Italy Day 3 (28 Nov 22) – Navigating through the Streets of Venice – The City of Water

Towards The City of Water – Venice

Today marks the day of our travel to the second Italian city in our ambitious Italian trip. We are heading to Venice, the City of Water. Venice was founded in the 5th century, and the city was built on over 118 small islands in the Adriatic Sea. Venice became a major maritime power in the 10th century. It is no secret that Venice relies on a series of waterways and canals, which gave the city its unique characteristics.

We started our day early today. We booked the 9.35 am train leaving Milan Central Station to Venice St Lucia Station to maximise our time in Venice. Two train stations contain the word “Venice” or Venezia in Italian. The Venezia Mestre is the station outside Venice Island, while the Venezia St Lucia. After a hearty breakfast at the hotel, we made our way to Milan Central Station, which was only 7 mins from the hotel we were staying in (compared to the 30 mins to navigate around the first day we arrived). We arrived at the platform early for our first Italian interstate high-speed train ride. Two main train companies providing high-speed rail service in Italy: Trenitalia and Italo. The former is a state-run company, and the latter a private company. In terms of pricing, I found Italo to be slightly cheaper than Trenitalia, plus they serve small snacks and drinks onboard for first-class passengers. However, regarding seat comfort, Trenitalia looks more comfortable (from the pictures I saw online). The train ride from Milan Central Station to Venezia St Lucia took 2½ hours.

The last time we come to Milan Central Station

We arrived at Venezia St. Lucia Train Station, the entrance to the City of Water, on time at 12.20 pm. As we were walking out of the station, a large green-domed building sitting right across the
Grand Canal was the first thing we saw. No one can miss this 18th-century church with its enormous green dome and Neoclassical architecture. This church has somewhat become the face of Venice. As we were walking around taking pictures and at the same time walking towards our hotel, we were greeted by porters asking if we required a porter service to transport our luggage to our hotel. Well, since our hotel is one bridge away (the Venetians gives direction using the bridges as a landmark) and is a mere 5 mins walk from the train station, we declined any porter services.

Our first look at Venice

Our hotel lies right across Ponte della Costituzione, one of the four bridges across the Grand Canal. This stone alternating with tempered glass bridge is the newest bridge to be installed across the Grand Canal. Moving our luggage up the Ponte della Costituzione was challenging as there were no ramps, meaning we had to drag our luggage step by step. Luckily the steps are pretty wide and shallow. Crossing the bridge, I started to use Google Maps to navigate to our hotel. This is when I found Google Maps to be unreliable. The app kept directing us to go in circles and indicated our hotel was right in the middle of the bus terminus in the middle of Piazzale Roma. After walking in circles for 10 mins, I decided to use another map app – Movit, which directed us across another smaller bridge (luckily, the Venetians installed a ramp on the bridge) to our hotel. We made it to our hotel and checked into the beautiful Hotel Papadopoli.

Getting Lost in the Venetian Labyrinth

After settling into our rooms and rested for 30 mins, we started our exploration of Venice. The plan today was to visit the big three sights in Piazza San Marco: Doge’s Palace, St Mark’s Basilica, and St Mark’s Bell Tower, followed by a rooftop visit in Fondaco dei Tedeschi (DFS Venice and Ponte di Rialto. We started walking across a bridge where we could see a bell tower afar; this bell tower became our leading mark as we thought this was the Bell Tower in Piazza San Marco. Next, we walked along the canal, crossing any bridges that we thought might lead us to the bell tower we saw on the balcony of our hotel room. A few bridges later, we arrived at Campo San Pantalon, landmarked by Chiesa di San Pantalon. This brick-built church is one of the few churches in Venice to be characterised by an unfinished facade. The unassuming church is dedicated to San Pantalon, a saint of midwives and co-patron saint of doctors who practised medicine free of charge. We did not stay here for long as this looked like a small church. We walk across the bridge in front of Chiesa di San Pantalon. The narrow street opens up to a huge square, and little did we realise we had arrived at Campo Santa Margherita. Rows of shops and restaurants surround the piazza. A lone withered tree occupied the centre of the Campo Santa Margherita, and a little north from the tree rests an unmarked monument (or this might be a flag pole). Few shops remained open around the sleepy Campo Santa Margherita, partly could be due to the off-peak tourist season. Further down Campo Santa Margherita, we came to another brick-built church – Santa Maria dei Carmini. Santa Maria dei Carmini appears larger than Chiesa di San Pantalon and is decked with a marble entryway with a statue of Madonna and Child. We did not enter this church as it looked closed.

Getting ready to explore Venice

We crossed another bridge to the other side of the canal as we walked along the canals, not knowing where we were (I intentionally put away my Google Maps for once and tried to “get lost” in Venice). We spotted Chiesa dell’Angelo Raffaele as we were walking along the canal. As the church is on the other side of the canal, we did not even attempt to find a bridge to enter. We continued our walk along the canal, past some narrow alleys and into what seemed to be residential areas. There is no one else walking on the streets except for us. As we were walking, we spotted a car park! This is the first time I have seen any cars in Venice (other than the bus terminus at Piazza Roma). At this point, I gave up wandering around and started to whip out my phone and Google for “DFS Venice, ” our destination today. At this point, I realised we were in the southwestern part of Venice, where no tourists visit. We followed the recommendation given by Google Maps and walked along the southern coastline of Venice. We soon found ourselves on the grounds of the University of Venice. After our toilet break at the university, we continued our journey towards DFS. Some small alleys are so narrow that only one person can walk at any time. A few minutes walk later; we found ourselves in front of a small church: Chiesa di San Sebastiano. The white marble facade church is rather plain, with a figure of St. Sebastian wounded by arrows at the top of the church. This church looks small and uninteresting. We continued our walk towards DFS Venice.

We spotted Chiesa dell’Angelo Raffaele across the canal

Wefie in a narrow alley somewhere in Venice

A few bridges later, the small alleys we had been passing through for the entire after were replaced with more canals. Small canals merged to become bigger canals. Soon we arrived at a wooden bridge built across a big canal. This is where I realised we were back at the Grand Canal. This wooden bridge, Ponte dell Accademia, is one of the four bridges that span the Grand Canal cross near the southern end of the Grand Canal. The bridge is named after the Accademia galleries. Standing on the bridge, we spotted a huge building sitting by the mouth of the Grand Canal, with huge grey domes. The Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute is one of the icons in Venice. Ponte dell Accademia offered us one of the great classic views of Venice that was captured in many photos and films on Venice. After taking pictures, we continued our walk to Fondaco dei Tedeschi. Two piazzas later, we arrived at our destination.

View of the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute along the Grand Canal from Ponte dell Accademia

The route we took today

The View of Grand Canal

The reason we were adamant about setting Fondaco dei Tedeschi as our destination today despite getting lost in the Labyrinth of the Venetian streets is for the booking of the terrace visit at Fondaco dei Tedeschi. During my research for top sights in Venice, several content creators recommended coming to the rooftop terrace of Fondaco dei Tedeschi, which offered visitors a panoramic view of the Grand Canal. The visit to the rooftop terrace is free of charge and can only be made through their website in advance (you can book here). I booked our timeslot at 5.15 pm and arrived at Fondaco dei Tedeschi at 4.45 pm. We walked around the departmental store before heading up to the terrace. We reached the terrace at 5 pm. Fortunately, the staff was able to admit us to the rooftop terrace. Access to the rooftop terrace is tightly controlled by the staff member who looks more like a bouncer. From the rooftop, we could see St Mark’s Bell Tower and the iconic stretch of the Grand Canal. It is a pity that it was already dark during our visit. I can imagine we would get a beautiful view from the terrace if we came during sunset. After a few photos later, we decided to get dinner.

Panoramic view of the Grand Canal from the rooftop terrace of Fondaco dei Tedeschi

Night Stroll Along San Marco Waterfront

Before we ventured back into the Venetian Labyrinth to search for dinner, we stopped by Ponte di Rialto, next to Fondaco dei Tedeschi. No visit to Venice will be complete without visiting the iconic Ponte di Rialto. Anyone who has not been to Venice can recognise the bridge immediately. The 400-year-old bridge is the oldest of all four bridges across the Grand Canal. Ponte di Rialto is built with stone, unlike the other two bridges we have crossed today. There are stores on either side of the bridge.

The iconic Rialto Bridge

We continued to wander in the Venetian streets in search of dinner and settled in a restaurant that looked rustic and authentic. We took a night stroll along the southern coast of Venice after dinner, as the night was still young. We made our way to Piazza San Marco, home of famous Venetian sights like San Marco Basilica, Doge Palace and Campanile di San Marco. Piazza San Marco was very quiet when we were there due to the low travel season. As we walked along the shore, past Doge’s Palace, we came across the Bridge of Sighs. The enclosed white limestone bridge with windows made of stone bars that pass over the Rio di Palazzo connects the new prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace. Legend has it that the bridge is named as such as prisoners would sigh when they see through the stone windows to the outside world for one last time being as they are being escorted to their prison to serve their sentence. As we walked further ]away from Piazza San Marco, we spotted a bronze statue sitting by the shoreline. This bronze statue is the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, dedicated to the first King of unified Italy. Strolling on the southern shore at night offered us a view of the islands and buildings across the Venetian Lagoon. The buildings were beautifully illuminated and great places to take some night shots. As it was getting cold, we returned to the hotel to rest for the night.

We had dinner at a restaurant that seemed to be patronised by locals.

The three landmarks at Piazza San Marco – San Marco Basilica, San Marco Campanile and Doge’s Palace

Bridge of Sighs in Venice next to Doge’s Palace

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