We Are Here. Now How Do We Get There?
We did not do much planning before arriving in Venice. We had a hotel reservation. Our hotel was on the same island as St. Mark's. That is all we knew. It was clear to us that everyone else had a plan as to what they were doing next. We could tell as we were landing that we would somehow need to board some sort of watercraft, but there were many options. From our experience, this is what we now know:
~ We learned that they key is to get in the long line that forms at a single ticket booth. Those are the cheap tickets for the slow boat.
~ We suspect you can also buy the slightly more expensive tickets, about twice the cost, for the express boat that makes fewer stops.
~ A third option is to go to the ticket counter where no one is and spend over a hundred dollars to take an individual taxi.
We waited in the slow line for the slow boat tickets. Once you get your ticket, you step out the door of the airport and bang a left, trudge along for a while, bang another left when you can't go any further, and there are the boat docks. The signs over the walkway denote that it takes "7 minutes". Then it is a leisurely ride, whose last stop is San Marco, which of course was our stop. It was about 2 hours from ticket line at the airport to disembarking at St. Mark's.. Go to the bathroom before you leave the airport.
Once we landed at St. Mark's Plaza, we unloaded and wandered. Our hotel was never in the same place twice. We got directions a lot. People were very friendly. The map was useless to us. We found pretty shops along the way. There was ice cream. I recommend luggage with wheels. And patience or a sense of adventure.
St Mark's Basilica
Our friend promised there is about two days worth of things to do in Venice. We filled up two and did a third day in Murano. Just in St. Mark's Square alone, you can shell out a few Euros here and a few Euros there to climb stairs, enter a wing of the Basilica, take an additional tour of a museum, visit an additional museum in the Basilica, walk on the balcony of the Basilica, etc. We paid to do a few, and declined a few others. One of the options we paid for at St. Mark's Basilica was to go up the stairs to the outside balcony where the horse statues were and continue on to the museum. That was worth it, but tremendously crowded on the balcony. We really enjoyed the museum, and perhaps my favorite part was an old instrument that the church had bought a man with talent many years ago and upon his death, he willed it back to the church. It was a nice story.
Doge's Palace and the Secret Tour
The Secret Tour brought us into a part of the palace that was not accessible to the rest of the visitors. A guide brought us through the back rooms, simple in structure, but filled with stories and history. For the next hour and 15 minutes we wound our way through passages and small doorways, following the history of the courts and the story of Casanova, his imprisonment, and his escape. The tour ends in a room under a gorgeous painting by Tinterello that was just icing on the cake. I won't spoil the ending of the story and its relation to the painting for you. At €16 or €18 or whatever the tour cost, we were glad to have paid to join. The tour cost also allows you that day's admission after the tour. We were not able to apply the admission ticket we bought the day before towards the cost, so learn from us. However, we have no regrets for how we did this.
The Rest of Venice
We did spend a lot of our time eating and a little bit of time shopping for glass beads from Murano for my business, but the final thing we did do was go to the Peggy Guggenheim museum which had some pretty strange stuff and a few things that I liked a lot. We also visited the Scuola di San Rocco to see more Tintoretto, but nothing was similar to the painting on the ceiling in the last room of the Secret Tour that I loved so much. I have looked for a post card or a book with that image in it, but have not found anything yet. The did not allow photos on the tour, so I did not take one myself. The painting almost met its demise in the time of Casanova, but I do not wish to ruin the tale that is told during the tour, so I will end our story here, but if I return to Venice, I will have to return to do the Secret Tour, not for my love of Casanova, but for my love of the final ceiling painting on that tour.