Hello again dear Wanderlusters, to the second part of my series rambling on about Venice! I hope you enjoyed the first post where I just rambled on, in typical Harpreet’s Wanderlust fashion about MY Venice! I’m not quite done with this magical city yet, because I still have to tell you about some of the sights that we indulged in. Let’s explore some more of this incredible city that feels like it is floating on water, shall we?
San Marco (St. Marks) Square
There is a popular saying in Venice amongst the locals (or at least that’s what my Hotel Concierge said to me) that “all roads lead to San Marco Square anyway”, so just start walking and soon enough you will find yourself ‘found’ again even if you do wander off the so called beaten path, which is exactly what happened to us! We started to walk, crossed a couple of bridges, window shopped in the quaint little stores decked out with Venetian masks and colourful Murano glass, and soon found ourselves in the large expanse of San Marco Square, buzzing with tourists and activity!
Even though it is packed with tourists and men trying to sell you rubbish, the square has a charm of its own. Between all the sidewalk cafes that line the square, to the Campanile Tower rising regally above, and St Peters Basilica sat at the end, it is a sight to behold. And just beyond the square, the Grand Canal opens up again with its signature buildings standing regally. The white dome of the Santa Maria della Salute, the Church on San Maggiore island across, and of course, Venice’s signature gondolas bobbing up and down with the waters of the Grand Canal as Vaporettos and water taxis glide past.
At night, this square is nicknamed the “Living Room of Europe” as the various cafes that dot its periphery try to outdo each other with their music, and where you will pay through your nose for a very expensive Cappuccino and a sub -standard sandwich, but, hey, if it is on your WanderList then go for it! The square is devoid of all the human rush of the day, and the lights along the corridors come on, casting a warm glow, with the Campanile and St. Marks Basilica all lit up. The only sign of activity you will find will be people sat at the cafes, photographers taking night shots and, pesky vendors, with whom M and I had a not so pleasant encounter.
The Rose Incident
Amidst the buzz of San Marco Square, you will find all kinds of vendors trying to sell you the most random stuff (slinky anyone?) with the classic item being a single long stemmed rose. A real rose and not one of those fake plastic stems. Let me tell you a little about what happened to me. Our evening in the square was pleasant enough, and whirled away with the romance of the place, M decided to do a lil photoshoot of me in San Marco square. So, this chap sees M taking pictures of me and decides that I would do well with a red rose in my hand. I am well travelled and know better than to indulge such advances, and so firmly but politely, I shrugged him off and insisted I didn’t want said rose. Thinking I had deterred the guy, I turned my back and we got on with our photoshoot. The next thing I know, I have a rose being thrust into my hand, with said chap citing it as being a “gift” and then walking away. Ok. Gift it is, I think to myself, and at the same time, what a nice chap, maybe I didn’t give him the benefit of the doubt? Not so fast. No sooner do we start to walk away than does he come running after us, demanding payment for the!!! What do I do? Hand his rose right back, reminding him that I didn’t want it in the first place! Chap starts to insist that he doesn’t want the rose but wants money instead. So, rather than get into an argument, I simply put the rose on the floor and start to walk away to no less than cursing and obscenities from this chap who I am sad to say, with all due respect, was an Indian man, and should know better than to disgrace fellow Indians like myself with such unbecoming behaviour! So, dear Wanderlusters, watch out for the “Rose Trick” when you visit San Marco Square!
Thankfully this was the only ugly incident and so despite the few minutes of disappointment in human behaviour, Venice still sparkled for me. It is sad to see the lengths that people will go to to make a quick buck, but a moonlight walk along the Grand Canal soaking in the atmosphere: the glittering lights shining on various monuments and the gondolas bobbing gently up and down in the canal quickly remind you that Venice is indeed, magical.
The Sights of San Marco – By day
Personally, I had enough of San Marco Square the evening before, and so, wanted to explore its two main sights early in the morning before the crowds and pesky salesmen veered in. Having bought a fast pass ticket, we started off by taking the elevator up the Campanile and indulged in the panoramic views of Venice, the Grand Canal and all the buildings before heading into St Peters Basilica for a whistle stop tour.
Now, there are history buffs and those that appreciate architecture and the such. I for one, quite enjoy immersing myself into a monument and admiring it for the moment, history quickly forgotten ten seconds later. The one thing that did stand out for me in St Peters Basilica though were the horses on the balcony, and the view across San Marco from atop the balcony. There is no photography allowed in the Basilica however you can take pictures once on the balcony, such as this Fresco:
An alternate view of St Marks Square
The island of San Giorgio Maggiorre sits directly opposite San Marco square, and offers a different perspective of Venice. It is a pleasant hop across the Grand Canal, and the Bell Tower is accessed from the Church on the island itself. The alternate views of the Grand Canal are worth this trek alone!
There are no “untouristy restautrants” in Venice, and so in the spirit of going “off the beaten path”, M and I decided to indulge in what Venetians like to call cicchetti and frequent one of the many little snack shops popular with the locals and enjoy some of their lil bites. It was in these lil back streets thronged with locals, in the bacari where we ate some of the nicest food in Venice. Deep fried mozzarella cheese, calamari, artichoke hearts, crostini, prosciutto with melon and things on toothpicks all washed down with small glasses of wine. We tried a couple of bacari, frequenting those that seemed to have people spilling out onto the streets all chattering away happily with drinks in hand, munching on yummy looking morsels of food. The glitz and glamour is reserved for the area between Rialto Bride and St. Mark’s Square. For a real taste of Venice, hunt down a bacari and eat some ciccheti.
The Perfect Venetian Sunset: Dusk in Venice
Sunsets make me go aaahhhhh. The hour between sunset and dusk is probably THE most romantic in Venice. And of course there is that one sunset shot that you must get when in Venice: it has to have gondolas going round the bend where the white domed building is perched. Welcome dear friends, to the Accademia Bridge where you can sip an Aperol Spritz, and watch the sun melt away into orange nothingness from one of the many cafes or atop the bridge, and, guess what, actually listen to the gondoliers SING!
-Skip the Line at St. Peter’s Basilica
You can get tickets online for Euro 2 a person but ironically there is still a queue, and if you go at 8 am (just before the opening time at 9 am) you may just be able to get inside the Basilica without this skip the line “pass”. Entry into the Basilica is free however you do pay various prices once inside to see different parts of the Basilica. No backpacks are allowed; you can deposit your luggage at the north façade, in Ateneo San Basso in front of the Gate of Flowers. No photography in the Basilica.
Euro 8 per person, first entry in at 9 am, last entry one hour before closing. Check the website for up to date information.
-Alternative view of San Marco Square
Take the Number 2 Line from S. Zaccaria off Piazza San Marco to S. Giorgio.
Entry into the Church is free.
Entry into the bell tower is Euro 3 per person, you can take in backpacks. Access the bell tower from inside the Church (enter the Church from the front entrance and walk towards the back where you will see signs for the bell tower. Buy your tickets from the desk and use the lift to go up).
Ohhh, Venice, you are beautiful and have left such a lasting impression for me!