The line to get in to San Marco’s Basilica was lengthy, and the heat was beating down on our backs. We lined up anyways. Luckily, the line moved quickly. Entrance was free, no pictures allowed, and our shoulders and knees had to be covered. Modesty is necessary when traveling through these places. On our trip we always wore scarves that quickly solved any clothing discrepancies.
The Basilica was dark and looked forgotten, but they had just started its revitalization so there was hope. We quickly walked through and headed next door to Doge’s Palace. It was 50 euros for Baba, Julianna, and I to get inside. Worth it? Yes.
The courtyard was grand; we posed in front of the marble steps for pictures. The back of the Basilica connected there. Windows looked down on us, and I couldn’t wait to explore what was inside. A magnificent golden staircase greeted us upon entry; room after room was steeped in Italian Renaissance. There was dark and forbidding wood paneling and frescoes. There were tiny corridors leading to the dungeons. We passed through many cramped cells, saved for prisoners who would never see anyone but guards again. Finally, we reached the fabled Bridge of Sighs where you could look out and see glimpses of the canal and the light beyond. This was said to be the last place captives would ever see the light of day.
After leaving Doge’s Palace, we walked up to the docks and stood for a while, taking in the view that was before us, where the canal met the sea. The water was murky. Parched, we grabbed water (and beer) from a vendor nearby. We sat on the edge of the sidewalk with our feet dangling over the canal as the waves lapped the sides, sipping on our drinks.
Along the canal were artists, selling their watercolour, oil, and acrylic paintings. We browsed and bartered and picked up a few of our favourites for souvenirs. Tourists were cramming to catch a glimpse of the Bridge of Sighs and many were trying to take the perfect selfie with it. A sea of selfie-sticks could be seen. The sun was starting to set in the sky.
We decided a gondola was the perfect way to rest our feet. (It cost us 80 euros for 40 mins before 7pm, then the price jumps to 100 euros a ride! Up to 6 can share a gondola, so more people = less costly.) We loved every minute of it. It is such a unique experience, one like no other, drifting down the Grand Canal and funneling into smaller canals, listening to the melodic voices of gondoliers and their accordionists serenading their passengers alongside the ebb and flow of the water. A person could fall asleep from the gentle rocking of gondola. The seats on board are black leather cushions of heaven for the weary traveler. There is a pungent odour in the air of decay from the rising waters of the canal, slowly eating away at the city; you must mind the barnacles and green slime that live on the walls near the water, but if you keep your eyes up you can find yourself falling for Venezia.
We bid adieu to our vessel and continued on into the streets of the city. We stopped at a few shops and street vendors, picking up a few more souvenirs along the way. I picked up a delicate little ink pen made of Murano glass, made just outside the city. Venetian masks and scarves are all popular souvenirs as well.
Being an ice cream lover, we HAD to stop for gelato at one of the places we had passed earlier. I had seen tourists carrying around these scrumptious cones with so much gelato they looked as if they would fall over. I got the most delicious cherry flavoured gelato I had ever eaten. It was totally worth every sugary sweet calorie. For supper we stopped at a pasta place (but of course, we’re in Italy!) and once again had water with no gas. It was alright, but I was yet to be impressed by Italy’s pasta.
It was dark in the city; we couldn’t find our way back. There were Italian voices singing and laughing nearby and little lights reflected on the now quiet canal. We turned around and found the restaurant we ate our dinner at, and were redirected to the bus station by a helpful waitress. We caught the #6 bus back to our hotel, but got off a few stops too early and were lost again, confused by the similarities of the streets and traffic circles. We ducked into a hotel and called a cab, and we were so glad to finally arrive back at our hotel at 11. It had been a long and adventurous day. It was astounding to think that just this morning we had been at our little B&B in Stansted, England.