found anywhere else.

I found myself looking forward to exploring every street, every corner, every bridge.

canal view 2

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The gondola. The quintessential icon of Venice.

Here’s my addition to this particular ubiquitous scene: No wonder everyone has this picture, this row of blue gondolas with a backdrop of the lagoon just screams to be photographed.

blue gondola

I must say the idea of a gondola ride has been romanticized too much in books and films. In reality, it is an over-priced 30 minute ride along canals filled with tourists taking your picture. Where’s the romance in that?

I preferred walking further down to the quieter areas. In one of my walks I found this gondolier resting inside his gondola:

gondolier resting

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This one’s my favorite:

Love gondola

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I suppose I should mention the main “touristy” areas: St. Mark’s Square and Basilica, and The Rialto Bridge. It was quite crowded around these areas to the point of making it almost impossible to fully appreciate them. I spent only a brief time around these areas, just long enough to look at the architectural details, take a couple of pictures, then I moved on to the other Sestieri (neighborhoods.)

Here is St. Mark’s. A visit inside the Basilica is free and inside are impressive golden mosaics. But the Byzantine architecture is best appreciated from outside. Unfortunately, half of the cathedral was under construction and covered up at the time of my visit. I went up its Bell Tower (8 Euros) which had an excellent view of the Venetian lagoon. The spacious square around it is composed of expensive shops and restaurants.

cathedral and tower

St. Mark's Cathedral is dwarfed by its bell tower; to the right of it is a deteiled look at the cathedral's artwork; below is the spacious St. Mark's Square and the city of Venice; Torre dell'Orologio (clock tower) displays the Zodiac and phase of the moon and chimes every hour

St. Mark’s Cathedral is dwarfed by its bell tower; to the right of it is a deteiled look at the cathedral’s artwork; below is the spacious St. Mark’s Square and the city of Venice; Torre dell’Orologio (clock tower) displays the Zodiac and phase of the moon and chimes every hour

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The Rialto area was teeming with busloads (or I should say vaporetto-loads) of tourists during the day. It is better to visit it very early in the morning or late in the day when the day-trippers have all gone. There’s a fish market nearby and lots of seafood restaurants line both sides of the Bridge.

The Rialto Brige and view of the Grand Canal from the bridge

The Rialto Brige and view of the Grand Canal from the bridge

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I spent a day visiting 3 islands around Venice: Murano, Burano and Torcello.

An old structure on the lagoon

An old structure on the lagoon

Murano was my first stop. I saw a quick and free glass-blowing demonstration, then spent a couple of hours checking out the shops in the island. Murano glass is undoubtably beautiful and here there were many designs to choose from. Do your souvenir shopping here, you wouldn’t find the same variety elsewhere. (Beware of the cheap Made in China ones, sadly they were everywhere.)

murano

windows3

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Burano was so colorful and cute I wished it was a candy so I could eat it. Buildings were painted with bubblegum pinks, sunny yellows and bright oranges. Looking around, I could tell from everyone’s smiling faces that all were just as smitten of this island as I was.

burano

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There wasn’t much to do besides walking alongside narrow canals and varicolored houses but it was definitely a nice visit.

Burano

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Torcello was a bit disappointing compared with the other 2 lagoons. Looking around this sparsely populated island, it was hard to imagine that it used to be the largest and most important settlement in the Venetian lagoon. I also got here late, and the main site to see, Church of Santa Fosca, was already closed. And so my visit here was fairly brief.

It did have one of my favorite façades I’ve seen in my travels:

windows5

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Venice is by far my favorite city to walk around in. I enjoyed getting myself lost in its narrow, haphazard alleyways, streets with changing names, faded architecture, and crossing its short bridges.

Here’s more of the city, in photographs:

lock and grand canal

I’ve seen these quite a bit in my travels. It is a tradition associated with love and lovers: by locking the padlock and throwing away the key, the lovers become eternally bonded.

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The Bridge of Sighs; Ca d'Oro; gondolier; Grand Canal; view from the bell tower

The Bridge of Sighs; Ca d’Oro; gondolier; Grand Canal; view from the bell tower

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venice misc1

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venice1

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Everywhere I turn is a scene fit for a photograph, even looking upwards I see windows begging to be framed:

windows2

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windows1

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windows4

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Not surprisingly, my favored sight in Venice was not the Rialto or St. Mark’s or a gondola ride; it was this bookstore tucked inside the Castello neighborhood, Libreria Acqua Alta, who fittingly dubbed itself the Most Beautiful Bookshop in the World.

venice bookstore

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I’ve been asked many times how I could afford to travel often. The answer is simple really.  I travel frugally but not to the point where it affects my experience.  I stay in hostels or pensions, do grocery and cook/make my own food, or eat in smaller family-owned establishments (maybe go to a nice restaurant just once or twice for the experience,) buy water in bulk, take cheap local public transport, and as much as I can help it, I avoid taxis. I walk instead. Starting with this trip, I will include my total expenses for each places I go to (this includes lodging, food, transportation, miscellaneous sight-seeing expenses and shopping.)

The world is a beautiful place. Go. Explore.

Total days in Venice: 4 days

Total expenses: $325

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