Canals and bridges of Venice
Several years ago I was fortunate to pass through Venice, Italy, to board a cruise ship bound for the Mediterranean, but was only able to spend a short time in the city before the voyage began. There was way too much to see in such a short time and I vowed to one day return to stay awhile and take a closer look at this unique city of canals and bridges.
I decided I would stay just outside the main area in Mestre, and ‘commute’ in each day via public transport. Looking back it was perhaps not the best decision as the area was a little shady and despite the frequent bus service there was certainly nothing appealing about the area. I would recommend (despite the higher cost) to stay in the main area and not have to worry about travelling back and forth tightly packed into a bus for 30 minutes or so each way.
The first thing I noticed this time around were the crowds, people everywhere, cramming in the narrow side streets, filing across the bridges, stopping to take photos at every juncture causing human traffic jams. Admittedly it was early June, high season, but at times, navigating the narrow alleys and myriad of bridges became more of a procession than an adventure.
What it did force me to do, was take the less beaten path and in the process, discover sights/places I might not have otherwise seen. I still made sure I visited all the well-known sights such as the Rialto Bridge which spans the Grand Canal, Piazza San Marco with it’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace and Campanile (bell tower).
Venice has a myriad of bridges criss-crossing the canals, (391 at last count) some famous such as Rialto and Bridge of Sighs, some centuries old such as the Ponte della Paglia (originally built in 1360, but reconstructed in 1847), others of more recent construction and purpose such as the Ponte della Costituzione (or Constitution bridge), controversial due to it’s minimal modern design, it connects the bus station to the railway station.
The Bridge of Sighs or ‘Ponte dei sospin’ (you can just make it out in the background of the photo below) was supposedly in reference to the convicted criminals sighing at their last look at Venice as they were transported from the Doge’s Palace to the Prison cells.
Navigating the canals and bridges are a multitude of gondolas, with the famous and skillful gondoliers, most dressed in the ‘traditional’ striped jerseys and straw hats, gliding their boats around the city while carefully avoiding each other and ducking under the low bridges as they go.
If you want to get around Venice at a faster pace you’ll need to take one of the Vaporetti or water buses that ferry passengers between the islands every few minutes, but neither form of transport is cheap. A ride in a gondola costs about $29 per person or for a private two-person ride it will set you back about $116 (at the time of my visit). A Vaporetto ride (as many stops as you can fit into 70 minutes) was about $8.
Getting to and from Venice is relatively easy. I flew into Marco Polo airport and from there it’s a 20 minute bus ride (about $17) to the Pizzale Roma (bus station). I departed Venice on the train (heading to Rome) as the train station is right there on the canal.