InterRail #11: Victoria visits Venice

“I had my dreams of Venice. But nothing that I had dreamed was as impossible as what I found” (Arthur Symons)

Who doesn’t dream of visiting Venice someday? Perhaps one of the most beautiful cities in the world, famous for its intricate transportation network of interconnected canals, romantic backdrops, chapels big and small, and charming gondoliers; is it any wonder that millions of tourists visit each year? The City of Love, the City of Bridges, whatever you want to call it, is in a world of its own and one that I was excited to visit for the day. 

We arrived at Venezia Santa Lucia station just before 10am and made our way across the Ponte degli Scalzi, in the direction of the city, along with the other travellers eager to explore. As a result of the narrow, winding streets which were constantly changing their direction, our bearings were soon lost and it was difficult to figure out whether we were going in the right direction, or in fact just walking around in circles. A combination of zig zagging the canals and following the people in front of us, we soon stumbled across a couple of signs which confirmed we were heading the right way by pointing people in the direction of the Rialto. As we wound our way through the streets, we glimpsed the network of small waterways that fed the city, small chapels and larger churches and from time to time entered into one or two of the larger squares and piazzas.

Approaching the centre, we were attracted to the many small shops, offering jewellery and coloured glassware. Being the souvenir-aholic that I am, I couldn’t help but be tempted and naturally snapped up a few presents and souvenirs. After the spot of shopping, we continued walking and finally found ourselves at the Canal Grande and Rialto bridge, which naturally, was packed with tourists and street sellers alike.

Leaving the Rialto behind us, we followed the signs pointing us towards the Piazza S. Marco and within a matter of minutes we were gazing upon one of the most famous sights in the world. As always, the piazza was heaving with tourists and the queues were snaking to and fro as people waited for admission to all the various places of interest around the square. With the warm sun shining down on us, I have to say I sympathised as it was pretty certain that they would be queuing for a fair amount of time.

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I couldn’t resist a stroll down to the waterfront to gaze across to the Basilicia della Salute on the other side of the canal, the picture that I had chosen to paint for my final GCSE piece a few years back. It was looking as lovely as always!

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A few pictures of gondolas, canal traffic and close by buildings later, we made our exit and entered the labyrinth of streets and alleyways that provided so much of the Venetian atmosphere and backdrop. After a while we were back at the Rialto and identified the signs which would take us over to Academia.

As we joined the never-ending procession of tourists we all noticed things and places that brought back memories of our previous visit. We even found our favourite ice-cream parlour and treated ourselves to mouth-watering ice-cream scoops, bursting with flavour and providing real refreshment and satisfaction. After a brief stop and sit down to enjoy the view in the Campo Manini, we continued our tour to Campo S. Angelo where we all came to the agreement that it was time for a drink and a sit down.

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It was approaching lunchtime and there were very few, if any, free tables so we carried on to Acamedia with the intention of completing our circular tour back to the station for our return trip to Padua. This part of Venice was completely new to us and we found it pleasantly quiet and a little less commercialised. Just next to a bridge leading to Calle Toletta we found our watering-hole and spent a good half an hour resting our legs and topping up on liquids.

Refreshed and rested we set off once again, passing through Campo Santa Margherita, another oasis offering a wide expanse of sky after the sometimes claustrophobic atmosphere of the Venetian walkways. Exiting via the bridge at the top end of the Piazza, we walked through the Campo San Pantalon and on to the Salizada S. Pantalon.

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The route then took us along the Fondamenta Minotto and the canal-side, the Fondamenta Tolentini to the Giardino Papadopoli and over the Ponte della Costituzione to the concourse in front of the station. Having checked our departure time and with time to spare another walk saw us investigating the Rio Tera Lista di Spagna a busy thoroughfare which contained all the tourist required, hotels, restaurants, shops, souvenirs and of course the all-important Gelaterias.

Conscious of needing to catch the train and with weary legs we got as far as the Campo San Geremia before turning back. I think all of us were pleased to drop into our seats as we reached the train (14.42) and waved a fond farewell as the city faded from view as we crossed the causeway on our way back to the mainland.