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  • on June 26, 2007 -
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Venice: First Look

We were in Venice from Friday through Monday. After booking the cruise, we were unable to locate any hotel or bed & breakfast with a vacancy (except for a few really high-end places that were at least $400 per night), so we ended up staying in Mestre, on the mainland of Italy. From our hotel, it was a 10 minute walk to the local bus stop, then a 20 minute bus ride into Venice, across the long bridge connecting the islands to the mainland. Although we arrived at our hotel in the late afternoon, there was still plenty of time to start exploring! We purchased a 72-hour ACTV ticket (Azienda del Consorzio Trasporti Veneziano, the Venice Public Transport Company) which gave us unlimited use of land and water public transit systems. The bus dropped us off at Piazzale Roma, the major public transit interchange in Venice.

A crowded vaporetto leaving
a station along the Grand Canal

Not really having a plan, we just picked a direction and started walking. The architecture of the buildings is quite breathtaking. Many of the buildings are old and suffering, yet they still seem quite regal and beautiful. Venice is built on 122 tiny islands (each island is a bit like a city “block”) separated by 150 canals, and connected by 400 bridges. It was smaller than I expected — you can walk from one end to the other in well under an hour if you know what you’re doing and don’t get lost. Getting lost, however, seems inevitable in the narrow, confusing streets that go in all directions. After a couple hours of wandering we stopped for a light dinner (a pizza and a sandwich) at an outdoor cafe, and then boarded the Vaporetto (water bus) at the next bus stop we came across, heading to Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square).

At St. Mark’s we got a preview of some of the incredible buildings and architecture that were to be a recurring theme throughout the vacation. We also scoped out the area so we could find it easily the next morning, since we had a few pre-arranged appointments for a tour of the palace and entry to St. Mark’s Basilica. After a bit more wandering, our jet lag was catching up with us so we took the vaporetto back to Piazzale Roma, found the bus back to Mestre, and crashed in the hotel for the night.

Our first view of Venice from a side-alley along a small canal

The Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, along the Grand Canal

One of Venice’s many small canals

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