I titled my visits to the Italian cities “Run! Run!” because I was really in a rush – I had only a week in Italy and I wanted to cover as much of the country as possible. I went to Milan > Venice > return 2 Milan > Florence > Finally Rome. In fact, it was almost NOT a mission impossible, and I had a little bit more time in Florence yet I still didn’t manage to go to Pisa. I was flipping my own travel notes and I had a mark that said “Train your legs! Run! Run!” every day, just to remind myself what a packed travel plan I prepared. Well, there are so many different kinds of traveling and I just had to go with the style that suits me for each journey. So I did, “Run-Run” my way through Italy, and this time I had 6 hours in Venice.
Yes, you heard me – 6 hours, at most some leeway of 7. As the train approached the Station of Venezia Santa Lucia, I put my bags in storage at the station before hopping on another train back to Milan in the evening. I had my map, notes, iPod and camera ready and it was time to explore the island on my own. Now that I went there, I reckoned it may not be necessary to have a detailed travel plan and notes anyway; just venture out and walk through all the beautiful canals, alleys, and bridges and we always winded up reaching the Piazza San Marco.
Venice water bus line 1: The Grand Canal
I was told to take the water bus once I got out the train station and line 1 went through the Grand Canal which gives the first-timer a good overview of Venice. (Route Map)
Line 1 covers the Grand Canal from Station Santa Lucia to Lido. The line starts at the train station and reaches Ca’ d’oro, Rialto, S. Toma, Ponte dell’ Accademia, Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute and S. Zaccaria (Piazza San Marco). My strategy was to travel through the Grand Canal, get off at the Santa Maria della Salute stop, walk my way to the Piazza San Marco, and finally return to the train station in the evening. It was because I didn’t want to ruin the amazement by heading straight to the Piazza once arrived. I wanted to have small tastes of the island before the big grand finale at the Plaza, and the Grand Canal was a good way to start.
As the boat started I sensed the excitement from everyone around me. I got a nice spot at the front of the boat and couldn’t wait to see Venice for the first time.
It was emotional with the welcoming breeze brushing my face and Venice was as breathtaking as “they” say. There are lots of beautiful sceneries on earth but Venice is simply unique – no wonder any canal city would be named “Venice” of some sort. The ambiance of the city was overwhelming and made me wonder: why was I in such a romantic setting by myself? But anyway, I got off the boat and enjoyed the must-see places on the island!
St Mark’s Square
Napoleon said, “It’s the finest drawing room in Europe”. Developed in the 11th century, Piazza San Marco is the heart of Venice and a focal point of all the iconic architecture from its establishment to the 16th century. The plaza is surrounded by spectacular buildings including the St Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace, Bridge of Sighs, bell tower and marble pillars. Now, there are many outdoor cafes and galleries lined up around the plaza and a docking point to board the Gondola.
There are quite a lot of museums around the square, too. Like Museo Correr, National Archaeological Museum, National Library of St Mark’s, and more.
St Mark’s Basilica
St. Mark’s Basilica was built in the 9th century (then burnt down and restored a couple of times) and it’s one of my favorite and memorable cathedrals that I have seen in Europe and the resting place of Mark the Evangelist. The structure combined the building techniques of Roman, Byzantine, and Gothic. It’s a beautiful (an opulent) church with a golden interior and a sinking floor, I was walking on uneven ground (it has a great resemblance of the Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul!).
Check out more about my favorite cathedrals at My Top 12 Cathedral in Europe (1)!
It’s a great place to view the Grand Canal. It is one of the three main bridges that straddle across the Grand Canal. It was originally built as a wooden bridge and later modified as a marble bridge designed by Venetian architect Antonio da Ponte. Stores, hawkers, and stalls are everywhere but also beware of pickpockets.
I spent most of my time wandering around the key sights at the plaza, and there was already a lot of priceless and beautiful heritage and history to take in. I downloaded the podcast of Italy travel mp3 audio guides (ItalyGuides.it and It’s free!) which were amazing for me to know what to look at every step of my way. Once it was about time to leave the island, I walked my way back to the train station – but leave some time to explore the shops, galleries, traditional art and canals on the way. 🙂