Venice, Italy - March 2018
For Lauren's 21st I'd bought her a PADI diving course, as I thought it important to give her something that would be useful for ever and be a lasting memory.
Ryan's not really that interesting in outdoorsy type activities, but had mentioned that he'd like to visit Venice sometime more than once, so when his 21st rolled around I suggested we spend a weekend there to celebrate and he liked the idea, so he and I spent 3 days there.
I found us a hotel on the Grand Canal, within easy walking distance of St Mark's Square and pretty much everything else really!
We flew to Marco Polo Airport and then took a waterbus across the lagoon to Venice itself hopping off at the Rialto Bridge, which I knew was quite close to the Pesaro Palace Hotel.
Rialto Bridge, Venice and our first Gelato!
Although it was March and still not hot, the first thing we did was buy an Italian Ice Cream, because one of my strong memories of a trip to Venice (when Ryan was less than 2 years old!) was the wonderful Gelato shops!
We walked along the narrow winding paths (the canals are the streets of Venice, really) and found our hotel, nestling down a narrow alleyway.
In the side canals, there were few people
The Naval Yard entrance
It turned out to be a really nice hotel, which was a bonus. We had a large, ornately decorated twin room on the 4th floor (although the building seemed to have 5 floors when viewed from outside, mysterious...) and we enjoyed an excellent buffet breakfast each morning.
The weather was kind, being (mostly) bright, if a little chilly, and the floods having passed (the raised walkways were stacked in the alley way from the water bus stop outside our hotel and all around St Mark's Square and provided handy benches!
Having checked into the hotel we spent the rest of the first day just wandering around the streets and canals, taking in the scenery.
S. Giorgio from the waterfront, Venice
S. Marco and the Campinale on St Mark's Square
We ate a nice pizza on a small square and walked down to look at the gates to the Naval Dockyards, sadly still an active Navy base and off limits to tourists.
That evening, I'd arranged for us to take a guided walking tour around Venice with a film location theme and we met up with our guide (whose name a year on I've forgotten, sadly) near the Rialto Bridge.
Venice by night
A location for Orson Welle's Romeo & Juliet, visited on our walking tour
There were just the 3 of us, but for a couple of hours he led us around, showing where Bond and Indiana Jones, Don't Look Now and Romeo and Juliet were filmed as well as telling us about the little known history of some of Venice's streets and buildings. It was an excellent tour and I'd recommend it to everyone and anyone - Look up free guided walking tours - They don't charge, but take donations for a charity that makes Venice more accessible for those with mobility issues, very worthy and you'd be a mean bastard not to donate, as the tour itself was well worth paying for!
Rialto Bridge by night
After a good night's sleep we headed to the water buses and set off to island hop around the Lagoon.
It was a bit overcast, so we headed out as far as we could, to Torcello.
Bridge of the Devil! And Ryan, or is HE the Devil?
Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta
There isn't a lot to see here, except a smal bridge, Ponte del Diavolo (one of only two in the whole of Venice without a handrail) and the 7th century Cathedral, Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta, which is remarkably intact. Apparently, it has some impressive mosaics inside and a good view from the tour, but we had a full day ahead of us, so we just looked around the grounds and the exterior and then headed back and across to Burano.
Pretty and quiet canals of Burano
The island best known for lace-making, features lots of pretty, colourful houses and shops, around the squares and along the canals.
Leaning tower of Burano
There's even a leaning tower to enjoy.
We ate a snack lunch in a little cafe on one of the canal sides and generally enjoyed the trip around the island, before boarding another water bus and heading to the larger of the islands, Murano, which is world renowned for its unique glass.
We very quickly found a glass workshop to watch them blowers at work, which is something to see. Even if they do it mainly for the benefit of tourists nowadays, it's still how the pieces are made and have been for many centuries. It's certainly not a skill you'll see demonstrated every day!
Classic water taxi
Murano glass is world famous, don't miss seeing them making some if you go, but they don't like photos!
Murano, not as pretty as Burano? Certainly no eyesore,though!
We wandered the canal sides for a while, but Murano is busier and less attractive (to me, at least) than smaller Burano.
We hopped aboard another boat, it was packed and getting quite warm, so we jumped out at the Cemetery island, just across from Venice proper, in the hope that the next water bus would be a bit quieter. We had a quick stroll around the cemetry, with it's stacked tombs, before boarding another, almost as busy, boat.
After dinner, we strolled around the streets and canal sides on our own. Venice was still fairly quiet in late March, so although not deserted, it wasn't crowded in the evenings, after the majority of the day trippers had left.
Ryan standing in..., well, you can see!
Venice by night
The waterfront at night with us blocking the view.
For the final day of our stay, we thought we'd go up the Campinale in St Mark's Square, but after a more leisurely breakfast than we'd planned, there was already a long queue. I'd spotted a recommendation, though, to visit the very similar Campinale on St Georgio, directly across the water from the Doge's Palace, so we hopped on another boat and walked straight in.
View of Venice from San Giorgio Campinale, pretty good,eh?
San Giorgio from the boat
"Hey Ryan, get a photo of me with Venice in the background"...
Our timing was a little unfortunate as we reached the top of the Campinale (Bell Tower) at 11AM, just as the bells started to chime. It was pretty deafening, but it was worth it for the views back at St Mark's and Venice from the tower.
It was Palm Sunday, this day, and we found ourselves trapped in the cathedral by a ceremony on the steps outside the main door for about a quarter of an hour. After that we sat outside in the sunshine, waiting for a water bus to take us back and then we wandered around a bit, even taking a ride across the Grand Canal on a Gondola for just a couple of Euros!
Old vs New
Cheapest Gondola ride in Venice, goes across the Grand Canal for a couple of Euros - We had a ride
Ryan's interest in Venice, to a large extent, had come from playing a computer game set there. We hadn't planned to go into the Doge's Palace, but we found a short queue after a light lunch and a few hours to kill, so we went in. Ryan was immediately happy we had as he proclaimed "I've been here". He meant in the game!
The incredible Sala del Senato
Last view of freedom from the Bridge of Sighs
Ryan plots his escape from the Doge's Palace prison
Doge's Palace steps, supposedly Casanova strode out of these gates
However, it was a very interesting visit and one we were both glad we made. There's a huge room, the Sala del Senato, which seems to defy physics by lacking supporting pillars and we crossed the 'Bridge of Sighs' to explore the jails, where only Casanova is reputed to have escaped from.
Many years before, I'd photographed Lauren and Ryan by a canal and we found the very spot and got a photo of Ryan there to show his mother and sister.
Ryan on the same spot, 19 years apart
After a final Pizza and another ice cream, we picked up our suitcases and boarded one last water bus back to the airport.
Some people are a bit jaded and say that Venice has been ruined by tourism, but a lot of its magic remains. Yes, it can get really busy, but you can also find yourself in tiny empty streets all alone, and there's really nowhere in the world like it.
We both really enjoyed our visit and I hope the memories of the trip stick with him.
PS I'm writing this over a year after our trip and he's just wandered into the room - Apparently, the trip was 'Super Rad' and I'm to mention that in this report!