We almost didn’t go to Venice because of the bad rap that it has gotten as being ruined by hordes of tourists. Annette first visited almost 20 years ago and even then the narrow walkways were so full of bodies they were difficult to navigate.
Despite our reservations, we wanted to see the famous canals of Venice and if any time of year was likely to have fewer tourists, surely the first week of December would be the time.
After a wonderful night exploring Zagreb’s Christmas Market, we departed early and re-entered the Schengen area at the border with Slovenia. Once again the border crossing was quick but the highway towards Italy was clogged with large trucks from Turkey and other southeastern European countries bringing goods into western Europe.
Despite a bit of traffic we made it to Venice in the early afternoon and parked our car in one of the garages near Piazzale Roma. From there it was a short walk to our AirBnb.
Exploring on Land
After settling in to our apartment we set out for a walk. The first order of business was gelato, even though it was not exactly ice cream weather.
We took in the sights around Piazza San Marco. There were still quite a few tourists around, but we were able to enjoy the sights of the city without feeling too crowded.
We crossed over the Grand Canal at sunset and the view was simply magical.
We were hoping to find a Christmas Market in Venice but there was none. There was, however a Christmas Tree near St. Marco.
The kids were fascinated by the masks and other artistic creations displayed in shop windows.
As it got dark, many buildings were beautifully lit giving us a very scenic walk back to the apartment.
Early Morning = No Crowds
Wes got up early the next day for a run to see the city in the early morning light. The tide was up and the waves lapped up over the sidewalks in many places.
In the Piazza San Marco a few inches of water pooled in the middle of the plaza. A few weeks prior the plaza had been under several feet of water due to a winter storm.
Cruising the Grand Canal
Rather than paying 80 Euros for an hour long gondola ride we decided to take a trip on a Vaporetto (water taxi). At 7 Euros per person, the Vaporetto ride was not exactly a bargain either, but at least we’d be able to see most of the Grand Canal as we traveled from Piazzale Roma to Palazzo Ducale.
We were struck by the beautiful architecture and decoration of the buildings.
After getting off the Vaporetto we found a waterside cafe and treated ourselves to hot cocoa, Prosecco, and Pizza.
Because the kids were enjoying the square and not really yearning to know more about the local history, Annette took a solo visit to explore the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace). After visiting so many place in Croatia that had previously been controlled by Venice, we had an idea that they had significant power and wealth at one point. That is all on display in the palace. The rooms (and even the stairs) were lavishly decorated including paintings by many famous Italian artists.
Unlike other palaces that we have visited, the sights weren’t limited to the apartments of the ruling family. Instead, this served as the seat of government as well so there were many large rooms where the various councils met. It was very hard to capture the size and grandeur in pictures.
While Annette was inside, Wes and the kids went for gelato number two. Everyone was very happy with this arrangement.
Despite being on the fence about visiting Venice, we were very happy that we decided to go. Early December turned out to be a perfect time to travel there since we were treated to cool weather and light crowds. Cruise ships tend to head elsewhere during the winter months and that certainly helped.
Venice is a photographer’s dream, with amazing scenes around every corner. We hope that they are able to maintain the character as the city works on managing their popularity with tourists.
In our next update, we make our way back to Paris, where our 6 month, 16,000km road trip began.