By the time we got to Venice, I was getting exhausted from walking around huge cities all day every day. This part of the trip ended up landing perfectly between Paris and Rome, so we had a few days to simply relax and enjoy the calm, laid-back atmosphere of Venice before we delved back into a big city. We had decided to stay in a hotel instead of an Airbnb, which ended up being a great decision because they upgraded us to a suite with its own private outdoor lounge area and threw in an amazing breakfast buffet. The hotel had a huge garden with little pathways to explore and flowers blooming everywhere, which made the area we were staying in much more peaceful than in any of the other cities.
The first day, we took advantage of the complimentary water transportation to St. Mark’s Square and spent a few hours wandering around. We went into Doge’s Palace, which was a government building and residence for the elected Duke of Venice for hundreds of years. Although this was probably the least flashy of the palaces we went to, I enjoyed it just as much. It’s very unique – it doesn’t only include living quarters, but also government chambers like the rooms where the council and Senate met. The style of the ceilings was similar in some rooms to those of Versailles, where it was painted and surrounded by gold carvings, but other rooms had white stone carvings outlined by gold that I don’t remember seeing anywhere else. The palace wasn’t very crowded, so we were able to basically roam around at our will.
We didn’t have time to do much else afterwards because we had to catch the boat, so we just got a drink and people watched for a little bit, then got gelato on the way to the pier.
The next day, the first thing we did was go on a tour of a Murano Island glass factory. Venetian glassmakers have been working here since the late 1200s, when they moved from the mainland because they were afraid that the ovens would cause a fire and destroy the city. Everything they make (at least in the factory we went to) is handmade and absolutely amazing. They only allow visitors to watch simple things because they don’t want any of their methods stolen, but it was still really cool to be able to watch a cup being blown and shaped. After the factory part, we were taken to a showroom in which we also couldn’t take pictures. The guide was basically just trying to sell us things at that point, but thankfully he wasn’t too pushy. Honestly, though, I would have bought some things if I had an extra couple of thousand dollars laying around and a house to put it in.
After the tour, we went back to St. Mark’s Square and visited St. Mark’s Basilica. This is right next to Doge’s Palace because it was originally the duke’s private chapel. I liked the feeling of this basilica because when I walked in, I got the impression that it was built with the sole intention of making a beautiful place to worship in. The ground level is mostly simple dark marble, which ensures that your attention is drawn to the golden mosaics covering the ceiling that practically sparkle due to the fact that they were made by fusing gold leaf to the back of glass.
I didn’t take pictures inside of the church, but this is what it looks like.
After that, we headed to St. Mark’s Campanile, which is the tallest building in Venice. It was an amazing view, but unfortunately, it was a little cloudy and rainy. I’d love to see what it looks like on a sunny and clear day.
We had been seeing masquerade masks all around Venice and couldn’t figure out why, so before leaving to catch the boat again, we stopped into a store and asked one of the salesmen about it. According to him, Venice had the first Carnival in the world back in the 1200s and it’s now an annual event. The masks were originally for important people who wanted to hide their identities so that they could take part in the festivities without being bothered. Apparently, people also use these masks for weddings, but I think that sounds more like something that people who have their destination weddings in Venice do rather than something actual Venetians do. The masks are all handmade, beautiful, and ridiculously expensive. I think the one I tried on was about $300 but there were some that were over $1000.
We made sure to have a gondola ride the next day before leaving for Rome, and we lucked out by finally having perfect weather. We only took a 30-minute ride, but it was really relaxing and fun to see the city from the canal. The last thing we did was get some fresh, homemade pasta from Dal Moro’s for lunch and then we headed out.
Overall, even though Paris was a close second, I enjoyed the atmosphere of Venice the most out of all the cities we visited. There are no cars allowed, which makes a huge difference with regard to the amount of noise and makes everything feel much less chaotic. The city also felt genuinely old, as opposed to London and Paris, where there are renovations being made and modern buildings being built all the time. It’s definitely on my list of places to return to someday.