We only had one day to explore Venice, while staying in a town called Cittadella, an hour’s drive away. Despite the cold and wet weather, we had a really great day.
Even though it takes a little longer, we decided to take the train to Venice. It is much more relaxing than navigating the roads, it avoids the hassle and cost of parking, and the train takes us right onto the island.
Leaving the train station, we followed the crowds of tourists along a street filled with Venetian masks, glass, lace and other souvenirs. There are a lot of shops to marvel at along the main avenues.
As we wandered the streets, the crowd slowly thinned. We had a rough route to get to the main square, but we wanted to be flexible with this, and as we took a turn down a few side lanes, it was magically quiet with great views of the network of canals.
Our first stop was a church made of marble, the Santa Maria dei Miracoli, which stood out among the brick buildings. Although it was not the most spectacular church we have seen, it was unique and interesting all the same, with unusual coloured marble walls inside. It was also a welcome break for a rest out of the cold. We were excited to see a painting of St Clare on the roof.
Near the church was a modern art exhibition at Palazzo Soranzo van Axel, called Man as Bird: images of journeys, which surprisingly fascinated the kids, and we had to drag them out to see the “real” Venice.
Further along we came to a museum located inside the hospital, the Scuola Grande di San Marco. It contains a collection of old and mostly gruesome medical instruments, and lots of very old books. The kids found the old illuminated manuscripts really interesting too, with their pretty and colourful hand drawn pictures and writing.
The big ticket item in Venice is taking a romantic ride on a gondola, but we were unsure about paying the standard 80 euros for a 30 minute cruise. We knew the kids would love it, and it was one thing we never did last time we were here as backpackers, so we took the plunge, so to speak. We are really glad we did, as it was certainly the highlight of the day for all of us.
After hours of walking and feeling like we were getting lost, we finally stumbled into St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), joining the huge crowd there. It didn’t seem like there we as many pigeons as we recall from last time we visited, although it could be that there are too many tourists in the square and no place for them to land.
St Mark’s Basilica is so striking from the outside, with very ornate and detailed decorations. We were surprised to see no line to enter the Duomo, which was lucky because we had decided not to purchase the skip-the-line tickets, so we convinced the kids that this church would be worth going inside. There are golden mosaics covering all the floors and ceilings, which was rather spectacular to see!
By about 3.30pm we called it a day and decided to head home. First we had to get back to the train station, which we assumed was a simple Vaporetto (water bus) ride back along the Grand Canal. Unfortunately everyone else had the same idea, and we had to wait 45 minutes before we could get on, then it was a 45 minute trip back to the train station. Add another hour on the train and the drive home, and we did not get back until after 6pm. We were exhausted, but very glad to have given the kids a Venice experience, albeit in just one day.