Visiting the Grand Canal, Piazza San Marco, the Palazzo Ducale and some of Venice’s other incomparable sights was the preamble to our August 2011 cruise on Royal Caribbean. Therese, her mother Eileen and I flew into Venice, took a van to the cruise terminal and checked into our cabins on the Splendour of the Seas, and then had parts of two days to explore Venice before our cruise of 7 eastern Mediterranean ports.
The afternoon of Monday, August 15th was already on the wane by the time we changed into fresh clothes in our cabins and were ready to begin exploring Venice. However, Therese has a theory about changing your internal clock when you visit Europe, which includes getting out in the sun for a minimum of 4 hours; so we were determined to at the very least take a ride on a Vaporetto, Venice’s water buses, to Piazza San Marco and have a late lunch.
We achieved our aim. Using handy directions, we walked from the cruise terminal to Piazzale Roma, boarded a Vaporetto and went to Piazza San Marco. Along the way, we soaked in some Italian sun and gazed with appreciation on the singular beauty of the Grand Canal.
At the Piazza San Marco, a table on the terrace of the Gran Caffe Chioggia had our name on it, and we sat down for a drink and a nosh. Chioggia is expensive, and very touristy (read: don’t expect to get real Italian food there) – I believe I had a ham sandwich, while Eileen had some other kind of sandwich, and Therese had an ice cream. More importantly, I began to get acclimated to being (a) on vacation and (b) in Venice.
With a little food in our stomachs, we walked around the Piazza a bit, and then hopped on the Vaporetto again, intending to get off somewhere along the way back to Piazzale Roma and explore a bit. The stop we chose was Ca’ Rezzonico, from which we could walk a bit through the Dorsoduro neighborhood. We wandered past home-y looking shops and finally found a wine bar that looked nice. The day was quite hot and we thought a glass of wine would be just the thing. We each had a glass of Prosecco – how could we drink anything else, knowing that Prosecco is the local drink? – and it was so good we went back for seconds.
By this time, the sun was starting to go down, so we headed back to the Vaporetto, and from there to our boat.
On Tuesday morning, Therese and Eileen went out early to explore Rialto Market, and I met them at Piazza San Marco, right in front of St. Mark’s Basilica. Today we would do some proper sightseeing, exploring the Basilica and the Doge’s Palace, before returning to the boat in the early afternoon for our disembarking.
The Basilica was insanely crowded, and much smaller than I had imagined. The Doge’s Palace, on the other hand, was enormous, just one breathtaking council room after another, decorated with murals by Titian and Tintoretto and Veronese and other Renaissance Venetian artists. We had purchased St. Mark’s Square museum passes, and while we only used the passes for the Doge’s Palace, the pass allowed us to cut the line, and spend our time inside walking through the great palace, rather than outside in a line baking in the sun.
As much as we were loving the Doge’s Palace, it came time to scramble back to the boat. We got on the local Vaporetto by mistake, and by the time we got to Piazzale Roma, it was already time for the boat to leave. Yikes! We plotted a strategy: I would run ahead and then persuade the crew members to wait for Therese and Eileen. It worked, but only by the skin of our teeth. The crew people were very upset to have to wait, and immediately after Therese and Eileen boarded, the gangway went up and off we went. The crew made clear that next time the boat would not wait for us, and sure enough, we did not have any close calls after that.
I look forward in the future to having the chance to go back to Venice and spend at least a few days there to pick up where we left off. My taste of Venice from these two short days has left me thirsty to see more!