How to do a million things in one day – Venice edition

Galleria Del’Accademia – Piazza San Marco – Museo de San Marco – Basillica & Terraza – Palazza Gramini – Museo de Il Doge  – Gelato in Campiello S. Zulian – Ponte Rialto & Canale Grande – Museo de Correr – Campanile – Hotel Molino Stucky

Venice at sunset from the canal

Venice at sunset from the canal

Venice is a wonderful place… aside from the mosquitos and other people like me (tourists) that basically ruin the natural beauty of the city.  Not only does Venice hold such and important place in the development of art and the cultural history of the world but it is also full of kitsch and part amusement park.  One thing I can say for certain is that while very expensive, a tourist can definitely get their money’s worth without really leaving Piazza San Marco. Shana and I did so much in Venice that a point by point account would be tedious so here are some general thoughts about Venice.


The definition of picturesque

First off, there is not a more picturesque city that I have visited except for maybe Florence.  Every way you turn the architecture is stunning and the old world charm leaks out of the buildings and fills the canals with old Italian men singing with gusto as they take tourists around in their gondolas.  Even the public boats that take locals and tourists alike back and forth across the canals have a certain charm to them.  As they back out from the quay they shake violently as if you have upset the inner workings of the earth, the pilot whistles and shouts at the other boats as they skim by within inches of your water taxi and I loved every single second of it.

I love how you can absolutely never ever get lost in Venice.  Since there are no cars, no street lights, and no “bad neighborhoods” you can walk freely without really even paying attention to where you are going.  Inevitably a right turn will put you in front a massive church with 500 year old artwork inside and the next left will put you along the Canale Grande.  Well, you have to watch your step to make sure you don’t end up in a canal but after that its a “laissez-faire” walking experience.

Museo Il Doge

Museo Il Doge

As mentioned earlier a tourist can really get their money’s worth as far as museums go.  The Museo Il Doge took the better part of the morning and despite being 16 euros each was one of the best museums I have been to.  It made Versailles look cheap inside and overpriced for admission, had some of the greatest renaissance works of art in history, venetian architecture, included a tour of the palace, the armory, the venetian republic’s equivalent to congress, its surrounding offices, and the prison.  AND… that same ticket got you into the Museo Correr which was actually 3 separate museums all in one building.  Put that on a baguette 30 euro ticket to the Louvre.

While I liked the art in general at the Uffizi and Palazzo de Medici in Florence better; the Il Doge blew everything in Florence away as far as size, scope and pure ambition in art and architecture.  I have always had a soft spot the Florentine school of both renaissance and baroque as far as art goes but when it came to painting a room to exemplify the gravity of making decisions for Venetian republic Tinorretto and his son are only outdone by the Sistine Chapel for both beauty and scale.  The central room (parliament would be the closest approximation) of the Il Doge could hold more than 1500 people comfortably.  That doesn’t sound like much compared to the Duomo in Florence or St. Peter’s in the Vatican which can hold forthy thousand or more but this was a room where government was executed like a senate floor.  The US Senate only has seats for 50 senators and probably less than 20 or more for staff, press, the VP and the President.  The House of Representatives in the US is massive and has seats for 435 representatives and a lot more staff but comes no where close to 1500 for roomy seating arrangements.  Not to mention the US house does not have one of the greatest works of art ever hanging up above the entry way or rather covering the entire east wall of the chamber.

San Marco

San Marco

San Marco is also a very impressive piece of both art and architecture and again for my money’s worth, the 5 euros it takes to get in the museum which includes the terrace and the basilica are totally worth it.  I fully expected the “museum” of San Marco to be a cheesy one room affair with a couple pictures and some restored pieces of a triptych.  I was greatfully wrong.  The experience is one of the best views of Piazza San Marco, the museum has 15 plus rooms, up close looks at the mosaics that cover the three domes of San Marco and a true insight to the efforts into restoring one of the great works of architecture in human history.  The Campanile which almost costs twice as much offers tremendous views of Venice but cannot come anywhere close to providing the depth or the experience that the museum of San Marco can.

Finally an anecdote:  All I wanted when I got to Venice was to go for a cappuccino and some Italian pizza.  That was literally all I could think about.  On the plane from Santorini at 6AM, in the airport in the Athens airport during an eight hour layover,  in the boat ride from the airport to the hotel that took an astounding two and a half hours, to the fact that when we went to take the boat shuttle across the canal it was their time to take an hour break, when I went to walk to the alternate stop to get across the canal and realized I needed to go to the ATM and I walked back to the hotel only to have them inform me that the closest ATM is where I was originally walking to at the alternate boat stop, finally on the boat ride an hour later and starving across the canal I watch as the boat proceeds to stop a good 10 min walk from where I wanted to get pizza. I was thinking about getting a cappuccino and some italian pizza, I couldn’t help but hate everyone everywhere forever while in this hunger crazed pizza craving state of mind. Finally as I sat down at Ah’Oche across the canal from the hotel and had a gigantic personal pizza and a house brewed “rosso bier” in front of me, the world disappeared and I was one with the pizza.  I got my cappuccino the next day by Palazza Grimani

Venice is fantastic and totally worth the crowds, tour groups, smelly canals, mosquitos, pricy accommodations, and pushy gondola “pilots.”  If you appreciate art, history, architecture or simply just a joie de vive then Venice is the place for you.

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