Italy Venice (Venezia) 2001.06.29 - 07.01


Some people love Venice for its romantic canals, narrow pedestrian streets, and interconnected islands. Others find the numerous dead-ends, constantly changing street direction, and poor signage to be frustrating. Masami loved Venice on her first visit 13 years ago in the winter, though she didn't care for her second visit this summer in high tourist season. Wes, who likes to travel from point A to B as quickly and directly as possible, disliked the city.

Contrary to coastal canal cities like Amsterdam or Bangkok, Venice is actually 117 small islands connected by pedestrian bridges. Aside from the main train station that's connected to the mainland by bridge, the only public transport around Venice is by boat (called a vaporetto). Boats large and small travel from dock to dock picking up and dropping off passengers, operating similar to a city bus network. We recommend anyone wanting to experience travel along Venetian canals, without incurring expensive tourist prices for a gondola ride, to ride a vaporetto.

15 minutes north of the cluster of islands called Venice is a smaller cluster called Murano. Small Murano Glass factories are scattered around the Murano Islands. Several give free glass making demonstrations lasting between 5-10 minutes. With ovens burning at 593° C (1100° F), the demonstration rooms feel like a sauna, and most people wouldn't want a presentation to last any longer than 10 minutes. We watched glass horse production at one factory and vase making at another.

There are a dozen Internet Cafés in Venice, though none are cheap and all are difficult to find. Request an Internet Café list and city map at the tiny tourist information office in the train station. Then, budget an extra 30 minutes of getting lost to find one of them.

The canals of Venice are saltwater channels between 117 heavily built-up islands.

These black gondolas cater to tourists. Gondola rowers stand along the sidewalks asking, "Want a gondola ride?"

This domed basilica on Piazza San Marco is the most visually appealing building exterior in Venice.

A craftsman in Murano sculpts glass horses from a molten glass ball using simple metal tools.

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