Mercato del Pesce (Venice, Italy)

Within easy walking distance of our hotel were the Grand Canal and Rialto Bridge. Also, it turned out to our surprise, was the fish market (Mercato del Pesce) and produce market. Here is where locals and restaurant chefs and buyers purchase fresh fish, crustaceans and mollusks, in tremendous variety. We made a quick trip through the markets before having to board the tour bus for Florence.










Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore (Venice, Italy)

Almost everyone notices them, though they are not part of Venice itself. The church and bell tower on San Giorgio Maggiore gleam across the waters separating the island from Venice. The attraction is not visited nearly as much as Venice itself. It requires a short vaporetto ride from the Piazzetta.

The church was designed by Andrea Palladio, the great Venetian Renaissance architect. Its neoclassical style, based on Greek and Roman principles, was so profound that it influenced Christopher Wren, the great London architect, and Thomas Jefferson when he built Monticello. Its brilliant white marble contrasts sharply with its surroundings, especially on clear days against blue skies and aquamarine waters. What strikes you immediately is that there is no formal covered portico but rather the appearance of one, flat, almost two-dimensionally against the entrance. The columns also are mounted on extremely high pedestals.

san giorgio basilica
San Giorgio Basilica

Masterpieces by Jacopo Tintoretto are inside the church, including The Last Supper. Palladio’s architectural design is also unusual in the amount of light let in by the many clerestory windows, shaped like lunettes and based on Roman bath designs.

View from the campanile toward San Marco

Not commonly known is that the view from atop the bell tower rivals, even exceeds the one from St. Mark’s. At 60m (almost 200ft) high and a replica of St. Mark’s, not only do you get a resplendent view of Venice looking north, but a commanding vista of the surrounding waters and the marine vessels that ply them. To get to the top, you take an elevator, unusual for Italy.

san giorgio interior
The interior space is well illuminated by the many windows

Our stay on the island was abbreviated since we needed to get back to our hotel for dinner.

Canals of Venice (Venice, Italy)


What could evoke a better sense of place than the canals of Venice?

More than any other single attraction, they make this city what it is, the destination of the millions of tourists who come here annually. Coursing through the piscine shape that outlines Venice, the canals flow like its lifeblood, rising and falling with the tides of the Adriatic, crossed over by the scores of bridges that connect the many neighborhoods.

I couldn’t keep my eyes off them when we first arrived. They were everything I ever imagined, beautiful, omnipresent, mysterious. They are mainly traveled by motorboats, row boats and vaporettos.



But the gondolas are still to be seen, ferrying passengers across the Grand Canal or through the city’s many smaller canals.


Gondolas “parked” in a canal

They are especially popular at night when Venice is at its romantic best. Our tour guide arranged for a nocturnal ride, complete with a singing tenor—a little stagey perhaps, but still fun.

Besides a boat of some kind, the only way to cross a canal is over one of the more than 400 bridges.

There are over 400 bridges in Venice

There are over 400 bridges in Venice

Among the most famous is the Rialto Bridge, the main one over the Grand Canal.

Rialto Bridge

Rialto Bridge

When you first try to navigate the “streets” of Venice, called calles and fondementas, you’ll likely get lost or confused. Our tour guide encouraged us to do some exploring, assuring us that if we should get “lost,” all we had to do was to look for signs posted high on the sides of buildings that point to important landmarks. We did a bit of this with the limited time we had on our own and found these directional signs to be really helpful. On one of these walks, we came across people in period costumes, presumably as part of the Historical Regatta celebrations.

Costumed participants in the Historical Regatta festivities

Costumed participants in the Historical Regatta festivities

It would be nice to return to Venice and stay longer, to appreciate all that this gorgeous city has to offer.

Venice, Historical Regatta (Italy)

Venice in the early morning

Venice, maybe more than any other Italian city, was a destination for us, as it is for millions of other tourists. No tour of Italy would have been complete without a visit to one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The attractions are many: the canals to be sure, the gondolas and its storied oarsmen, architecture, art, history, St. Mark’s and its pigeons, Murano glass, and even the mystery that surrounds its dark and narrow streets. It’s no wonder that Venice is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Never mind that we would be part of the problem that is destroying Venice, which cannot sustain the legions of tourists who descend upon it. Even of its own accord, Venice is said to be sinking from global warming’s rising waters. A costly and controversial pontoon system is being built out in the lagoon to control the flow from the Adriatic, scheduled to be completed in 2010.

We arrived in Venice before noon. As we rode the vaporetto to Rialto station, the Venice of our imagination came into view—multi-storied castles, churches and other buildings, built right next to each other almost up to the water’s edge, but for the narrow streets in front of the canals. Gondolas, vaporetti, private boats with outboard motors, and other water craft were plying the waters. From the Rialto Bridge, we walked to our hotel (Pensione Guerrato).

We entered Venice on the Grand Canal by vaporetto

It was our great fortune that we arrived in Venice on the day of the annual Historical Regatta, held on the first Sunday of September, and it was to our guide Robin’s credit that she got us all there before the procession. The regatta is a rowing competition, begun in the 13th century, primarily among the city’s various neighborhoods. After checking into our hotel, we walked but a few blocks to the Grand Canal, next to the fish and produce market, and watched the procession and a portion of the race. There was a lot of color and pageantry.

A rowing club takes part in the procession of the Historical Regatta

Our group dinner featured spaghetti con frutti di mare

After sunset, Robin arranged for all of us to go on a gondola ride, complete with a singer and accordionist. As we gathered at St. Mark’s after the ride, Robin surprised us with a prosecco toast in the middle of the square, a very nice touch.