I have to say our concerns about Venice were overwrought, and you should consider this. How, we thought, could we possibly stay in Venice. The place is so popular and so compact, hotel accommodations will be either non-existent or else out of sight. So, the plan was to stay in Padua and use our rail pass to train daily into Venice.
Big mistake. Hotel accommodations in Padua were non-existent due to a flower festival. There was no option but to train into Venice and eat the expense. We were pleasantly surprised.
Arriving in Venice is hard to imagine without doing it. To be sure, Venice is built on a collection of coastal islands, but you don’t have to take a boat to get there. The train runs directly onto the first island. Leave the station, and you are on Fondamenta Santa Lucia. Across the street is the Grand Canal. From this point on you are walking or taking a boat. All streets are either pedestrian malls or else filled with water.
Where to stay is resolved at the train station. A booth inside, near the front entrance is dedicated to matching up tourists with rooms. You can patiently wait in line, as we did, or you can be approached by a man advertising the Hotel Adua. Yes, they had a few rooms left, only for two nights. Then we needed to move to the hotel next door for the third night. Yes, the hotel next door was more expensive. Our new friend helped trundle our luggage down the adjacent Rio Terra Lista di Spagna. Three blocks from the train station, and we were settled in. Not Motel 6, but affordable. They don’t take credit cards. There’s an ATM in the train station. Get your Euros there.
American humorist Robert Benchley once sent a telegram to his editor from Venice: “Streets flooded. Please advise.” That sums up Venice. If your legs are in good shape, getting about Venice does not require water travel. Bridges connect just about all the islands of Venice, and the place is, of necessity, compact. They long ago ran out of land to build. You will need to take a boat trip to visit the city of Burano, which is on a distant island in the lagoon. You will need to visit Burano.
Take the water taxi tour. Purchase a ticket at the landing across from the train station and get aboard. It’s a hop-on, hop-off deal that lasts until the ticket expires. It’s the best way to see some of the notable sights from the water. There are also the famous Venice gondolas.
Saint Marc’s is the don’t-miss sight in Venice. The square in front of the cathedral is as advertised. Full of tourists and pigeons and likely to be under water. On a good day the square will be dry. Otherwise water will be coming up from the drains, forcing you to prance on through or else tiptoe around the wet spots. On bad days water is over a foot deep. Don’t wear your good shoes.
There is an open square at the end of Rio Terra Lista di Spagna. Enjoy a dinner under the Venice sky at one of the outdoor restaurants there. Have wine if you like. You are not driving anywhere. Afterwards, hunt down an open ice cream store. They like to close early, so tourists crowd around and keep them open until everybody gets fed.
What to photograph in Venice is just about everything. It’s a picture book setting. Colorful gondolas, colorful buildings sitting knee deep in water, graceful bridges over the canals, interesting people, attractive goods on display, towering cathedrals. Burn up the film. You may not be back, but you should.