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One of the reasons we chose our latest Med cruise was that it embarked and debarked from Venice. The 18C Republic of Venice had the nickname "La Serenissima," which means "most serene" in Italian. While I wouldn't characterize modern day Venice as serene, it would certainly qualify as being sublime. It is a city of incredible beauty and energy despite the crush of tourists, and I was charmed yet again on this visit.
We arrived on a late afternoon flight from Amsterdam, and took the ATVO express bus from the airport into the Piazzale Roma. From there we walked over the Calatrava bridge to our hotel near the train station. The hotel was very basic but we only needed a convenient place to sleep. I chose this hotel because we wouldn't have to haul luggage far from our bus drop nor to the cruise terminal the next day.
After hotel check-in, we immediately left the hotel looking for a place to get some wine and a snack. We were in Venice in off-season, and in a relatively unfashionable part of town, but I was surprised by the number of tourists walking up and down the streets. Perhaps there is no off-season in Venice any more. Even the gondoliers were working.
After we sat down in a restaurant and ordered our wine, we decided to share an appetizer and a pasta. The seafood salad was excellent, and while the pasta with clams was par for Italy, it was still excellent.
Fortified from our snack, we took to the streets and just walked around until we got tired. You really don't have to visit any tourist attractions in Venice, you can just stroll, look and enjoy. It was interesting that we visited two "canal" cities back-to-back (Amsterdam and Venice) on this trip. Amsterdam is a city of canals, but there are roads along them, and it is a city of bicycles; in Venice you either walk or take a boat.
The next morning we had breakfast at the cafe next to the hotel, and did more walking. The weather was deteriorating and we were wandering around in the rain. We took a vaporetto (Venice's public transportion boats) across the Giudecca canal to the dreamy San Georgio Maggiore church and walked up the bell tower.
We got back on a vaporetto and took it up the Grand Canal back to the train station. We collected our luggage, walked over to the Piazzale Roma, and took the People Mover tram to the cruise terminal.
We checked in and waited for our sail away at 4:30, but by this time, gale-force winds had picked up, and the port was closed. We didn't sail out of Venice until about midnight, and this caused us to miss our first port stop in Dubrovnik. This would turn out to be one of two major weather delays.
When we debarked in Venice 7 days later there was a huge line waiting to take the People Mover back to the Piazzale Roma, so we just walked. It only took about 15 minutes, and we were able to do it easily since we had minimal luggage. We dropped off our two packs at the luggage storage located next to the People Mover in Piazzale Roma, and set out for a day of sightseeing. I insisted that Bruce see St. Mark's Cathedral and the Doges' Palace. We walked to St. Mark's Square, which Napoleon had called "Europe's drawing room." The line was already long for the Cathedral, so we bought tickets for the Doge's Palace.
The doges ruled Venice for 1000 years and enjoyed almost unlimited power and wealth. They were elected by the aristocracy and served for life, and the Doges' Palace rivals the Vatican in opulence and grandeur. The dreariness of the adjoining prison, reached via the Bridge of Sighs, makes a dramatic counterpoint to the outrageous luxury of the Palace.
After our freezing cold visit to the Doges' Palace, we made a quick tour through St. Marks to see the golden Byzantine mosaics (no photos allowed.) In the following photo of St. Marks you can see the surprising number of visitors touring Venice in blustery November.
We were uncomfortably cold at this point, so we stopped and had a couple of capucchinos. We wanted an indoor activity, so we decided to visit the Correr Museum as it was close by, and the admission was free with our Doges' Palace ticket. We walked back to the Piazzale, had an unremarkable dinner nearby, and picked up our bags. We took the public bus to the Courtyard Marriott in the town of Tessera near the airport.
ATVO bus: 8€/person
Hotel Universo 55€ plus 7€ in cash city tax
Doges Palace 11€ each, senior rate
capucchinos 4€ each!
People Mover 1.5€ each
Local bus to Tessara 1.5€ each
Courtyard Marriott in Tessera (30K Marriott points)