Italy Finale: Venice, Part 2

On our last day in Venice and final day of our vacation (I don’t think leaving the next morning counts as a day of vacation), we had a special tour planned at the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace). I booked us for a behind the scenes tour called the Secret Itineraries tour, and it was a lot of fun. Not to mention, our tour guide spoke excellent English so that we could really appreciate and enjoy what she was speaking about.

This tour takes you through secret rooms in the palace, and to where the infamous Casanova was held. Afterwards, we had time to visit the main rooms of the museum.

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This is the Giants’ Staircase leading into the courtyard, where we met for our tour. We learned about the politics of Venice and who really ran things (not really the Doge). The position had a very modest office, surprisingly.

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I bet you can guess what this room was for.

We saw a number of cells for the upper class (lower class prisons were elsewhere part of the main museum) and got to go in a couple. They were stark, dark, and had low ceilings. The doors on some of these were super small.

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Coming out of the cells and prisons of the upper class, came out a secret door to view a room in the main area of the palace, and then finally came out to actually visit the rest of the grand rooms of the palace.

A lot of the rooms have been refinished, so only 3 rooms have original flooring, once of which is below.

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This is a secret message slot in the wall.

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This unbelievable work of art is in one of the largest rooms in Europe and actually the longest canvas painting in the world, Il Paradiso.

I love capturing beautiful ceilings.

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Last we visited the final area in the palace, and crossed the Bridge of Sighs. The name supposedly refers to the sighs of prisoners who see their last view freedom as they glimpsed the lagoon through the window.

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Also located along the Piazza San Marco, next door to the Doge’s Palace is also St Mark’s Basilica. You can pay to gain entry around a certain time, which we chose to do. It isn’t advertised really, but between 11:30 to 12:30, the ceiling of the church is illuminated in all it’s gold glory.

We had the opportunity to see the illumination for the first 15 minutes or so of our visit, and the difference was simply indescribable. From the bright gold to a dim ceiling. St. Mark is buried here beneath the altar and you can see it behind glass and bars.

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After our last scheduled stops of the day, we did some shopping. We stopped at a store recommended by our hotel as having true Venetian glass (this is a sketchy industry in Venice, and we didn’t have the opportunity to visit the traditional glass blowing island off the coast).

I am still not certain that is the case for the jewelry we bought, but at least some of the glass in his shop was hand blown, as he was working right there as we shopped (and happily gave me permission to take his photo).

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Another Venetian specialty is apparently squid ink pasta. I got some for lunch, and mine came complete with parts of the squid. It’s best to get this in season rather than a re-hydrated form of the sauce, and I was in luck. It was definitely an experience. I was okay with the sauce (particularly with closed eyes), but the squid itself was pretty touch and chewy and not super enjoyable.

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We also visited Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. We visited most any church that was along our way and open, though most of the churches in Venice cost money to view. Several Doges were buried here.

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Our final item on our wishlist included a traditional gondola ride. Say what you will about the tourist factor, we chatted our gondolier up after about 5 minutes into the ride and he warmed up likewise and it turned into a very enjoyable ride. We took some side canals, and I enjoyed seeing the view from the water. He even took a very good photos of us when we were done!

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After another dinner at our new favorite spot, we wandered for the rest of the evening. We walked from what seemed the northern most edge of Venice to the south. We ended our night and our vacation in St Mark’s Square with gelato, of course.

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Our travels from Venice to the airport were simple, though paying the hotel the day prior was not since their credit card machine broke and mom had to visit two separate ATMs to withdraw enough cash to pay them. That part was uncomfortable enough that it was almost not worth the prime location and price of our stay.

We hopped aboard the boat that goes directly to the airport with the tickets we bought the previous day, and we were on our way! Getting relieved of our luggage at the airport was quite nice after hauling it around during our trip. We didn’t travel like my college self would have, but we also didn’t travel in style, so that luggage definitely got heavier over time without any strong arms to help us! We did okay though, and while I would’ve loved one more day to see the Venetian islands, I didn’t feel like we left the city, or any of the cities, with missed opportunities. We saw all of the things we wanted to see, and did everything we really wanted to do. We ate well, walked a lot, and finished our long days with a bottle of wine.

Arrivederci, Italia!

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