From the moment we crossed the first bridge, we followed the signs toward the Rialto Bridge and San Marco. Obviously, by my past posts, we did stop places along the way, shopping and sightseeing as we plodded along. Our main goal was to reach what everyone said we had to see.
The Rialto Bridge is one of four bridges that cross the Grand Canal, designed by Antonio da Ponte and completed in 1591. In all honesty, you can’t miss it since it’s rather large and in a rather busy and congested portion of Venice as you pass through the Rialto market to get to it. It also has shops, such as the Hard Rock Cafe, on the bridge itself, so you cannot see the Grand Canal from the interior of the bridge, you have to pass through an archway to an outer ramp to take pictures of the Grand Canal.
From the Rialto Bridge, the Piazza San Marco is not far and is one of the main sights of Venice, containing Saint Mark’s Basilica and Doges Palace as well as a few other sites. Our first stop was Saint Mark’s, an Italo-Byzantine church completed in 1092! We’d heard it was a must see and was free to enter, which was lovely. My complaint was it was dark. Not so dark you couldn’t see, but I really would have liked to see the mosaics (Not just regular mosaics either! The background is gold glass tesserae-gold leaf encased in layers of glass.), which cover the wall in more detail, and it was really impossible to see all I wanted. Given the windows in the ceiling, I am certain a bit of it was the poor weather and the time of day since we toured near 5 pm, but we had poor weather both days in Venice. No matter what, our experience would have likely been the same. My other complaint–we weren’t allowed photos.
Now, one thing to note on Saint Mark’s! General admission to the building is free, and you can see most of the mosaic’s and the main portion of the church for nothing, but they do have certain artefacts and portions of the Basilica which require admission. For example, the Treasury has antiquities, even including a small animal mummy (My children found it and I don’t remember the animal. Sorry!) and some Greek/Roman pottery. The Presbytery is another part which requires admission.
Once we’d seen all of Saint Mark’s, we walked back out to take photos and then, walked down towards the water through the Piazetta and past Doges Castle. We took quite a few photos of the amazing view, though with the weather, though it was a bit foggy. From there, we turned left and walked down a ways before testing our skills and our sense of direction by taking whatever bridges we thought were in the correct direction to make it back to the tram. We ended up using the GPS/SatNav! Venice is a maze!
Our second day in Venice was rainy and more relaxed. We decided to play tourist shopper and walked through a lot of the gift shops and even boutiques (some felt no bigger than a walk-in closet!). I believe I warned everyone in the initial post to beware of the “Made in China” knock-off souvenirs. The handmade Carnivale masks are impressive and if you are looking for something small, not terribly expensive by comparison. There are also many shops touting, real Italian leather handbags. We found a distinct difference in the feel of the bag after shopping in one boutique rather than the touristy shop. Just be aware of what you are buying!
If you are celiac or gluten intolerant. Do not worry about finding food! Many restaurants offer either pizza or pasta, and sometimes both you can eat. We actually had a more difficult time finding bread and other “Sensa Glutine” items at the grocery store. Just beware the bakery windows! They look divine and I kept taking photos! I did enjoy the coffee and espresso drinks immensely, however, much to the chagrin of my nerves. 😉
We opted not to take a gondola ride as they were rather pricey for five people, though from what we discovered, you can haggle the price of the ride. 🙂