Today we took the train(s) to Venezia (Venice). Last night, when we got home from Como, we took a second look at the Trenitalia tickets we had bought online when we were still back home. I had selected an 8:05 AM departure from Milano, which didn’t sound too bad until you figured out the logistics of an 8:05 AM Milano departure: First we had to take the local train from Saronno into Milano, which takes about 30 minutes (20 if you are lucky enough to catch the express). (We were not usually lucky.) This train ends up at Milano Cadorna, and from there you have to go underground to the Metro and buy a subway pass (1.5 € per adult, kids under 12 are free). You then hop on the M2 green line towards Gessate and get off four stops later at Milano Centrale (chen TRA lee). Centrale is ENORMOUS. It is literally the central station for Milano: buses, trains, trams, airport runs, etc. It brings new meaning to the term mass transit! Having done the train-subway to Duomo on Thursday, we knew this would mean leaving Saronno by probably 6:30AM to get to Centrale and find our train. So I went online and changed to the 9:05 AM departure instead. This was a really good idea, partially because we got to have a quick breakfast before leaving and partially because we ended up literally running for the train as it was. I got to practice my bad Italian again, though. As we came off the M2 line and emerged from the underground, it became apparent that just knowing our train was on Track 8 was not enough. There are probably 30 different tracks in Centrale and we weren’t sure how they were split up. I spotted two uniformed men standing up ahead, and asked one for help. Scusa, excuse me, I said. Binario otto? Track 8? The man pointed in the direction we most certainly would NOT have chosen and smiled. Grazie! I said, and we beat feet to track 8. We found it with no problem, but we were on carrozza nove, car 9, which meant we had to walk past eight other train cars to get to our seats. The train left about two minutes after we found our seats. Whew.
Trenitalia operates a series of Freccia trains (Freccia means arrow in Italian). We were on the Frecciabianca, or White Arrow. It is a very nice train with air conditioning, a sleek, modern interior, and a quiet ride. Some cars (not ours, of course) have WiFi. We had seats facing each other with a table inbetween, which was perfect for traveling with the kids. They colored and worked on their journals while we headed to Venice. I got in a whole pattern repeat on my sock knitting. Yay!
If you take a train to Venezia, you must be sure to choose one that goes all the way in to S Lucia. This is the main station on the island; otherwise, you are forced to get a vaporetto (water taxi). Stazione Venezia-Santa Lucia is quite large, about the size of Milano Cadorna. As you come out of the station, you have a lovely view of the Grand Canal and the main landing area.
It is very busy near the first bridge, with lots of tourist stalls selling souvenirs, t-shirts, cold drinks, etc. There are also a lot of transient vendors selling knockoff designer bags and wallets. This is illegal and we saw several of them suddenly grab up their merchandize and quietly depart the bridge. We figured that the police were coming to do a sweep of the area. These vendors will often stand away from their wares, so it must be a stiff penalty if caught.
We decided to make our way down to Piazza San Marco, St. Mark’s square, on foot. We figured if it got too late we could always take a vaporetto back to the Ferrovia (train station). Venice is best seen on foot, really. The gondola are fun but it is a total tourist trap, and you end up being part of the spectacle rather than observing it. We headed south through Santa Croce parish and, once away from the crush of arriving tourists, we found a little place to have some lunch.
The girls shared pizza margherita (yet again). DH had spaghetti bolognese, and I enjoyed a very tasty bowl of pasta e fagiole.
While we ate, we consulted our little Venice treasure hunt book. It gave us things to look for while we were visiting. We also worked some more on our Italian.
One of the items on our scavenger hunt was a pasticceria. We found one not far from our lunch spot. Yum!
From here, we wandered through Santa Croce to Dorsoduro parish, across Ponte dell’Accademia, and on to San Marco. It was a blur of gorgeous architecture, narrow and dim alley-like streets constrasting with brilliant canalways, and throngs of curious tourists.
Many of the homes have little shrines to the Virgin Mary near their doors. They are all lovely and usually have flowers as decorations.
O6 did cartwheels on every bridge she crossed.
Just before we reached Piazza San Marco, we spied a Vivaldi exhibit that had antique violins. Of course we had to go in and get pictures to show Miss Tina.
By now we had almost reached San Marco. Everyone was tired and hot. We had to push hard to get to our goal: the Piazza and some gelato.
It’s a shame San Marco is so amazing, really. There is plenty of incredible architecture to see elsewhere in Venezia, but it seems to be overshadowed by the enormous basilica. Here’s a good example, the Chiesa (church) Santo Moise.
Another violin reference (“Gold Violin Hotel”):
Finally… we spied Torre dell’Orologio (the clock tower).
The girls, however, were more interested in feeding the pigeons.
The basilica is being renovated, so there is some scaffolding outside. It is still stunning. I only wish we were there in the morning or afternoon to catch better light for photos.
We got some gelato at a little stand right in the plaza, and enjoyed it while observing all the activity.
Then we headed closer to the Bacino di San Marco, the bay of Saint Mark.
Here, we made an embarrassing discovery:
These four horses are copies of the originals, housed inside the Palazzu Ducale.
The originals were being degraded from pollution, so the copies were made to allow the originals to be protected.
There are two of these columns on the Piazetta San Marco (the south corner of the piazzo, near the Palazzo Ducale). Public executions used to be held in this spot. To this day, native Venetians don’t walk between the columns.
Tourists, however, think they make a great photo op.
Here, we are reading about the Doge’s palace.
While we stopped in the shade of some construction materials, S8 wanted to take pictures. Apparently, she has joined the paparazzi.
By this time, everyone was pretty well Venice-d out. We decided to make our way back through Castello and towards Ponte di Rialto, the Rialto bridge, and back to the Ferrovia. More blur of architecture, shops, tourists, signs, and canals.
First, we walked along the Bacino and crossed a little walkway that offered a lovely view of the Ponte dei Sospiri (the Bridge of Sighs). This is how prisoners were taken from the Doge’s palace to the jail next door (Palazzo de Prigioni).
Then we just have a bunch of random Veniceness.
Here, we are at the Ponte di Rialto. Not only is it a large bridge across the Grand Canal, it is also a huge shopping area.
I liked this rooftop garden.
The Fish market.
Just before we reached the Grand Canal, we stopped at a little place for dinner. S8 and DH had burgers with patatina fritta (fries), while O6 and I had spaghetti bolognese. I don’t think we even took pictures, we were so tired.
Back at the bridge to the Ferrovia. The sun was setting and the lighting was beautiful, both on the canal and on O6’s millionth cartwheel.
Looking across at Chiesa S. Geremia :
More views of the Grand Canal:
We were pretty much ready to go home at this point.
The girls each picked out a souvenir to take home. S8 got two postcards, and O6 bought a little ceramic box that was a cat-shaped carnivale mask.
We got to the station about 20 minutes before our train was to depart. They hadn’t posted the track number yet, so we popped into the Bar to get some juice and water for the ride home. By the time we came out, the track was posted and we found our train with no trouble.
We backtracked from Centrale to Cordona, then took the Saronno train home. Finally we walked the short distance back to our hotel. Buona notte!