We started the day by wandering from our hotel to the close by Piazza San Marco. The two highlights in this area were the Basilica di San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale. The size of the square and the ornate details were striking. After a quick look and some photos, we walked along the shoreline at the mouth of the Grand Canal. Because it was early, there were very few tourists; instead we saw young children walking to school through the old cobblestone passages.
After marveling at the views across the canal, we got lost amongst the small passages, allies and canals. I especially enjoyed the brightly coloured buildings; each with beautifully arched windows surrounded by ornate details. Almost every window was adorned with shutters, wrought iron terraces and window boxes overflowing with plants. Twisting through the streets, we were never sure if were going to happen upon a small square, a bridge, another passage way or a dead end.
We returned to Piazza San Marco to find that the square was almost completely flooded. City staff set up temporary raised platforms so that people could walk in the square without getting wet. The flooding must have been due to high tide because the square was dry again in the afternoon. While in the Piazza, we went up in the Campanile di San Marco (a bell tower in the square). After a quick elevator ride to the top, we were able to get a great birds-eye view of almost all of Venice.
While wandering, we happened upon a traghetto (gondola ferry). For only 2 Euro, we were able to cross the Grand Canal. While on the other side, in the Dorsoduro district, we visited the Santa Maria Della Salute. The Santa Maria Della Salute is a church with the large silver dome that seems to top many of the churches in Venice.
After lunch, we headed back across the Grand Canal by the Ponte della Accademia. We returned to the Piazza San Marco but this time we went inside the Basilica di San Marco. It’s hard to believe how much money and time must have gone into building something so intricate. The domed ceiling of the Basilica was covered with Mosaics created from millions of tiny tiles (imagine tiles smaller than the eraser on a pencil). The mosaics, depicting various religious stories, included many different coloured stones. The most predominate colour was sparkling gold. According to one sign, the floor was created using 60 different types of marble to create interesting patterns, shapes and designs. While in the Basilica, we visited the balcony where we were treated to another view of the Piazza San Marco below.
At the end of the day, we travelled up the Grand Canal by water bus. It was a great way to see all of the buildings, bridges, boats and other sights from the water. Tomorrow we will head for Florence after an early morning walk around Venice.