Day 13 was one of the “big ticket” days of the holiday – Venice day.
We got up early (at 7am) and grabbed a nice if simple breakfast at the hotel before jumping on a bus. We’d originally planned to go into Venice on the train but the hotel convinced us that the bus was a better option than driving for 10 minutes and waiting for a train. Fair enough. Anyway, they were able to sell us the bus tickets and the bus stop was literally across the road from their front gate. We got the bus at about 8:40 and it took an hour or so to drop us off in the Piazzale Roma. It was already rather busy and rather warm by then.
Our first stop (after a quick geocache) was to go find toilets and drinks in the station. To get there you have to cross the new Constitution bridge, which has attracted its share of controversy. It was famous in my mind mainly for the fact that it appeared on a National Geographic programme about terrible engineering mistakes. The mistake was nothing to do with the placement, construction or accessibility of the bridge. It was entirely to do with the fact that it was originally faced with glass, which looks pretty when dry but becomes very slick when even slightly wet. It was, by all accounts, a major health hazard. It looks OK, albeit rather out of character with the rest of Venice’s architecture, and as it was a dry day we were OK walking across it. Once we made it to the station we fought our way through the crowds but were eventually able to find both the toilets and a shop to buy drinks.
From here we crossed the Ponte degli Scalzi and ducked out of the traffic flow for a while to photograph the San Simeone Piccolo church. From here we rejoined the throng following the marked walking route to San Marco, taking occasional diversions to grab geocaches as we went. The marked walking route obviously takes you right over the Rialto Bridge. No tour of Venice is complete without elbowing your way over here. There were more geocaches here anyway. The throng of people following the marked walkway was, if anything, even busier this side of the Rialto. It was starting to get a bit draining and it was pretty much lunchtime anyway, so just before San Marco we stopped in a little streetside cafe and had some sandwiches and drinks. The sandwiches were good and the prices were surprisingly reasonable.
Piazza San Marco seems to be pretty much the destination of everyone visiting the city. The walks from the bus and train stations (like what we did) are signposted to here only, and presumably there’s a fair amount of traffic from people who didn’t walk, or who’ve arrived by boat from outside the city. What can you say ? It’s busy. Although, having been in Florence on the previous Saturday we were feeling like this really wasn’t too bad. We decided not to bother trying to get tickets either to enter the basilica or the campanile because the queues looked large and anyway, we’d been into loads of them by this point in the holiday. So we mooched around the square taking photos and doing earthcaches (there’s 4 or 5 of them just in the square). From here we made the short walk around the outside of the Doge’s Palace for the mandatory photo of the Bridge of Sighs. It was pretty busy there too.
We decided to head back via a slightly different route, partly to get out of the crowds and partly to find a few more geocaches. Our route took us past La Fenice theatre and then onto the rather wonderful Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo (otherwise known as “the Snail”), where we paid a token few Euros to go climb to the top. Technically, we paid for a museum there too, but the girls weren’t especially interested in that (nor was I, but don’t tell them that). The Snail was actually the only thing we paid an entry fee for all day, unless you count the toilets. That was a refreshing change for this holiday.
We grabbed an ice cream break near there and then had a look at getting some tickets for a Vaporetto back to the station, but when we found one they were really busy and really expensive, so we decided not to bother. This meant, however, that we had to walk back through the crowds over the Rialto Bridge again and then back to Piazzale Roma. All of us were getting a bit hot, tired and grumpy by this point. Kas was struggling in particular, because as well as the heat she also had an aching ankle to contend with.
We’d managed to stay in Venice up until 4:30pm. On the original plan we were going to stay all day and have dinner here, but I think we all decided that the prospect of staying for 2 more hours, having dinner, and then spending another hour riding home on the bus was more than we could be bothered with. We were lucky enough to get onto a waiting bus as soon as we arrived at Piazzale Roma and so we got home again before 6pm.
We gave the kids a good 90 minutes in the swimming pool to cool down and unwind and then got cleaned up and went down into Mirano again for dinner, this time finding a very nice place off the central square called La Taverna. We had a quick drink from the hotel bar when we got home and then retired to bed. During the course of the day and the evening we agreed that the following day was going to be the “do nothing” day.