Adventures In Venice

canals of Venice

Le Monsieur and I have joked that it can be tough to find a truly bad meal in Paris, and tough to take a bad photo in Venice. I’ve probably snapped hundreds of pictures here just in the last 4 days. I’ll share some of my favorites so far, and a few more once we’re home (and have faster internet).

The canals are lovely and romantic of course, but they are also working waterways and how many of the locals get around and ferry goods such as food and construction materials from one place to another.

canal and gondolas in Venice

The little squares or “campos” tucked away on side streets are often a bit quieter and a good place to find a meal. That chimney in the upper left corner above is a very typical Venetian design, created to reduce the risk of hot embers escaping and starting fires.

square in Venice

courtyard in Venice

This family seems to have a private cistern (fresh water source, collected rainwater) in the courtyard.

two cats in Venice

canal in Venice

rooftop view Rialto bridge and Grand Canal, Venice

We discovered there’s a terrace at the top of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi department store (gorgeous building inside, used to be the post office). You can visit for free during store hours, but they only allow a few people up at a time, in 10-minute intervals. The views are wonderful. Above, the Rialto bridge in the foreground, the Grand Canal behind.

The best way to see Venice though, is from the water. The vaporettos (water busses) go everywhere, and you can get day or multi-day passes for unlimited use. We also took the vaporetto out to Murano (known for glass blowing and glass products) and Burano, famous for its brightly colored houses, and lace making.

canal of Burano with brightly colored houses

We’d heard that much of both the glass sold in Murano and lace in Burano is actually produced elsewhere more cheaply now, though discerning shoppers can still find the locally made products.

Even better than a noisy vaporetto though, is a gondola. On our first visit to Venice we’d taken a ride in one of the commercial gondolas; this time we opted for a rowing lesson from Row Venice. By any measure, this has been the highlight of our visit to Venice!

learning to row in Venice

Row Venice is a non-profit organization of

passionate (and almost all female) vogatori, Venetian by birth and by choice, dedicated to the preservation and promotion of traditional Venetian cultura acquea, the water culture.

After a short lesson on rowing technique and moving about safely in the shrimp-tail batellina, we set off. Le Monsieur and I took turns rowing in the front, while our instructor Elena did the more difficult part of rowing and steering from the back position. The rowing itself is actually fairly easy to do (though probably more difficult to do well), and requires a lot less strength and exertion than one would imagine.

We moved up a small canal to get the hang of it, and then turned into the Grand Canal! It’s much quieter and less congested in the evenings so we never felt apprehensive with the other canal traffic.

rowing in the Venice Grand Canal

It was such a joy to be out on the water in a quiet boat, and the rowing motion is quite rhythmic and relaxing. And the views…

rowing in canals in Venice

sunset rowing on Venice canals

It was so lovely to be out at dusk, as the sky darkened and the lights came on.

evening rowing on Grand Canal Venice

I have to say, if you only have time to schedule one activity in Venice, I’d do this one. It was a truly special and unforgettable experience!

I have much more to share about this Venice visit, including some fantastic meals and accommodations. But it’s our last day, and we still have some getting lost to do…

What activity from a favorite vacation or destination would you consider “not-to-be-missed?”

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38 Comments

  1. May 9, 2017 / 3:57 am

    We arrive Venice May 16 and wonder what the weather will be as I see you are wearing a jacket. Should I take a light pack able bubble jacket?

  2. May 9, 2017 / 5:21 am

    When visiting Paris take the train to Vernon but rather than hopping on the tour bus to Giverny (Monet’s house and studio] rent a bicycle. My daughter and I did that and it was the highlight of this trip! Still one of the favorite experiences of my life!

  3. May 9, 2017 / 5:22 am

    What a great idea! You really got a different view.
    My favorite activity has been to seek out Argentine tango in different cities. It gets me to unlikely neighborhoods, and I get to mingle with the locals. Language is irrelevant–we all speak the same language of the dance. It’s amazing.

  4. May 9, 2017 / 5:44 am

    Thank you so much for these lovely photos and stories of Venice. It was like visiting again — and that never gets old.

  5. Susan
    May 9, 2017 / 5:59 am

    I love this post! Thank you for sharing Susan. Rowing your own gondola would not be something I would ever think to do, but you make it look so romantic.

  6. Laurel
    May 9, 2017 / 6:07 am

    These pictures are absolutely magical. The inspiration of the Impressionists is so clear. Thanks so much for sharing them.

    We loved visiting the Normandy beaches in France and the Bayeax tapestry was a highlight. But I think the most memorable segment of the trip was finding the hilltop museum (in the fog) over the Falaise gap where my FIL fought in WWII. The juxtaposition of his experiences and the bucolic sheep farming that exists there now really affected us.

    • May 10, 2017 / 5:36 am

      I visited Dieppe (site of a military disaster involving mostly Canadian troops) with a friend, still alive but VERY elderly now, who was in a resistance maquis in Normandy as a youth. Indeed, such a pretty, pleasant place now by the sea.

  7. Ainsivalavie
    May 9, 2017 / 6:08 am

    Food tours! My husband and I booked one when we were visiting Québec City this past February. What fun we had with our small group tasting and sampling several restos and food shops. Our guide was very knowledgable about the food and history and gave us lots of ‘insider’ information that we put to good use for the rest of that visit and a subsequent one. We also got to meet food loving Americans and Argentinians as well as one other Canadian from out West. Wherever I travel ( or even in my own city) a food tour will be first thing to book! Most food tours are limited to a small group that can walk a good distance perhaps involving stairs and could be limited to those of drinking age ( I would check all this when booking).

  8. Laurie Hall
    May 9, 2017 / 6:42 am

    This might just be one of your sweetest posts. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I’m taking notes in hopeful anticipation of a trip to Italy myself some day! When I travel, the food, the sights and the people we meet along the way are what make the experience special and memorable. Some “Agriturismo” in Tuscany might be interesting… .

  9. Izabel
    May 9, 2017 / 7:31 am

    What lovely photographs (the Two Cats gave me a chuckle) and such good information. Now I want to go back!

    • Janet
      May 9, 2017 / 1:37 pm

      I liked the cat picture, too! I bet he’d love to have wings like the statue.

  10. Carolyn from Oregon
    May 9, 2017 / 7:54 am

    Gorgeous mood photos. Reminds me of the Donna Leon mysteries set in Venice.

  11. Clariza
    May 9, 2017 / 9:13 am

    Great photos! I would love to try the rowing activity and you get such great views at a slow pace. Our favorite activity in general is to climb towers, where ever we go. This has included almost being lock in a tower in Siena and climbing to the top of the Tower of Pisa. I also love taking snorkeling trips when in tropical locations. I’m so glad you are enjoying your trip!

  12. May 9, 2017 / 9:27 am

    What a great idea. I loved Venice, I dont think they had these tours a few years ago. Loved the food, the Ghetto, everything. Love your photos.

  13. Cat
    May 9, 2017 / 9:57 am

    A tour of some of the cicchetti bars in Venice was my most memorable experience

  14. MaureenC
    May 9, 2017 / 10:11 am

    I’ve really enjoyed seeing your photos, I was lucky enough to live in Venice in my third year when I was a history of art student at Warwick. It was a great experience and I can understand why everyone wants to go there. However can I make a plea to friends from across the pond – please avoid the cruise ships if you can, they have made a major contribution to the destruction of the city and the sight of them like sky scrapers in the grand canal is horrific. So do visit but come by train (for preference) or plane then coach. I hope the rest of your trip continues to be this good!

    • May 10, 2017 / 5:56 am

      You can even take the train into the old city from the mainland if you arrive by plane or car. I also hate those cruise ships, as do Venetians.

      I adored the photo of the big and little Venetian cats!

      Ciccetti bars are great – I don’t like drinking without a bit of food (Mediterranean custom, and wisdom) but for me historical museums and research centres are key attractions. In Venice the area around the shipyards (Arsenale) is worth a look; the employer built very solid stone blocks of flats for the shipyard workers and their families, that are still standing and in good condition. And this centre http://iveser.it/ for social history research.

  15. May 9, 2017 / 10:17 am

    Your photographs of Venice are beautiful and bring back so many happy memories of my time spent there. Next time, I’m definitely going to sign up for Row Venice at dusk. It looks like a magical experience!

  16. May 9, 2017 / 10:47 am

    Breathtaking, those views. The photo of the lion sculpture is priceless with the black cat sitting beside it, showing it who’s boss. And the angles of buildings and railings are all wonky. Although this contributes to its charm, I hope this city continues to thrive and survive despite the rising sea levels – it is a truly a World Heritage site. Rowing lessons was a inspired idea.

  17. Pam
    May 9, 2017 / 12:03 pm

    I think you should start a travel club….

  18. Marguerite
    May 9, 2017 / 12:59 pm

    My favorite travel experience, so far, has been visiting Buckingham palace! I know it’s a touristy thing to do, and we’ve traveled extensively, but it leaves you in awe. Since you can only visit when the queen is not in residence, that only leaves a few months of the year to do so. We were lucky enough to be in London once during that time. I highly recommend it as well as the mews and stables. The Vatican is also fabulous and one of a kind. Loving your photos Susan!

  19. May 9, 2017 / 1:23 pm

    I’m going to see if we can fit a rowing lesson into our few days there — what a magical idea, thank you!

  20. RebeccaNYC (IG: mybackstageopera)
    May 9, 2017 / 3:23 pm

    “What activity from a favorite vacation or destination would you consider “not-to-be-missed?”

    It’s hard to choose just one, but if you are in Provence near Arles, please do not miss the Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux-de-Provence and the site of Glanum just up the road towards St Remy de Provence. I have been several times and both sites take my breath away each time.

  21. Elizabeth Louros
    May 9, 2017 / 3:55 pm

    Just returned from Japan. Highlight for me was getting lost on our bikes far from the city of Kyoto. We stopped at a convenience store for a picnic lunch and while we enjoying the sushi, beer, and other goodies in front of a Shinto Shrine an older gentleman stopped to tell us the history of the shrine, the surrounding area, and the spot to see the rarest green cherry blossoms near by. He had worked in NYC for 15 years and wanted to practice his English.

  22. Ann
    May 9, 2017 / 4:01 pm

    Oh, my gosh, Susan!!! You are so damn smart, moxie, and … appropriately dressed! Your pictures are staggeringly beautiful. Thank you so much for your reporting.

  23. May 9, 2017 / 5:50 pm

    Sigh. I need to get back to Venice. Lovely pictures. My Italian uncle is an architect in Turin, and he took me to a chapel in Venice built of the leftover marble from Basilica San Marco. I once toured a cane plantation via inner tube, on irrigation canals on Kauai, including dark tunnels, wearing a headlamp. Super fun. Also, the fairy pools on the Isle of Skye are magical (as one would expect).

  24. karen h
    May 10, 2017 / 3:33 am

    thanks so much for sharing your photo’s and how fun that you got to “drive” a gondola. the highlight of my venice trip was seeing the waiters in rainboots in the Piazza San Marco due to the rising waters…it was both fasinating and horrifying, if that makes sense.
    my favorite thing to do on vacations….go to a local supermarket or drug store….it gives me the best sense of the “real” people.

  25. Adele Miller
    May 10, 2017 / 4:16 am

    I think I recognized a campo near where we stayed in an apartment in Cannaregio. We loved our visit to Venice, and it’s true that it’s hard to take a bad photo, but we also found it hard to find really good meals. Next visit, I want to try a mosaic workshop!
    Highlight of recent vacations was visiting Mont St. Michel in the evening, when there were few people around and it was a clear night.

  26. Ellen
    May 10, 2017 / 12:15 pm

    My favorite moments always involve serendipity and an opportunity to interact spontaneously with local people, or with visitors from other countries in a more casual way. My husband always likes a plan and a schedule, and i love to wander and see what happens. Finding myself as a guest at a Morroccan wedding in Fez probably ranks up near the top : nothing that could be part of a plan, just leaving myself open for opportunity.

  27. Duchesse
    May 10, 2017 / 12:34 pm

    Just stunning shots, drenched in colour and character and you look like you’re having a real adventure! Odd but the thought that comes to mind is a Lumberjack Festival tucked deep in the country in northern Michigan: deep sense of the local.

  28. Leslie in Oregon
    May 10, 2017 / 4:27 pm

    Most of my favorite activities while travelling abroad have to do with water in some form: swimming and snorkelling with locals from South Pacific beaches not yet discovered by tourists; watching a middle-of-the-night snowstorm sweep over the USSR-era Red Square from the window of my then-modest room; from a nearby perch above them, watching elephants become “pink” from bathing in a watering hole and then roll in the red-clay dust; to name a few. Thank you for the rowing idea, which we would very much enjoy. Did you notice whether the Venetian waters were visibly dirty and/or smelly, as many have commented?

  29. May 11, 2017 / 11:31 am

    Photos are beautiful! You correctly said “tough to take a bad photo in Venice”. Venice is beautiful! It is possible to come here many times and find something new.

  30. May 11, 2017 / 3:10 pm

    Yes, Row Venice is a fantastic experience. I recommend it highly.
    Another fun thing to do in Venice is attend an opera in a palace – Musica a Palazzo.

  31. Marta
    May 11, 2017 / 8:29 pm

    Venice is amazing I will never forget being there.
    I have never seen a more pedestrian style. I would have been embarrassed to dress like this and say I was writing a Style blog!

    • Susan B
      May 11, 2017 / 9:15 pm

      Chacun à son goût as they say here in Paris. I was not embarrassed at all, felt comfortable and appropriately dressed.

  32. Kristian
    May 12, 2017 / 6:00 pm

    Never knew you could take rowing lessons! How cool!

  33. May 15, 2017 / 6:02 am

    Just adding my “grazie!” to everyone else’s. I love the idea of learning to row in Venice! It must be a bit like some of the kayaking I’ve done, but in such a different setting. Wow. I love your trip posts, always, but this was a special one.

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