A Quick Stop in Venice To See What’s Changed:
We had three days free in our itinerary in the north of Italy and so we took the opportunity to make a quick stop in Venice. The last time we were here was just before Covid turned the world upside down.
Where we stayed
We usually rent an apartment for a week’s stay in Venice, but for our 3-night stop, it’s easier to stay in a hotel. The Rialto Hotel, being next to the Rialto Bridge, couldn’t be more convenient. There is a vaporetto stop in front of the hotel and so we’re spared from having to cross any of Venice’s 400 plus bridges with our heavy cases.
So, has anything changed?
With the hotel’s perfect location, we can enjoy people-watching while having our breakfast. The first thing that we notice is that there are not as many visitors on Venice’s famous bridge, compared to pre-Covid days.
At Piazza San Marco, you can actually see the floor of the square whereas in the past, it was covered with people. The queues to go into Basilica di San Marco (St Mark’s Basilica) and climb the Campanile tower are much smaller as well.
The luxury leisure cruisers and yachts that used to line the quays near the Grand Canal are now in the Marina Sant’Elena, away from the peering eyes of visitors. No longer can their super-rich inhabitants flaunt their wealth at us poor visitors who have to ride the vaporetto.
The hideously huge cruise liners, an eyesore in Venice, are now nowhere in sight. They too have been barred from entering the Giudecca Canal. For a long time, Venice has suffered from over-tourism and the banning of the cruise ships from the Grand Canal has been what the locals have wanting for some time. It took a collision by the MSC Opera in the Canal to finally push the authorities into action. Incidentally, it was Uniworld’s River Countess that the MSC Opera collided into, an expensive accident for the cruise liner.
The big cruise ships now have to berth at the mainland industrial and petrochemical port of Marghera. The plan is to build a new cruise terminal somewhere on the mainland. Some cruise companies are not pleased and have chosen to move their Venice operations elsewhere, like Trieste and Ravenna for example.
Catching a vaporetto to Murano is much easier as well and we are able to board a ferry near St. Mark’s Square with no trouble.
The island itself proves much less crowded than we’ve previously experienced, pleasantly so, and we have no problem finding a cafe for a relaxing lunch. Even shopping for glass earrings at Giorgio’s “FioreFiore” atelier/shop on the main canal is an ultra low pressure experience. Giorgio (he’s a genuinely friendly guy) proudly explains the intricacies of creating his unique glass butterflies and tirelessly tailoring a pair to fit Helen’s ears.
This trip we also walk around many of Venice’s sestieri and find the tone there much quieter too, especially in the usually overcrowded areas of Rialto and San Marco, in spite of this being the peak summer holiday period.
Favourite foods and restaurants
Venice is famous for its squid-ink pasta (Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia ) and so we head for Trattoria alla Madonna to have our traditional pasta dish there. Tony changes his mind and orders a grilled fish dish instead whereas I faithfully stick to my Venetian favourite.
I must say that it’s a bit disappointing as the pasta, although it has lots of squid in it, is rather dry and the dish lukewarm. I liked it better the way it was done before, served in a pasta bowl with more sauce. A waiter told me that they don’t serve it that way anymore. On the way out we see a large bowl of squid-ink sauce at their antipasti station, which makes me wonder if the cooked pasta from the kitchen is mixed with the sauce here, hence the lukewarm temperature.
We bid farewell to the City of Canals
It was a quick visit and although we didn’t get to do everything, we enjoyed re-acquainting ourselves with the City of Canals. On our departure morning we catch the vaporetto to Venezia Santa Lucia station for our train to Trieste, giving us one last enjoyment of the Grand Canal.