First off, we didn’t take a gondola ride. Maybe we missed out, but it’s expensive and for much of the time the gondolas were lined up one after another as if they are on a conveyor belt in an amusement park.
Despite not taking a gondola ride, however, we did do some fantastic things in Venice. And even better, we didn’t break our budget. So here are some of the things we did in Venice that stand out.
Gelato: I’m not the biggest fan of ice cream generally, and I think hearing people constantly rave about gelato kind of made me hate it. By the time we got to Venice, however, icy attitude had begun to melt. This probably happened because gelato in Italy is A) not ridiculously overpriced like it is in the U.S., and B) it was really hot. We ate a lot of gelato in Venice and, in retrospect the best chocolate icecream I’ve ever had was there. Gelato was especially good at passing time waiting in line.
St. Mark’s Basilica: We didn’t do a lot of “touristy” things in Venice, instead opting to wander the alley’s, but we did visit this church. We passed by the outside a bunch of times, and went in once. The line to get in wasn’t too long, and both the inside and outside were pretty impressive. The exterior—which is covered in marble—is a flamboyant hodgepodge of colors and patterns. It looks somewhat eastern in it’s influences and it is remarkably different from other churches. The inside is covered with impressive gold mosaics.
Sunday Mass at Frari Church: We had read that this church had Gregorian chant on Sunday mornings. It was also close to our hotel, so we headed over. After nearly being turned away at the door because we were tourists not worshipers, however, we discovered that it was a pretty typical mass. Though we had already been to a few masses by this point in the trip, this one was still interesting because it was in a spectacular setting. It’s a gothic church, and therefore large, airy, and echo-y. I’ve always enjoyed churches like that, but what makes this one even more fantastic is the fact that it also houses art by famous masters like Titian, Bellini, Donatello, and a bunch of others. Usually it costs three euros to get in to the church, but since we went to the mass, it was free for us.
Boat Bus Tour of the Grand Canal: Instead of taking a gondola, we decided to take the bus, which in Venice means taking a boat, called a vaporetto. We got boat #1 near the train station and cruised all the way along the Grand Canal to the other end of town, near St. Mark’s Square. We read about the different things we were seeing on the iPod, and it gave us a unique view of the city that we hadn’t seen from the streets. The ticket costs somewhere around 7 euros, and is good for an hour, though I think we actually rode boat #2 much later than that and nothing happened to us. (When I tried to scan our vaporetto pass message came up on the electronic screen saying it was invalid, but an old Italian guy who was standing by us told us just to get on anyway, and since there were no gates or people blocking our way, we just got on.)
Evening in the rain: On our last night in Venice it rained while we were still walking around. Colossal thunderheads rolled in first, and when it started we took refuge in a pizzeria. The pizza was delicious and while we were there we encountered a couple of middle aged American men who were overjoyed to discover that they could drink wine in the street. After we had eaten our pizza we kept walking around. The rain had driven a lot of people out of the streets and we strolled through an empty, gleaming St. Mark’s Square. After wandering around for a while we ended up behind the opera house, where could catch hints of the performance inside. When the rain stopped again, we sat on some canal steps (and contemplated what it would be like to whack the gondola passengers parading by few feet in front of us with pool noodles). When the rain started up again we decided to make our way back to the hotel, along the way passing the Rialto Bridge and the now glimmering Grand Canal.