Discovering the Charms of Venice in a day was a tall task.
We arrived at the Venice Cruise Terminal at about 10 am as the terminus of our 2017 Windstar Mediterranean Cruise. After disembarking quickly we took a pre-arranged car through the outer city to a central water taxi terminal. Then, we started to discover the charms of Venice when we took a water taxi to our hotel, a 15-minute boat ride.
Here we were, riding through the famous canals of Venice, looking wide-eyed at the architecture, the canals, restaurants, and churches as we motored through the city. It was fascinating. I had seen pictures and many movies featuring Venice and its Grand Canal and Gondolas. However, experiencing it was a whole other story.
An Afternoon Discovering the Charms of Venice
After checking into a charming hotel, we quickly planned our afternoon with the help of the hotel concierge. We planned to get out and start discovering Venice Charms and stop for a light lunch. The next day we would hit the major tourist attractions. Bob had made late dinner reservations for the evening at a highly-rated Italian restaurant.
We headed out to stroll the streets over the canals to explore a few of the nearby districts. After just a few blocks, we found a small square with several restaurants off the beaten track, and the food smelled amazing, so we picked one and sat down. The day was sunny and warm; flowers adorned many buildings with varied architectural styles. Our lunch was delicious, as was the wine.
A Wonderful Surprise Find
We left and headed toward San Marco, one of the districts recommended to us. Meandering around through narrow streets and over even narrower canals was so much fun. Finally, we emerged from an archway into a small square and saw an interesting door of the Museo Della Musica in the San Maurizio Church.
Bob and I loved fascinating museums and were interested in music, so we checked it out. It was free, but donations were welcome. The museum featured instruments of Antonio Vivaldi and his contemporaries with many other historical instruments.
After finishing at the Museo Della Musica, we walked around more, taking in the sites and learning the city’s layout. Finally, crossing the famous Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal and enjoyed an afternoon gelato. Afterward, we returned to the hotel to rest before our much-anticipated evening dinner.
City Services on the Water
Growing up in the shadow of New York City, I am no stranger to big busy cities. However, I found Venice to be simply fascinating.
Venice has all the needs and services of big cities, including ambulances, buses, taxis, garbage removal, police, fire, etc. However, they must provide all these services on both land and sea.
The first morning we awoke to the garbage boats motoring by picking up garbage. During our walk, we saw water buses on the canals, police boats, and water ambulances. That evening, we even saw a fire boat responding to a nearby house fire with its lights and strange sirens blowing.
Charms of Venice: A Special Dinner
As we headed out for our romantic dinner, we planned the best way to get to the restaurant. A water bus would take us down the Grand Canal past the restaurant to a nearby stop. It was fun to explore the city on the water bus; It was similar to riding on a NY subway for the first time but less intimidating. We walked back about a block and arrived early at the restaurant.
Traveling by water bus in the late evening was fascinating. The city was lit up, and the lights glimmered off the water. Canal traffic had changed drastically. It shifted from a hectic, work-oriented pace to a slower, more leisurely one. Gondolas, luxury cruise boats, and parties on boats of all sizes glided along the canal.
On the way to the restaurant, we passed by a crazy site of two large hands coming out of the water that appeared to be supporting a building. It turns out that these hands were the work of Lorenzo Quinn erected for the 2017 Venice Biennale in May and taken down at the end of July. So, our timing was perfect to see it.
Quinn called the piece “Support.” This symbolized humanity’s power to both destroy and protect the planet. As the climate crisis nears, we must decide our course of action. I am sure he is unhappy that humans have done so little since 2017 to steer the effects of climate change away.
The restaurant was beautiful in a very old building with hand-carved moldings and Renaissance-era paintings. The service was very formal as we worked through a five-course meal.
I had Italian Prima Pasta and a local fish broiled with delicious seasonings and sauce. Bob’s main entre was Octopus which he loved. Bob enjoyed the dessert of Tiramisu, and I had an Italian chocolate cream cake with hot chocolate sauce poured over it. A girl can’t get enough of dark chocolate.
Discover the Charms of Venice
St Mark’s Square
After an excellent breakfast at the hotel, we headed out early towards one of the most famous landmarks in Venice: St. Mark’s Square. As we wound through the narrow streets, we crossed more small canals in a quieter city area. Passing through and around the curved old streets, we were able to get a glimpse of everyday life in Venice. People were sweeping the streets, setting up their market stands, and preparing for their day.
Finally, we neared the mouth of the Grand Canal and spotted the tall clock tower, built in 1499, above the large archways. We walked through the archways and stared down the large rectangular square with St. Marks on the far side. It was early, but crowds were already gathered to line up for entrance into the Basilica.
Many different styles of buildings surround the square. Some go back to the 14th century. For example, St. Mark’s Basilica is built in Byzantine-style architecture. The basilica has beautiful mosaics and intricate sculptured details that I found myself simply staring up at, trying to figure out the meaning of the sculptures and imagining what it was like to build such a beautiful building.
We booked a “Skip the Line Tour” and were instructed to meet at a specific place on the side of St Marks. This was a good decision, as our small group could move past the long line. Our guide spoke excellent English and gave us an overview of the Basilica and its history. She also shared insights into the architecture and sculptures outside and inside the church.
Over the years, Bob and I have learned we get much more out of visiting a place with so much beauty and history when we use a knowledgeable guide. We typically use Viatour or Trip Advisor to find and book these tours online.
Shopping on St Mark’s Square
After the tour of St. Marks, we strolled along the Merceria, or main street, past all the shops lining the buildings on both sides. There were high-end jewelry and watch shops, Ferrari stores selling everything with a Ferrari logo, classic high-end clothing stores, and a few restaurants with ample outdoor seating on the square. Eventually, we strolled into a jewelry store, where Bob gifted me a beautiful necklace. I still wear it today, making me think of Venice.
The Doge’s Palace is located adjacent to the basilica and is now a museum. Given more time, we would have gone into the museum but had a different idea.
Discover the Charms of Venice: The Island of Murano
The Windstar cruise director gave us an overview of Venice and the best areas to visit. He had mentioned that the Island of Murano, just a short boat ride, was famous for glass blowing. Bob and I are always intrigued by the artistry of glass blowing, so visiting Murano was a must for us.
After taking in St Mark’s Square and enjoying its history, we followed directions along the St. Marks Basin and consulted the many water bus route signs. We could take a water bus from the San Zaccaria, just a few blocks north of the St. Marks waterfront area.
The ride was only about two miles long. The waterway was very busy with taxis, water buses, and many other boats navigating the waters. The captain was friendly and narrated our ride by pointing out many attractions along the route. There are several stops on the island of Murano. We chose to get off in the heart of the glass-blowing area.
Glass Blowing on Murano
We found most of the streets of Murano to be narrow, with glass-blowing shops on both sides of the canal. As we walked, employees were standing outside the shops, inviting people to come in and see a glass-blowing demonstration and, of course, spend time and money in their gift shops.
We meandered in and out of these shops. The demonstrations ranged from providing a full explanation of how and what the artists were making to allow us to watch the artist work with no real description of what they were doing, but it was all fascinating. I purchased a few Murano glass beads to wear on a necklace chain as a memento.
It’s Always Time to Eat in Venice
Our stomachs were rumbling, so we began looking for lunch. We wandered towards the Murano shopping galleries, and along the way, we found an old family restaurant with a beautiful terrace garden to sit in. Perusing the menu and still determining what we were looking at, the delicious smell coming from the kitchen had us heading inside.
We were happy to sit down and rest after our busy morning of site-seeing. The food smelled amazing, and I was looking forward to a nice glass of crisp white Italian wine; Bob had a beer. We relaxed and enjoyed our wonderful lunch. I had Pasta Vongole, and Bob had a pasta and sausage dish. Of course, the bread was wonderful.
After lunch, we wandered through the streets, looking into many of the glass and art galleries that lined the streets. One was more beautiful than the next. We are fortunate that we had no more room for luggage. Otherwise, our bank accounts would have suffered a greater impact.
Heading Back to Venice
It was getting late. We headed to one of the water bus stops we had seen earlier. We waited a few minutes for the next bus, which took us back to St Mark’s Square. From there, we again meandered through the streets, enjoying another gelato, finally arriving at our hotel.
One of our regrets is that we didn’t go to any fabulous museums in Venice. I would have loved to go to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in a beautiful palazzo on the Grand Canal and spend time at the Dodge’s Palace at St. Marks.
On our last evening, we decided to dine at our hotel dining room and then take another walk around the area, featuring beautiful villas, historical buildings, and cafes.
We were off to Prague the following day, but I wished we had planned to spend at least another two days discovering the charms of Venice; there was so much more to see. Hopefully, we’ll get back there, but there is so much to see in this world.
Click to Expand the Pictures below to view the gallery.