Today was a travel day. Our tour group was leaving the serenity of Tuscany and taking a Eurostar bullet train from Florence to Venice. We grabbed our sack lunches and boarded the tour bus. As we descended from our villa for the last time I thought about how much I had enjoyed our time here so far, and that the trip still wasn’t over.
Our bus driver Marious got us safely to the train station and we said our goodbyes to him. He had been an excellent driver, and he had given us quite a few laughs along the way.
Our train arrived within ½ an hour, and we boarded the first-class car anticipating the journey we were about to embark on.
It was a pleasant and relaxing 2 ½ hour ride to Venice. It was interesting to watch the landscape change as we hurtled towards Venice.
Marco checks in to see how things are going…
When we arrived in Venice, there was an excitement in the air as our group walked towards the doors of the train depot. I think all of us were eagerly anticipating seeing the “City of Canals”.
We walked out of the train depot and Venice unfolded before us.
Marco and Tina made sure to take pictures of every couple at the train station dock.
We were then introduced to Davide', Disney’s point man in Venice. He was responsible for making arrangements for our gondolas, tour guide, and hotel water taxi’s.
Davide' (left) and Marco (right) escort us to the gondolas.
Davide' guided us to a gondola dock about 150 yards from the train depot, where we had 9 gondolas waiting. Each gondola carried roughly 2 couples.
He then joined our gondola.
It was helpful having him on board because he was able to explain why some buildings had mirror facades (to provide an aesthetically satisfying façade while being renovated)
We continued our gondola tour as we ventured past small canal routes, other gondolas, and slowly-decaying palaces.
After around 20 minutes, we stopped and our Venice tour guide met us as we disembarked from our gondolas.
We then walked thru the narrow streets of Venice as she explained the history of Venice.
We stopped in an elevated courtyard as she explained that it was elevated to protect the water supply back when they drew water from cisterns. Venice now pumps water in from the mainland and all the cisterns are welded shut.
We passed a sarcophagus that was mounted on a wall in the courtyard, it had been there for over 600 years!
We continued our walk towards Saint Marks Square as we passed small shops, historic buildings, and monuments.
At one point we came upon an area where the gondolier’s pick up their fares. It was nightmare of gondolas!
Our group came into a small square, where our tour guide was beginning to tell us about Marco Polo, when a man who’s features were covered by a cape, began singing in a corner of the square. He then slowly walked towards us as he lowered the hood on his cape. He introduced himself as Marco Polo and told us his story of being born in Venice and traveling to China and his subsequent journey’s.
He then told us that he brought treasure back from China just for us. One of the members of our group volunteered to open the treasure chest, which revealed…
Well, he did say they were from China!
After leaving Marco Polo behind, we walked some more…
...we soon entered Saint Marks Square.
We visited the Basilica, and checked out the exterior of the Doges Palace, home to Venice’s Doge, or chief magistrate.
After 30 minutes of exploring, we said goodbye to our tour guide and loaded into water taxi’s…
…for a short trip to our hotel. Once again we were traveling thru the watery streets of Venice, taking in the views.
We arrived at the Hotel Dei Dogi, yet another 5-star hotel!
Once home to the French and Savoyan embassies, it sits on land that previously had been used for growing crops. Because of that, it is one of the only places in Venice that can boast about it’s extensive gardens.
Real estate is at a major premium in Venice, and having a garden area like this is quite a feather in your cap apparently.
Darlene and I were lucky enough to have a bungalow in the back of the hotel, which meant you had to walk thru the gardens to get to our room.
There was a dock within 40 feet of our room that looked out over the Venice Lagoon towards the Mainland.
Our room was really nice, especially by European standards.
After unpacking, we took a nap before meeting our group for dinner at 6:30. Tina had us meet in the lobby at 6pm, so she could take us on a short walk to show where we could go to find some restaurants… but we had made other plans.
I had talked to some of the other Adventurers during the day, and there was a restaurant down by Saint Marks Square that we wanted to try. It was a canal-side setting that had gotten great reviews in the Rick Steve’s Venice tour book. We had Marco make 7:30 ressies for us since he speaks Italian. There were going to be 6 of us for dinner, so we figured the best way to get there was by water taxi. But water taxi’s are pricey (€80 or $110), so we rounded up 4 Junior Adventurers and we divided the cost of the water taxi by 10. Now it was more than palatable (€8, or $11) to take a water taxi!
Our happy group loaded into the water taxi as dusk settled on Venice.
The driver took us to the Grand Canal for our trip to Saint Marks.
Along the way we passed the Rialto Bridge, a Venice landmark.
Upon arrival at Saint Marks, we disembarked and made arrangements with the Junior Adventurers to meet later that night in Saint Marks Square for a nightcap around 10:30 pm.
Our group then wound our way thru the narrow alleys and backways to our dining destination. We eventually discovered Trattoria da Giorgio ai Greci (aka "Georges Over-Rated Ristorante"!)
Sitting on a quite canal, the setting itself was beautiful. Unfortunately, the guidebook recommendation had ruined the restaurant. The first tip-off should have been that no one there was Italian, including the wait staff! The waitress we had was curt, at best, and required us to order all of our meal at once. This was in stark contrast to other Italian dining establishments we had visited in Italy.
As I previously stated in one of my earlier trip reports, food in Italy is something to be savored and celebrated without time constraints! When you get a table for dinner, it’s yours for the evening. There is no “table turning” in Italy. But this restaurant was different. They wanted everything ordered in the beginning so they could get your food out as quickly as possible, and subsequently move you out of the restaurant faster.
It looks good, but was only so-so...
I swear... the wine and the company was the only thing that had me smiling!
We got the message soon enough, and were happy to oblige the ungrateful waitress. Our food was less than memorable, and when we were done it was decided that we should cut our losses and find dessert somewhere else.
The six of us walked back to Saint Marks Square and met up with one of the Junior Adventurer couple’s and headed for Harry’s Bar, another Venice landmark.
We walked into Harry’s and asked for a table for 8 and we were escorted up to the 2nd floor. Almost everyone ordered Bellini’s which Harry’s is famous for. It didn’t take very long for us to realize that we had fallen into one of Venice’s biggest tourist traps. Our drinks were outrageously priced, and again, the wait staff was rude. They had a “No Photographs” rule, which is understandable if there are other diners nearby, but we had a room to ourselves.
We were allowed one picture, which unfortunately was taken with someone else’s camera. Unanimously, we decided that Harry’s Bar in Venice was also over-rated and not nearly as friendly as the one in Rome, so we beat a hasty retreat.
We then meandered back to Saint Marks Square to take in some music while enjoying gelatos. The soothing tunes soon washed away our bad dining experiences and we were once again savoring the sights and sounds of Venice at night.
Chilling out listening to Sting's "Englishman in New York"
After a short time, it was decided that we should get ourselves a water taxi back to the hotel, before everyone tried to leave Saint Marks at the same time.
Within minutes we were quietly gliding thru Venices waterways back to our hotel for some much-needed rest.
Tomorrow: We visit a Venice mask-making shop, and create our own masks. Then we explore Venice on our own and have a farewell dinner at the hotel.
FINISH THE JOURNEY!! CLICK HERE!!