THE bus ride from Munich to Venice would be our longest, an 8-hour ride with a few stops along the way. For lunch, we stopped in a southern Tyrolean town in Italy, just south of the Austrian border. In Italian, it’s called Egna; in German, Neumar. There, we all had lunch al fresco and tried different types of authentic, Italian pizza.
Before leaving for Venice, Jennifer strongly advised that we take overnight bags and pack only what we need for our two days in Venice. It would be a lot easier getting to our hotel without rolling bags, and our other luggage would be kept in deep storage on our bus. The bus would be parked in the Tronchetto Parking Garage, which was built on a man-made island. From there, we rode a Vaporetto to San Marco Piazza.
HIGHLIGHTS, DAY 1
Just being in Venice!
Our group dinner on the first evening and getting to know others from our group. Jackie, one of the ladies who celebrated her 80th birthday, has traveled quite a bit. I hope I can be like her when I grow up!
Background image: Taken from the Bridge of Sighs - the San Marco Basin with San Giorgio Maggiore in the distance.
Gondolier's serenade on the Grand Canal
Evening gondola ride on our first night with other tour members. We rented four boats, six people in each, except the fourth, which included two musicians.
If you see bug spray in your hotel closet like we did, there’s a reason for it! We had a nice corner room with lots of windows. It was so beautiful and sunny outside, we opened them. When we came back later, mosquitoes were buzzing around! It never occurred to us that there’d be mosquitoes in Venice.
Bring a packable overnight bag. We brought one each, and they definitely came in handy. We used them going into Venice as well as our carry-ons on the flight back home.
Venetian Mask Making Demonstration
Elisabetta, our Venetian tour guide, models one of the more elegant masks (lower left) while Andrew "volunteered" to be fitted with a Captain Scaramouche mask. Making a mask the old fashioned way can't be rushed and takes a very patient craftsman.
After the demonstration, we visited the shop where all the shopkeeper's works were proudly on display. Masks are typically worn during the Carnival and hide not only the wearer's identity but also their social status permitting them to act more freely in cases where he or she wanted to interact with other members of the society outside the bounds of identity and everyday convention.
Largest Gondola in the Distance
Venice is a very busy cruise port accommodating with nearly 500 ship departures and 700,000 cruise passengers per year. Brace yourself for crowds when you see one of these cruise ships pull in.
Various Canal Boats
Of course I expected to see gondolas, but I was surprised by the number and types of boats that I saw. The city's water bus or vaporetto is easy and convenient to use (upper right).
Reflections of San Marco
Omar captured a reflection of the basilica in Jenna's sunglasses.
Basilica di San Marco
The gold ground mosaics are dazzling in the afternoon sunlight. No wonder it was known as Chiesa d'Oro (Church of gold). The basilica is one of the best known examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture. The Horses of Saint Mark, seen above the main doorway, were installed on the balcony in about 1254.
Basilica di San Marco Details
Detail of the gable showing St. Mark, Venice's patron apostle, with angels. The winged lion beneath is the symbol of the saint of Venice (right). A closeup of one of the gold ground mosaics known as the translation of the body of Saint Mark (lower right).
Inside San Marco
A shimmering effect is created by an interior covered in over 86,000 square feet gold glass tesserae. It'll take your breath away!
San Giorgio Maggiore
The San Giorgio Monastery was established in 982. That's when a Benedictine monk asked the doge Tribuno Memmo to donate the entire island for the establishment of a monastery. The monk, Giovanni Morosini, drained the island's marshes next to the church to get the ground for building and founded the monastery. Morosini then became its first abbot.
Beware of the Seagulls
Elisabetta said that pigeons, which are everywhere, are good luck. Seagulls, however, brought in by cruise ships, are not welcome in Venice.
Venice was dotted with these picturesque windows adorned with flowers. We saw more than a few gardens on roofs too.
If you're not worn out from sightseeing, Venice has a lot to see and do at night too - not the least of which is looking for a gelato shop!
THE next morning, Omar and I had an early breakfast so that we could go out and take pictures of the Grand Canal and San Marco Piazza. What a difference that made!
HIGHLIGHTS, DAY 2
San Marco Piazza and Grand Canal in the morning. It’s virtually empty and so beautiful. Plus, the weather was great - sunny and clear.
Omar commented on how the sunlight was different in Venice – brighter, clearer, more intense.
Getting to know Venice with our local tour guide, Elisabetta.
Venetian mask-making demonstration, learning about the different characters, and the shop.
Having lunch with other tour members - Russ, Kim, Nate, and Holly - and having gelato afterwards.
Skipping the long line to St. Mark’s Basilica and visiting the Doge’s Palace.
Image above: San Marco Basin with Santa Maria della Salute (or just Salute) across the water and to the far right.
The Bells of the Campanile at St. Mark's Basilica
MORE TRAVEL TIPS
In Rick Steves book, Best of Europe, there’s a tip on how to skip the long line to get into St. Mark’s Basilica. It really works! Six of us went together and split up into groups of three. Instead of waiting in line, we went straight to Ateneo San Basso, where Omar and one of the other guys checked in their backpacks and each got a claim ticket. We approached the entrance to St. Mark’s from the left, totally bypassing the long line that wound around to the right. Each group presented their claim ticket to the gatekeeper, and he let us all in! Afterwards, we went back to Ateneo San Basso and picked up our bags.
Adventures in ITALIAN
I don’t recall using a lot of Italian. Then again, a lot of our time was spent with our guides and local guides. But even off on our own at restaurants and shops, we didn’t use as much as I thought we would. Of course, like in other countries, we used common greetings - it's just polite. Here are some of the words and phrases we used most:
Buon giorno – Good day
Bene – Good
Grazie/Per favore – Please/Thank you
Si/No – Yes/No
Parla inglese? – Do you speak English?
Arrivederci – Good-bye
Andiamo! – Let’s go!
Gelato – delicious Italian ice cream that’s next to impossible to find back home – I’m talking about the good stuff!