Exploring Venice by Boat

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.

Exploring Venice by Boat

The Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs


Exploring Venice by Boat

Leaving St Mark’s Square


After a few minutes crossing the water, it was time to explore the narrow canals that criss cross through the island.

Exploring Venice by Boat


Exploring Venice by Boat

One of the overgrown private gardens we saw.


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.

Exploring Venice by Boat

Our Walks of Italy Guide showing us the sights of Venice by boat


Exploring Venice by Boat

There’s still buildings in need of restoration!


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.

Exploring Venice by Boat


Exploring Venice by Boat


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.

Exploring Venice by Boat



Exploring Venice by Boat


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.

Exploring Venice by Boat

Basilica del Santi Giovanni e Paolo

Exploring Venice by Boat

Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo



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.

Exploring Venice by Boat

Musee di Storia Naturale


Exploring Venice by Boat

The subject of many of William Turner’s paintings: Chiesa de San Stae


And the magnificent Rialto Bridge that crosses to the famous Rialto Markets

Exploring Venice by Boat



Being the week after the George Clooney wedding, the Aman Hotel was of interest to us all!

Exploring Venice by Boat

The Aman Hotel


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.

Exploring Venice by Boat



Exploring Venice by Boat


It was then back onto the Grand Canal and time to head to our last stop of the day…..

Exploring Venice by Boat

The Grand Canal with the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute in the background


Exploring Venice by Boat

Palazzo Barbarigo. Whilst built in the 16th century the glass mosaics were added in 1886 by the owners who owned a glass factory in Murano.


Exploring Venice by Boat

Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute



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!


Exploring Venice by Boat


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


Exploring Venice by Boat

The juxtaposition of old and new



The Sky over Nine Columns

‘The Sky over Nine Columns’ by Heinz Mack


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…..

Exploring Venice by Boat

Looking towards the Cipriani Hotel and Giudecca Island


Exploring Venice by Boat

The maze in the gardens of the Monastery


Exploring Venice by Boat

The view towards St Marks Square and the Doge’s Palace



Exploring Venice by Boat

View from the Bell Tower of the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore


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.



Other articles you may enjoy:
The Sicilian Town of Noto|
Early Morning in Rome
5 Places to Visit in Turin
Milan’s Magnificent Duomo



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33 Responses to Exploring Venice by Boat

  1. Renuka November 23, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

    I too believe in wandering a city and getting lost, and I guess there is no better city than Venice to do that! 🙂 Nice photos!

    • Jenny Freedman November 29, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

      Yes, I love getting lost Renuka especially in Venice but the boat tour gave me a totally different perspective!

  2. Esther November 23, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

    Oh, this looks lovely!!

    • Jenny Freedman November 29, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

      It was a great way to see Venice Esther. I can highly recommend it.

  3. jan November 23, 2014 at 5:03 pm #

    Lovely clear photo of the Doge’s Palace! I love seeing the greenery against the brick wall against the canal – I can imagine sitting in the boat and looking up. What lovely weather too. I’ve not seen the mustard columns before – interesting.

    • Jenny Freedman November 29, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

      Thanks Jan.The sun wasn’t shining this day but at least it wasn’t raining!The mosaic columns were there for the architectural biennnale. I wish they’d keep them…they looked great!

  4. Rachel G November 23, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

    These pictures are just so cool! I love boat travel–and Venice is a place I’d love to see!

    • Jenny Freedman November 29, 2014 at 1:33 pm #

      Thanks Rachel. Venice is definitely the place to see by boat. as much as I like walking, it gives a totally different perspective!

  5. SJ November 24, 2014 at 5:30 am #

    Wonderful! I need to go back to Venice as when I was there, I skipped the boat tours. Such a shame, and now it’s so close to Croatia I should plan it asap.

    • Jenny Freedman November 29, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

      I’m envious of you being so close to all these fabulous places in Europe SJ. Venice should definitely be at the top of the list!

  6. Cornelia Weber Photography November 24, 2014 at 10:50 am #

    Your lovely post brings back so many memories to me, the time I lived in Germany I would go by train or car numerous times in any season, to Venice. This city is very close to my heart. Thank you for sharing.

    • Jenny Freedman November 29, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

      Pleasure Cornelia. How lovely to be able to visit Venice whenever you wanted to. You must know it very well. I do love Venice in the off seasons. It’s not a city I’d visit in Summer!

  7. Debra Kolkka November 24, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

    What a great way to see Venice. I will look them up next time I go to Venice, thanks.

    • Jenny Freedman November 29, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

      It’s a fabulous way to see Venice Debra. for all the times I’ve been there, this is the first time I’ve seen the island by boat. It is a tour I can highly recommend.

  8. Debra Kolkka November 24, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

    What a great way to see Venice. I will look them up next time I go to Venice, thanks. Venice is one place I like to go back to again and again.

  9. Ruth November 24, 2014 at 3:37 pm #

    What beautiful photos of Venice! I am now kicking myself for not jumping aboard a boat when I was there several weeks ago – although it was during the madness of the Clooney wedding weekend so the waters definitely didn’t look as peaceful as they did in your photos!

    • Jenny Freedman November 29, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

      We just missed you Ruth. We were there the weekend after the wedding and everyone was still talking about those crazy days.All it means is that you’ll have to go back to Venice!

  10. Sand In My Suitcase November 25, 2014 at 2:55 am #

    A speedboat sounds like the luxury way to explore the canals of Venice :-). But you can still get a great experience by taking the public vaporetto on the Grand Canal.

    • Jenny Freedman November 29, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

      We were constantly on the vaporetto but, as fabulous as it was, it wasn’t the same! Learning the history of some of the villas on the Grand Canal was fabulous. The tour also took us through the smaller canals and past places I haven’t seen after many trips to Venice.

  11. Heather November 25, 2014 at 3:05 am #

    I love that in Venice even the ambulances are boats! I first visited the city when I was a teenager, when I was too young to appreciate the grand architecture. I’m planning to return next year and will definitely consider taking this tour. It looks like a wonderful introduction to the city!

    • Jenny Freedman November 29, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

      The ambulances are something you don’t really think about aren’t they Heather. After walking around the city, seeing it by boat completes the picture. I’d certainly recommend doing it next year. It’s fabulous that you’re now so close to some of these cities to visit easily!

  12. Johanna November 26, 2014 at 11:25 am #

    Loved your detailed and interesting account of this trip. Your snippets of information about the buildings were so fascinating. I’d never thought that there would be a hospital on the island, and the image of George Clooney’s marital hotel did make me perk up for a second look-see too! The views from the tower are amazing – how wonderful to get that high. We didn’t have time to queue when we were there, in fact with only a few hours to explore I now know from reading your story how much there is to see an go back to discover.

    • Jenny Freedman November 29, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

      Thanks Jo. Venice is a bigger city that you think and there’s always something new to visit. There were a couple of places on this tour I’ll be going back to as I’d never seen them before…the beauty of tours!

  13. Muza-chan November 26, 2014 at 2:05 pm #


    • Jenny Freedman November 29, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

      Thanks Lili

  14. Karen (Back Road Journal) November 26, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

    A lovely way to see Venice before getting lost on the back streets.

    • Jenny Freedman November 29, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

      It’s a fabulous way to see Venice Karen. I learnt about a few places that I hadn’t been before and now need to go back to investigate! Any reason for another trip to one of Europe’s most beautiful cities!

  15. MySuitcaseDiary November 28, 2014 at 1:16 am #

    Nice experience and great post ! It was so long ago i have visited Venice, but your pictures makes to go again.

    • Jenny Freedman November 29, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

      Thank you. This was the same for us…it had been years and years since we were last in Venice! It was great to be back there. I won’t be leaving as long until the next visit!

  16. Adelina November 28, 2014 at 1:32 am #

    I haven’t been to Venice yet, but it looks absolutely stunning and so so romantic. I can see taking it all in by boat as being the way to go though.

    • Jenny Freedman November 29, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

      Venice is one city you definitely have to visit Adelina. The boat tour is definitely the way to go but you must also walk and walk and get lost! It is one of those cities where surprises await you around the corners!

  17. Stefania November 28, 2014 at 7:18 am #

    Venice is just wonderful! My husband and I met and lived there for two years. And we always go back to be inspired by its magic.
    Great post!

    • Jenny Freedman November 29, 2014 at 2:00 pm #

      Thanks Stefania. You must know Venice so well! It definitely is magical! Your memories must be many and beautiful!

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