In a city without roads as we know them and where streets are often two
narrow to walk two abreast, it is impossible to get lost. They say that all
roads lead to Rome but in Venice all roads lead to Pizzala Roma or Piazza
Since you can’t drive into the city, you have to come in by city bus or
tour bus. The tour busses are allowed to off load passengers at the docks
of Tronchetto. From here on the outer canal you can follow an ocean going
liner on the Canale della Guidecca. It is the faster of the two entry
points but I prefer taking a regular bus from the mainland and coming down
the slower Grand Canal. It’s the stuff that dreams are made of. The trip
costs a couple of Euros and is money well spent. It is cheaper to buy a
return ticket. Your destination will be San Marco. With your ticket in
hand you wait on the floating dock for the recommended vaporetto or boat
bus. Don’t be dismayed by the crowds. Just watch your pockets. The correct
number bus will arrive in a few minutes and on you go. You can sit in a
glassed in area and enjoy the sights from a warm enclosed space. You might
do as I recommend, find a seat out of doors at the farthest point forward
as possible. Here you will be able to see both sides as you criss-cross
the canal to the various stops. On your left you’ll see the modern white
train station (Ferrovia). Then you will wend your way down the canal
stopping on one side or the other. Early in the trip and on the same side
of the canal, you will see the sign for the Ghetto. This area still
thrives but dates back to 1516 when the Governor decreed that S Girolamo
would become Europe’s first Ghetto. It’s a short walk to the synagogues,
souvenir shops and museum, but you can see that on the way back. Remember,
I said you can’t get lost.
You continue down the Grand Canal with gondolas drifting by and
wonderfully colorful buildings with Moorish architecture on either side. The
marble ornate bridge is the famous Rialto Bridge and when you get back to it
you’ll find the stores on top of the bridge sell ornate Murano watches and
gold jewelry. The watches make excellent gifts. But you’re headed farther
along so you make note of the attractive restaurants and continue along.
You’ll see palaces and churches on both sides and when you come to the next
bridge, you’ll know you’re at the Academia, Venice’s special art gallery.
But don’t get off. From here it’s only a few minutes to your final
destination, San Marco.
As the boat docks, you might notice Harry’s Bar and American Grill. It’s
famous but expensive. Keep walking until you find yourself at the entrance
to the great square. You’ll be facing the Ducal Palace with the Basilica San
Marco just beyond. You’ll also see the modern bell tower.
You have arrived into one of the most famous squares in the world. Look
for the clock at the end of the square facing the water and you’ll see an
arched entrance. Enter. You are now on your own.
You can go back and examine the Basilica, take a tour through the palace
or go back to the water and turn left. That first tiny bridge is The Bridge
of Sighs. You will notice that it is connected to the back of the Ducal
palace and there’s a small window. It was through this window that condemned
prisoners looked at Venice for the last time. As they passed the window on
the way to the prison on the other side of the bridge, they would sigh.
Hence the name.
If you are hungry, wealthy to afford a $60-100 lunch and you can get a
table, go into the Danieli Hotel next to the bridge and eat on their roof
terrace. The view is out of this world.
If not, wander around the Piazza. Take pictures with the pigeons then
head inland through that archway I mentioned. Here you will find yourself in
a warren of lanes, too small to call streets. At every intersection there
will be a black and white sign saying Rialto or San Marco. Head through the
maze, looking at the glass shops and always head for rialto. Once there,
cross the bridge and walk through the fruit and vegetable market. It is in
this area that Shakespeare set The Merchant of Venice.
When you are ready to move on, follow the signs to P Roma. That’s where
you started. Eventually you will come to the Ghetto and the railway station
(Ferrovia). Just beyond is Piazzale Roma where you can take the bus back to
your hotel or car park. Take the same bus out as you came in on.
Remember too that if you bought a return ticket you can forget my
suggestions and just walk around. Then, when you are tired, you can get back
on the vaporetto and return to Piazzale Roma.
There are two words of advice.
You will notice that I assumed you would be entering the islands by bus.
Yes, Venice is on a series of islands. You can stay in Venice at a certain
cost, or you can select a hotel in Mestre on the mainland. Take a hotel near
the station. I recommend the Plaza or Best Western. You’ll need a
reservation during the tourist months. Both are on the number 2 buss line
and only a causeway from Piazzela Roma where the boat takes you into the
most mysterious and exciting city in Europe. There is no other like it.
The second suggestion may be too late for this year but in a few days the
famous Carnival of Venice begins. (Feb.12-24, 2004) If you can be there at
carnival time you will see one of the most exciting costumes, parades and
shows imaginable. The making of masks is an industry. You might want to
bring one home no matter when you go.
It’s a complicated maze that might frighten the inexperienced traveler.
But you just have to read the signs. Or, you can ask directions. Ask for
Rialto or San Marco or Piazzale Roma. Venitians are always willing to help.
And if nothing else succeeds, you can always take a gondola or a water taxi
and return in luxury. Ask the price in advance. This is an expensive city
Hotel Plaza, Viale Stazione 36, 30171 Venice-Mestre Phone: 41 929 388
Best Western Hotel Bologna facing the RR station Phone: 41 93 10 00
Hotel Sirio (Farther into town) Phone: 41 98 40 22
All three hotels are on the same bus line.
You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at:
Over the past few years, Professor
Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece,
Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of
Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the
globe including Italy and most of
China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters
from St.Petersburg to Moscow.
"He took a group to Greece and another to northern
Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour
groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They
winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico. His newly found spare time
is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His
current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders.. "So
You Want To Be A Tour Leader."
Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing
Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel
writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.
Keep reading his web for travel ideas. His next
novel HELLSTORM'S Folly,
will be available this fall. He now
lives in British Columbia.
www.top-travel-ideas.com or contact him directly at
(More about the writer.)