Venice – the city on water (Part 1)

As a PhD Student, reading and writing become part of my daily routine. Quite often, I get writer’s block, having all the ideas flying around in my head but struggling to put them down in words. I enjoy blogging and whenever I find the time, I write. However, with so much of writing going on recently, whenever I get to not write, I choose not to. I start to miss blogging although I should prioritise my time for study and work. I have a habit to start writing but not finishing it. As I was going through the drafts, I came across one that I wrote about my trip to Venice with my parents…back in January 2012. All these years, I never actually realise it was only half-written. So I figured, I could do myself a favour (besides taking my mind off study and work) and finish it off.

Venice is one of the first places I visited in Italy. My first trip there was with Alissa for a day trip, also in winter. The weather was really bad and it had rained the whole day. Even so, I like Venice as it is a very unique city. The only way to move around is through the canals. The whole island is like a maze and getting lost is very common there, even with a map!

It was past 11pm when we reached Santa Lucia Railway Station at Venice. I had book a room at Hotel Canal which is opposite of the railway station so that we all did not have to drag the luggage for a long way. However, what I did not expect or remember is although the hotel is just directly across us, we had to walk across Ponte degli Scalzi (Scalzi Bridge) carrying our luggage across the canal and pulling them to the hotel. Most hotels in Venice do not have lift. Thus, we had to carry everything up to our room on the second floor. I was very pleased with the hotel and it was worth the value. However, every time I closed the toilet door, I felt like the whole building was shaking, which was quite scary! The other downside was not having free internet access.

Hotel Canal

Triple bedroom at Hotel Canal

After a good night sleep, it was time to explore the city! Although we stayed two nights there but we only had a full day in Venice. Breakfast was buffet style. The weather was incredibly nice! We could see the railway station across the canal and Chiesa di Santa Maria di Nazareth, well-known as Scalzi, beside the station. We crossed Ponte degli Scalzi to visit the Scalzi. The Scalzi were the barefooted Carmelite friars who came to Venice around 1670s and commissioned the construction of their church on the Grand Canal.

View of the canal from Ponte degli Scalzi

Santa Lucia Railway Station (left) and Scalzi (right)

Interior of Scalzi

As we wanted to go to Piazza San Marco, we had to head South. There were so many smaller canals and thanks to Google Map on my phone, we managed to go to most of the main attractions. There were no cars on this island, everyone travel on foot. It was interesting to see the houses being built along the canals. Most buildings were very colourful and unique. Eventually we reached Chiesa Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, a treasure in the middle of the Serenissima. It is commonly known as Frari, which refers to the minor order of monk brothers of San Francesco, an order of monks who arrived in Venice around 1222 A.D.


Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (front)

Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (side)

Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (back)

At the back of Frari was Scuola Grande di San Rocco. We only peeked into the building from outside as we needed to pay to go inside. Beside the school is Chiesa di San Rocco. We even bought Gelato for a break! My Dad still couldn’t accept the fact of having something cold in such a cold weather!

Scuola Grande di San Rocco

Chiesa di San Rocco

After that we walked to Piazza San Tomà. It is a small plaza surrounded by shops, cafes, restaurants, etc. There was a church – Chiesa di San Tomà.

Piazza San Tomà

Chiesa di San Tomà

One of the shops at Piazza San Tomà

As we walked along Rio Terà dei Nomboli to get to Campo San Polo, we stopped at a few shops or stalls to buy sourvenirs. Venice is famous for its masked carnival. Every shop sells the masks (magnets or deco) and murano glass. I bought myself a heart-shaped murano glass necklace 10 years ago.

Rio Terà dei Nomboli

We walked past Chiesa di San Polo, a Catholic church dedicated to the Apostle Paul. We walked until Campo San Polo. There was a market there, selling meat, cheese, etc. There was even an iceskating ring over there. My Dad was frantically looking for a toilet but we could not find any. A lady from a shop told us the nearest one is at Rialto Bridge.

Chiesa di San Polo

Campo San Polo

On the way to Rialto Bridge, we passed by Chiesa di Sant’ Aponal (Church of St. Apollinaire), which was founded by refugees from Ravenna in 1034. St. Apollinaire was their patron saint and Sant’Aponal is name of the same saint in the Venetian dialect.

Chiesa di Sant’ Aponal

As we continued walking, we walked past Chiesa di San Silvestro I Papa (San Silvestro), another church. Had I not have a phone with Google Map, I would not have found most of the places. There were many signs showing the direction to main attractions but there were also many ways to get there and we could just explore aimlessly in Venice, if time was not a factor to consider.

Chiesa di San Silvestro I Papa

Chiesa di San Silvestro I Papa

After many turnings, we finally found the one and only public toilet near Chiesa di San Giacomo di Rialto (Church of San Giacomo di Rialto) which is situated next to Ponte di Rialto (the famous Rialto Bridge). My Dad was relieved to see a toilet but to his horror, it cost him €1.50! He still jokes about this long-awaited and expensive toilet trip until today.


Chiesa di San Giacomo di Rialto

Venice is made up of many tiny islets separated by canals. One can travel from one side to the other by the famous gondola or walking across a bridge. Due to tourism, gondola is not exactly a mode of public transportation but offered as a tourist attraction, therefore, is not a cheap option. There are only a few bridges that connect these islets, which is why most of the time, we could see the opposite but had to walk further to cross a bridge. Ponte di Rialto is one of the four bridges, also the oldest (completed in 1951), that connects the two main islands over Grand Canal. It is quite a significant place to visit in Venice and the view is stunning!


View from Ponte di Rialto

Being at the bridge only means we had only explored a small area of Venice. There were more to explore over the other side. As we arrived late the night before, we slept in longer. It was almost 3 hours of walking from our hotel until the bridge. In Venice, due to the inaccessibility between islands, we had to take a similar route back to the hotel, meaning at some point later in the day, we would walk pass this bridge to cross back over again!

I will stop here for now and share more of the other side of Venice when I have time again…hopefully soon!

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