Venice Veneto Italy Travelogue Part IV – St. Mark square, Piazza San Marco, Murano, Burano, Lido
We returned from Pisa back to Florence – had the experience of the scheduled train platforms being changed at the last moment. Being a Monday, most of the historic monuments in Florence were closed to the public. So we strolled around the town.
Anyway, we both are not much interested in monuments as such. Florence is a lovely town – lively and bubbling with activity. We strolled towards the Piazza Della Signora – the square was the hub of Florence’s political life, now it is just a gathering place.
The road leading to the square seemed to be an expensive area of the city with posh shops lining either side. The square itself is surrounded by the city’s most celebrated buildings. The Florence town hall (Palazzo Vecchio) stands guarded by Michelangelo’s David. A corridor leads from the square to the Ponte Vecchio (Vecchio bridge).
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This 14th-century bridge is lined with shops selling gold and silver jewelry. Incidentally, there used to be butcher shops here before flesh gave way to gold. This was the only bridge, which escaped destruction during World War II. It was almost 8:00 pm and we went straight to McDonald’s, packed dinner and went back to the hotel.
Day 4- 21st April 2003
The next day we went to Venice by train – had booked the tickets a day earlier at Florence station. The train took 2 hours to Venice. As we reached Venice we could see water taking over from land.
We had finally reached the city of canals! Venice has the main train station and a bus station both on opposite sides of the main canal of Venice called the Grand Canal. Just as one gets out of the train station one can see the main boat station located on the Grand Canal.
In Venice, vehicles are allowed only up to the main bus station called Piazelle Roma. It is from here that all buses leave Venice for other cities and for the airport. Transportation within Venice is done by means of boats. There is an elaborate network of water-buses that can take you to all parts of the city.
We purchased a 24-hr pass (cost Euro 10.50 / head) which gives unlimited travel on all water buses in Venice. We kept our luggage at the hotel reception and set off to explore Venice.
A little about the water- bus system in Venice – there are pre-defined routes for the water buses; just like train routes. At each station, there is a proper indicator showing the next two water buses due to arrive.
There are different boarding points for different routes. When a bus arrives at a station the conductor opens the doors allowing passengers to embark and disembark, after which the bus sets off for the next station.
The frequency of the buses is quite good and the buses run from early morning till late in the night. Venice is a unique city. All activities are centered around the canals that criss-cross the city. We even saw transport buses bringing foodstuff, etc to the city residents from the main bus station where it must have been offloaded.
All houses are lined along the canals. Imagine getting out of the main door of your house and finding a boat station to take you to wherever you want – how nice !!! For those who wish to just walk it across, there are pedestrian bridges across the canals as well.
Just like we own cars, the people in Venice have their own private boats parked in front of their houses – the banks here must be providing a boat loan I guess. The main attraction in Venice is the Piazza San Marco – the main tourist area where one finds all the shops, restaurants, etc – we set off to explore this area.
A small word here about the rather funny English we found written on the sign-boards across Italy. One at the water- bus station read “Do not walk ahead while waiting at the platform”. This was just a sample – there were numerous other humorous ones.
We took a water-bus to San Marco station. Marco square came across as a very lively area – it seemed that all the tourists were huddled around in one place. We saw the “gondolas” swaying on the water. The gondolas are old-fashioned boats in which one can take a ride. And believe me, you have to be a good bargainer to steal a good deal.
The gondola drivers have a unique dress – black trousers and a white shirt with a round cane hat. Tied to the hat is a colored ribbon. We just sat and relaxed on the banks of the canal and took a few snaps. Then just strolled along admiring the beautiful glass articles on display in the shops selling “Murano glass” showpieces.
Venice is famous for its glass articles and I must admit they are beautiful. We spent a few hours in the square – the sun was getting really strong now, so we decided to take a boat back to the hotel. We took a longer route this time, which took about an hour.
After sitting in the hot sun the ride seemed to cool us off. After getting off at the main water bus stop we were feeling hungry and found a road-side stall selling vegetarian pizza. In Italy, many shops sell triangular-shaped pizzas which you can eat. The pizza was delicious compared to the ones we had earlier. So we ate two each and checked in at the hotel.
After freshening up we went to the main bus station to find out the timings for the buses to reach the airport the following day. We wanted to buy some glass articles as souvenirs and so decided to head back to the San Marco square. Found some good glass showpieces fitting our taste and budget and then relaxed into the evening.
Near the San Marco square, there is a bell tower and a lot of restaurants as well. In Italy, most restaurants have tables laid outside the restaurant. At times a live band is playing as well. We were surprised to find many restaurants having people calling customers to taste food at their restaurant.
After a relaxing time here we headed back to the hotel – we actually wanted to see the square at night but since there would have been daylight till 10:00 pm, we abandoned the idea. We unsuccessfully searched for a McDonald’s and finally went to the train station canteen where we found a Russian salad sandwich, tomato paste, and French fries. Had our fill and retired for the day.
Day 5- 22nd April 2003
This was our last day of the Italy trip. We got ready and went to the Jewish ghetto. This is the place where Jews were kept during World War II in miserable living conditions before being sent to concentration camps. The ceilings are really low and one wonders how people could have stayed here. We then walked across one of the canals to the end of the land.
These houses were indeed beautiful having a direct view of the water. This was a change from the rest of the houses, which were very old and not so well maintained. We just sat here for a while and explored the area. We came across a refueling station for the water buses – Venice’s very own petrol pump !!!
Our flight was at 5:00 pm so we had to check-in by 3:00 and the airport was an hour drive away. So we reached the hotel and took a bus to the Treviso airport – buses connecting the flights are provided by the airlines themselves and they are very few in number. The airport was very small – it has no semblance of an airport – one moment we wondered whether we had reached the right place !!!.
VIVA ITALIA !!!!
Colosseum – Rome
Had one last cup of Italian Cappuccino before boarding the flight. Thus a nice trip had come to an end. We felt a little sad to leave behind such a warm country and return to the cool of the UK. The Cappuccino, the Gelati, the Pizzas and the Piazzas will linger in our memories forever.
Traveling by Train in England and London – Information on getting and reading your train ticket, the national rail system; a link to train schedules.
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