Walking the back streets of Venice is one way to see the sights but only by exploring Venice by boat can you truly appreciate the magic of this city.
It had a been a few years since we were last here so when Walks of Italy offered to show us their Venice from the comfort of a spacious motor boat, we graciously accepted.
We’d walked the Riva degli Schiavoni quite a few times during the days prior to the tour but the minute we were on the water, the whole feeling changed. The Doge’s Palace is, for me, one of the most beautiful buildings in a town full of magnificent buildings. To see it from a distance with the Bridge of Sighs adjoining it, was a new experience.
After a few minutes crossing the water, it was time to explore the narrow canals that criss cross through the island.
Having a guide makes Venice comes to life. Isabelle told us about private homes we passed, pointed out wonderful private gardens, old historic churches and little anecdotes about everyday life.
The tide was quite high on the day of our tour. More than once we had to duck down as low as possible as we passed under a bridge. When the tide is particularly high, the route of the tour needs to be changed as it’s impossible to pass under some of the bridges.
Venice’s wonderful setting, it’s unique canals and historic buildings has seen it listed as an UNESCO world heritage sight. The exterior of buildings cannot be altered in any way. This was explained to us as we passed the Hospital SS.Giovanni e Paolo in Castello. This building was originally the Scuola Grande di San Marco. In 1819 it became an Austrian military hospital and now it is the main hospital in Venice. Not that you would know this from the outside. There are no signs allowed on the exterior. The only sign that it was a hospital was the ambulance moored down the side of the canal.
Next door in the Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo, stands the church of the same name where many of the Doges of Venice are buried.
One place that I must come back to and visit.
We crossed the Grand Canal and headed through to the Dorsoduro area of Venice. Historic buildings that we had passed on the vaporetto now had a name and a history.
And the magnificent Rialto Bridge that crosses to the famous Rialto Markets
Being the week after the George Clooney wedding, the Aman Hotel was of interest to us all!
We then disappeared up another side canal and stopped in front of one of the last remaining gondola repair shops or squero as they are called. There was once over 10,000 gondolas in Venice but now the number is down to about 400. In a town of stone buildings, this wooden structure that dates back to the 17th century, is a rarity. This is one of the reasons I love taking tours….you are shown places that you may never have found.
It was then back onto the Grand Canal and time to head to our last stop of the day…..
San Giorgio Maggiore Island
This island at the tip of the island of Giudecca island was originally home to a monastery that was built in 982. In 1856 the existing church, The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore was built to plans designed by Palladio. Today the island is the headquarters of the Cini Foundation Arts Centre. It also has one of the best views of Venice from the top of the bell tower!
At the time we were in Venice, the Architectural Biennale was taking place. This installation, The Sky over Nine Columns, by Heinz Mack had pride of place in front of the church. Nine columns, seven and a half meters high and covered in gold mosaics stood on stark contrast to Palladio’s architecture.
“As a manifestation of the human being standing upright, the column is the earliest element in the history of architecture and forms a direct relation between earth and sky. The golden mosaic consisting of over 800,000 tesserae is an example of the long tradition of local craftsmanship, representing Venice’s early cultural relations between Orient and Occident.” *
* Reference: The Cini Foundation www.cini.it
Maybe it was the grey day but there was hardly anyone here….A surprise considering the magnificent views that were to be had from the top of the bell tower. Thankfully there was a lift to the top…..
I’m a great believer of wandering around a city and getting lost. Venice is the perfect place for this but Venice is famous for it’s canals and exploring these by boat adds another dimension to the uniqueness of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Thank you Walks of Italy for showing us Venice by boat.
Our tour was the Venice Boat Tour: Grand Canal and San Giorgio Maggiore Island Tower Climb.
Walks of Italy have many other tours available in Venice that include a walking tour and gondola ride, different visits to St Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace, a fabulous Food Tour and Chiccheti Tasting and private tours to Murano and Burano. All the information and pricing is on their web site: Walks of Italy-Venice
Walks of Italy also have tours in Rome, Florence, Pompei, Tuscany and Siena, Umbria, Milan and Puglia.
Disclaimer: Our tour was complimentary.
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