Monday 29 June 2015

Amongst the Canals and Backstreets: Exploring Venice

Italy, 1st– 4th May 2015

One of the Venetian Canals
After our second night in Feltre, we were ready to move on to tackle Venice.  With a motorhome, I found there are two main options for getting into the city: a train, or a water bus (vaporetto).  The vaporetto option would have involved travelling to Punta Sabbioni on the end of the headland that protects the Venetian lagoon, and staying on a campsite.  Alternatively we found that the city of Treviso, as well as having two free motorhome Aires, has a regular train service into Venice that takes around half an hour at a cost of €3.30 for a one-way ticket.  Both Aires were a 20-30 minute walk from the train station, and so we decided it would be an ideal base point for visiting Venice as it was the cheaper option.

We went to look at the two free Sostas (Aires) in Treviso and decided to stay in the more popular quieter one
(N45.67014 E12.25733). They have 48hr stay limits so we planned to move to the other if we went into Venice for a second day. It had been spitting and we were going to have a walk into town but it started raining harder so we stayed put and Jo did some reading while I read the Venice section of the Lonely Planet. The rain stopped at around half 5 so we had a walk to suss out where the train station was and the route to the Sosta.

The three main modes of transport:vaporetto (water bus), water taxi and gondola
Rialto Market as seen from the Grand Canal
The clock tower in St. Mark's Square
The next morning we made it to the train station just in time to get tickets and catch the train. It was very busy though and there was only just enough room to stand next to the doors, which meant it was hot so it was a relief when the train stopped in stations and the doors opened, letting some fresh air in. When we arrived in Venice we bought ‘Rolling Venice’ young persons (age 14-29) discount cards for
€4 which allowed us to get a 3-day travel pass for €20 (the same price as a 1-day one) instead of €40, for use on the vaporetti (water buses) which are the main forms of transport to get around Venice. At this point we didn’t know if we’d visit Venice over one or two days, so it gave us the flexibility. We made use of the travel cards straight away by getting on the No 1 and travelling along the Grand Canal looking at the sights. We got off at the stop before Piazza San Marco, and managed to get completely lost within the Venetian streets before stopping for pizza at a restaurant in a square we later discovered to be called Campo San Stefano. After finally finding our way to St Marks Square, we found it to be very busy with a huge queue for St Marks Basilica so we didn’t bother with it at the time. All around Venice there were Lookie Lookie men selling selfie sticks which meant that we were constantly seeing people using them.

We took a vaporetto to the island of Murano which is famed for its glass making industry, and had a look around the glassware in the shops.  After visiting the island’s Coop supermarket for drinks, we sat with them on the edge of the canal and chilled for a bit.  It was getting on a bit, so after a couple of vaporetto journeys we returned to the train station.  This time around we managed to get seats, so the 35-40 min return journey was much more pleasant, getting back to the Sosta for about 8pm.

As we were worn out from doing so much walking around the day before, we decided to have a day to rest and then go into Venice the next day using the other travel option of taking a vaporetto from Punta Sabbioni. Although the campsites were relatively expensive it wouldn’t cost too much more (just under €10) to stay on one rather than buying train tickets as we already had the travel cards and the journey would be shorter and more enjoyable. After doing all our water and waste tanks we drove to a free beach parking spot at Spiaggia di Ca Ballarin at Cavallino-Treporti (N45.45998 E12.51659). It is close to Punta Sabbioni so we could make the short journey to the campsite first thing in the morning before travelling into Venice, so we would only have to pay to stay on a campsite for one night.

Overnight spot at Spiaggia di Ca Ballarin
Al Bateo campsite

After a short walk along the beach, we waited until the late afternoon when the sun had cooled off a bit to go for a cycle ride into Punta Sabbioni to check where the vaporetti stop was and look at the campsites to choose which one to go to in the morning. We could’ve used our Rolling Venice cards to get a discount at Camping Miramare making it slightly cheaper and it looked a nice site but we found out WiFi was a rip-off €3 per device which ruled it out. Instead we decided we’d go to Agricampeggio Al Bateo which is a more basic farm campsite, almost like a camper stop. After the ride back (making it a 10.5 mile round trip) we had a delicious sausage salad for dinner using the last of our British sausages before reading about Venice and planning what we wanted to do the next day.

Frescos at the entrance to St. Mark's Basilica
The next morning we had an early start and drove into Punta Sabbioni to Al Bateo (€23 inc. hookup & WiFi, N45.44278 E12.42260) and got set up on our pitch between the trees. We then only had to walk about 500m to the vaporetti stop and caught the 9:30 crossing which took approximately 25 mins to get into Venice. We headed straight to St Marks Basilica to try to avoid the queue but there was already a long one. We decided to wait and it moved quite quickly so we got inside in about 20 mins. Taking photos was not allowed inside which got announced to everybody over loudspeakers a couple of times “Silencio. No foto!” in an amusing voice that made us feel like naughty schoolchildren.

Pizza at Antico Forno
Rialto Bridge - unfortunately under repair during our trip

We crossed the Rialto Bridge, part of which was under renovation, then saw all the tourist souvenir stands and were disappointed thinking it was the Rialto Market, but then found the fruit and veg stalls further on facing onto the canal side with all the nice produce including some rather tasty looking sun-dried tomatoes and crystallised fruit. Continuing walking around the side streets looking for somewhere to get a snack as we were getting peckish but it wasn’t lunchtime yet, we came across Antico Forno, a shop selling many different pizzas by the slice (priced €2.60-3.90). We got a slice of mozzarella, ham and mushroom on a thick base to share, and it was so nice we had to get another slice and went for a thin base margarita this time.

Jo in Burano
We got a vaporetto to the island of Burano, which is an old fishing village and all the houses have been painted in various bright colours, had a look around there and got lost looking for the vaporetti stop (the downside to all the buildings having the same style is it’s easy to lose your way). After a bit of looking around for somewhere to get lunch we decided to go back to Antico Forno and got another 2 pizza slices, followed by a nearby Gelateria for a 2-scoop ice-cream each. It was lemon and forest fruits flavours for me and tiramisu and ameretto for Jo.

We walked to the park and got another vaporetto along the length of the Grand Canal before taking a final one back to Punta Sabbioni. Back at the campsite after dinner I Skyped my parents whilst we had WiFi and had a look online for any spots to stay around the Lakes in preparation for the days ahead.

- Matt

More pictures below (click to enlarge):

Floating vaporetti stations
Decor at St. Marks Square
Venetian Church (forgotten the name)

A water taxi

Traditional buildings
Moored gondolas
Ponte dell'Accademia

Interesting decor from the Grand Canal
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace)
Interesting building on the Grand Canal
Matt by one of the smaller canals

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