Saturday, July 07, 2012

2012 Italy - Day 16 - Venice

Venice is one of the most unique places in the world. Sharon booked a spectacular second floor room with a balcony overviewing the Grand Canal: our best hotel room of the trip. It was amazing waking up in the morning and standing on the balcony watching the boat traffic. All I needed was a real cup of coffee.

Letting the kids sleep later, we had breakfast in the hotel. The breakfast was second only to the hotel in Sorrento.

After yesterday’s drama, Sharon and I thought that a guided tour would be the best way to start the day. I wandered down to the front desk to see if I could book anything. Unfortunately, the tour that we had our eyes on was already booked.

As a result, we set off on our own. We started with the Doge’s Palace. The Doge’s Palace housed the government of the Venetian Empire. For almost four centuries (1150-1550), it was the most powerful place in Europe.

We got audio tours. In addition to the Palace, the tour included the Bridge of Sighs and the prison. I particularly liked the Titian fresco of St. Christopher hidden over one of the staircases. The Hall of the Grand Council is also amazing.

Afterwards, Jack and I went to St. Mark’s Basilica, while Sharon and Morgan shopped. This is Sharon’s third trip to Venice and she felt like she had seen enough of St. Mark’s already.

Jack and I brought a ticket to the Loggia, the terrace overlooking St. Mark’s Square. We wandered around the front of the Basilica and then through San Marco Museum housed upstairs.

St. Mark’s is a Byzantine Church largely decorated with loot from the Crusades. I had forgotten that it is a very dark church. Jack and I wandered the inside, including paying an additional fee to walk behind the altar and see the Golden Altarpiece (Pala d’Oro). It is probably my least favorite church that we toured on the trip.

Catching up with Sharon and Morgan, we had a light lunch. We had sandwiches at a bar on the way back to the hotel.

The plan for the afternoon was to go out to Murano. This island is known for glass blowing. We got a boat ride from the dock at the hotel out to the island. In a thirty minute demonstration, they made a vase and a glass horse. Afterwards, Sharon and I wandered through their store and bought a few items. They gave Jack the glass horse to take home.

The trip back on the company boat was interesting. Dropping one of the employees off at Ledo (a different island) before heading to St. Mark’s Square, we crossed paths with two cruise ships leaving port.

I was frankly surprised at the number of people roaming Venice during the course of the day. Oddly, the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica were not that crowded. It seemed like the majority of the tourist were just milling around rather than visiting the museums and churches.

Getting cleaned up, we had a drink in the bar of the hotel. The staff at the glass factory had recommended a restaurant, but we weren’t able to get a reservation there. Sharon ended up making a reservation at one of the restaurants recommended in the guide book: La Colomba.

We had a little bit of a struggle to find it; I finally had to ask a shopper owner for directions. It was a little bit of an odd experience. The place was empty. There was only one other couple in the restaurant. Nevertheless, the food was very good. I had seafood risotto and a mixed seafood grill. While expensive, the meal was cheaper and the food was better than the dinner at the hotel in Sorrento.

After a couple of long days, we wandered back to our hotel and crashed before 11 p.m.

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