Venezia (without Piazza San Marco)

We spent three days altogether in Venezia.  First we made a one-day excursion by train from Padova.   A couple of weeks later we drove to Venezia from Nosellari stopping along the way in Vicenza.   Instead of trying to give you a day by day description of our visits to Venezia, I'll simply combine everything and attempt to provide as coherent a picture as I can.

Venezia is a unique and wonderful place.  There is too much to see in any reasonable amount of time that a tourist might have.  Venezia is basically a group of islands separated by large and small canals.  The islands are close together and are jam packed with buildings.  Among and between the buildings run mostly narrow pedestrian "streets".  It is said that even long time residents of Venezia can easily become lost in the maze of these little walkways which end and intersect seemingly without plan.

The Grand Canal

The Grand Canal is the main artery of transportation and transport in Venezia.  It is about 3.8 kilometers long, 30 to 90 meters wide, has an average depth of 5 meters and is crossed by three bridges.

                                                      NASA aerial photo of the Grand Canal

The canals of Venezia and especially the Grand Canal are used by boats of all kinds: taxis, vaporetti (bus boats), furit and vegetable delivery boats, ambulance boats, building construction boats, speed boats, gondolas, ferries, frozen food delivery boats and many others.

The next few photos show the Grand Canal.  Vaporetti (powered passenger vessels, but no longer steam or vapor powered) follow many different routes on the Grand Canal. There are over 30 vaporetti stations.  The primary difference of the various valporetti routes is simply at which stations the vaporetti stop and pickup/drop-off passengers.  For example, the Number 1 vaporetto stops at all of the stations along the Grand Canal. Other vaporetti skip various stations and some vaporetti go to the islands of Lido, Murano, Burano and others.  

The Grand Canal is lined with Palazzi some of which are grand and well maintained.  Others run from a little under the weather to downright soggy.

In the photo below on the left there are two vaporetto stations - boxy things with a yellow stripe on which the name of the station is marked.  One of the stations is for valporetti traveling in one direction and the other station is for valporetti  going in the other direction.  A vaporetto is dropping-off/picking-up people at the far station before continuing on its route.

The Rialto Bridge

The Rialto Bridge is the oldest bridge across the Grand Canal.  Among the architects submitting plans for the bridge were Antoine Palladio (see Vicenza blog) and Michelangelo.  But their designs included multiple spans which were judged to be a problem for Canal traffic.  Ultimately the design of Antonio da Ponte with a single span was chosen and construction began in 1588 and was completed in 1591.

                                                                                Web  photo of the Rialto Bridge

Because the Rialto Bridge is one of Venezia' most famous landmarks and because the bridge is lined with shops on both sides of the walkway, the bridge is often jammed with people.

Here we are photographed on the center of the Rialto Bridge.


Gondolas are flat-bottomed black (previously by law) boats that carry as many as six passengers.  They are "driven" by a gondolier who stands in the rear of the boat and uses an oar to row the boat forward.  The canals of Venezia are too deep to simply use a pole to push the boat along.  According to Wikipedia gondolas are "made using 8 different types of wood (fir, oak, cherry, walnut, elm, mahogany, larch and lime) and are composed of 280 pieces."  The left side of a gondola is 24 centimeters larger than the right side which makes the boat tilt to the left in order to compensate for the rowing action of the gondolier.  The cost of a new gondola today would be about 20,000 Euros.

Gondolas today are for tourists.  A 45 minute gondola ride costs around 100 Euros.  If one must ride in a gondola, the way to do it inexpensively is to take a traghetto gondola (a personal ferry) which will move you from one bank of a canal to the otpposite bank for a nominal fee.


We had advice from a Venezia expert to make sure that we visited the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (known as "Frari") and San Giovanni e Paolo (known as "San Zanipolo).".

The Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari is an Italian gothic style church which was completed in 1338.  The campanile (pictured below) was completed in 1396.  The church is dedicated to the Assumption, the belief that at the end of Mary's life she was physically taken up into heaven.  Sueann and I had seen the words "Assumption and "Annunication" so frequenly in Italian churches that we finally looked them up.

San Giovanni e Paolo (photo below) is dedicated to John and Paul, but not, according to Wikipedia, "to the Biblical Apostles of the same names, but two obscure martyrs of the Early Christian church in Rome, whose names were recorded in the 3rd century but whose legend is of a later date".

Another church we visited was Santa Maria Assunta ai Gesuiti whose construction was completed in 1728.

When we stepped inside the church we were taken with the grandeur of the alter which is pictured below.  The twisted columns supporting the altar dome reminded us of columns we saw on the alter in Saint Peters in Rome.  Altogether this altar was to us the most spectacular of the altars we have seen outside of Rome.

Here is a Web photo of Santa Maria Assunta ai Gesuiti along with its Jesuit hall.

There were just too many photos to continue with the Piazza San Marco material on this web page.  We will post Piazza San Marco photos and some words in a future blog page,.

Best wishes,
Sueann and Jeff

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