Venice – The City In The Sea

One of our friends wanted to know if two days was time enough for Venice. I laughed. That is more time than we had in the city on our first visit nearly three decades ago.

Even then, when leisure travel was the prerogative of the extremely wealthy, and we were certain we would never ever step outside our country if we missed this opportunity paid for by R’s employers…even then, I remember feeling distress at the way we were doing it. A frantic race to tick off as many countries in a little over two weeks as humanly possible. A quick tour here, a gondola ride there, an hour for lunch and a wander, and then off to Lido to our hotel for the night, then off again next morning to the next city on the list! My enduring memory of Venice remained that of terrifyingly giant flocks of pigeons and smelly canals.

So I returned. Alone. Spurred by the stirring travelogues that I had devoured since. As I dragged my little suitcase past Harry’s Bar, teeming early evening with teenagers in jeans slung precariously low, and onto Calle Larga XXII Marzo heaving with tourists of every race and colour, I juggled excitement and apprehension.

I dumped my bags in my single room that must once have been the original owners’ kennel, (I exaggerate of course, it was actually quite lovely but really, really minuscule!) and since I hadn’t consumed anything resembling real food in over ten hours, I hunted down Alfredo’s for a steaming carton of fussili that I wolfed down on a bench nearby. Hunger sated, I headed back to the chaos of Piazza San Marco.

The pigeon population seemed diminished and less aggressive than I remembered, the non avian visitors not quite. Having resolved the dilemma of eating dinner alone in a restaurant on my first evening, I walked around for a bit and ended the evening with a double scoop of gelato and espresso.

Piazzetta di San Marco - Venice
View of San Giorgio Maggiore from a deserted Piazzetta di San Marco!

I returned early next morning, to an eerily empty square. The rain had stopped and the light was still too flat for photos, but it was a moment of solitude I wasn’t likely to forget. Nor was I ever going to forget the next sixty minutes inside the basilica, listening to a whole ensemble of priests conduct high mass. An additional bonus? An uninterrupted few minutes all to myself to feast on the glorious scenes inside!* I should have sneaked some photos, but I couldn’t bring myself to ‘sin’ so soon after such a spiritual experience.

On my way out, the line for the 9.45 entry through the main door was already snaking halfway down the piazza and the vendors were setting up shop. I walked across to the Museo Correr for a quick visit and to book my place on the fascinating tour of the Torre dell’ Orologio**. How many of you are aware that the moors atop the clock tower wear no underwear?

Moors atop the Torre dell’ Orologio, Venice
The Mori (Moors) atop the Torre dell’ Orologio

By midday I escaped through the Merceria (main street leading from beneath the Clock Tower) and spent the rest of the day exploring the back streets towards Rialto, ending at the Gallerie dell’ Accademia on Dorsoduro for an intense dose of Venetian art, stopping along the way for espresso or lunch or spritz as I pleased. And more gelato of course. Dinner that evening was delicious Cicchetti at Cantinone–già Schiavi on a street behind the gallerie. Later, I walked back through Campo San Stefano and hung around to watch locals out to enjoy the last few hours of sunlight.

The Secret Itineraries*** tour of the Palazzo Ducal the next morning was far too Casanova intensive, and the hour and a half inside the claustrophobic prison cells equaled less time for the main palace after. But my feeling was that of relief when I was done with the overwhelmingly opulent Palazzo, and could return to those enchanting streets. I was checking out this afternoon and shifting to a relatively palatial accommodation on neighbouring Santa Croce, in anticipation of the hordes that would surely be descending on San Marco on May Day.

Ponte dei Sospiri, Venice
View from inside the Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs).

I walked back all the way another evening, and on impulse decided to ascend the campanile. And from that highest point of vantage on the island, buffeted by cool, clammy winds that foreshadowed more rain for the night, I gazed upon all of Venezia beneath my feet…all the way up to Lido on the East and the Istrian coast beyond, and far ahead, the mainland. A defiant sun, in a last hurrah, burned the rain clouds a vivid orange and the lights in the piazza came on one by one just as the moor on the right struck two-to-eight.

A young girl who had her camera pointed straight ahead, squealed in delight when I suggested she look down. Then the bells went off, startling both of us and drowning the faint strains of the orchestras down below in a thrilling crescendo and I smiled at the joy on her face.

How long are you here for?” I asked, as we stepped back into the elevator.

Two days. Off to Florence tomorrow.

Was that enough time for Venice?”

Not by far!!” And with the supreme confidence of the very young, she declared, “But I am coming back next year with my sister. For a whole week!

“And you?”

I am back” I laughed. “Just a few decades later than I intended

View from the Campanile
View of Piazza San Marco from the Campanile


  • The Sanctuary(€2), Treasury (€3) and Museum (€5) only open to the public at 9.45. I returned on another day to visit these.  The interior of the Basilica is floodlit briefly at 11.30 am daily except on Sundays and holidays. I never made it back at that time.

** 50 min long guided tours in English: at 10.00 and 11.00 on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and at 14.00 and 15.00 on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

***I booked the Secret Itineraries Tour here. They seem to get sold out pretty fast.

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on

115 thoughts on “Venice – The City In The Sea

  1. beautiful story, and i laughed several times! thanks, i needed thous laughs!

    rain welcomed me home last night – though i stopped ‘over’ in town so that i could buy supplies before retreating to the riverhouse. i stayed in a little hostal, though i was too tired to use the wifi and am now having a crash course before checking out.

    still w/o internet at the house, though it’s always great to enjoy your beautiful posts when online!


  2. I could spend 2 weeks in Venice! The best time to visit if you get a chance to return is during the Biennale art show, the whole city comes alive and it is just lovely! Great post!

  3. Lovely! I have been to Venice a couple of times, both on my way through to other destinations….I need to spend some time in Venice and not be scooting off somewhere else!

  4. I really enjoyed your pics and commentary, Madhu. How I wish that the Bridge of Sighs had been open when we were there three years ago. It was all covered in scaffold. 😦 I definitely need to go back again before too long.

  5. Venice is like a theater of dreams or a “working theater” which we are a part of when we visits this amazing floating city – very well captured… 🙂

  6. Aaah lovely Venice! I was there a few years ago and for just over 2 days. So I know what you mean! Its time I went back too…..thanks for bringing the memories back.

  7. Madhu, this is probably the most enticing piece on Venice that I’ve read so far. Good things do come to those who wake up early! 🙂 Following your exploration of the city’s alleys, historical sights and culinary delights makes me feel as if I was there myself. It’s three decades worth waiting, indeed.

    1. Thank you very much Bama. It is hard to chronicle a much written about destination like Venice, so I am especially glad you like it. It certainly was worth the long wait 🙂

  8. Yes! Knew you’d come through with gorgeous photos and a wonderful story to boot (lovely ending with the the young girl). The photos of the view from the Campanile and through the Bridge of Signs – stunning! So glad you had the opportunity to re-experience the city in a much more appreciative manner. Thanks for sharing. Brought back wonderful memories.

  9. It may have taken three decades to get back, but your description and photos show the pure joy you experienced this go around, Madhu. Love the roof top views, bridge of sighs and especially the cultural exchange at the end. Oh, and your cell of a room, I believe I could thrive in. And yes, I know it was lonely at times, but like you said, why stay at home and be lonely. India was a whirlwind and I knew it would be. We go to Paris for two weeks in September, so at least we will be doing that right. 🙂

    1. It really was an amazing trip Lynne, and now I can’t wait to go back and share my experience with R! Paris for two weeks….enjoy!!! 🙂

  10. What beautiful memories! Great photos, Madhu… Venice has remained in my heart. I have been there 4 or 5 times, but I never get tired of revisiting places I already seen… There is always something new, something special, and then places changes with the passage of time! Kisses :-)claudine

  11. We got to spend two whole weeks in Venice in an Untours apartment, and THAT wasn’t nearly enough time either! I think Venice will always be the city of my dreams. Even if I lived there perhaps it would remain that — But I certainly didn’t discover salient facts about the Moorish lack of underwear as you did!!!!

    1. Ah, that tells me you haven’t been up on the roof of the clock tower yet Judith! 😀
      I could easily have stayed two more weeks as well. I would have extended my stay but the consulate ensured I didn’t , by granting me a visa just upto the day of my stated departure!

  12. It is amazing, though, how some tourists manage to see more in a few days than many of the residents themselves have experienced!

  13. Yes. Another fine Madhu post. I’ve experienced the same captivation on return visits to Venice – and hope I can visit again someday soon. That Palazzo Ducal, though, was fascinating. I want to visit there again too.

    1. I think it depends on the guide Stephen. Ours was humourless and boring. The structural details of the roof of the main hall and the museum were indeed fascinating. The Palazzo itself was magnificent, but overwhelmingly so and the crowds inside are off putting. I would return too, but perhaps choose a better time to visit. Thank you for the kind words. A pleasure to see you here 🙂

  14. It sounds like a wonderful couple of days. I love wondering cities alone. Enjoying a little solitude sounds divine and not what I would have imagined possible in Italy.

    1. I spent a week in all Juliann, but this post was about the first couple of days in the touristy center. I knew it wouldn’t be crowded that early in the morning, but I hadn’t expected it to be so deserted! A rare treat 🙂

  15. found you via dadiradreaming. The view from San Maggiore is stunning. Could you feel it swaying ? Venice is stunning. We staying in Ruskins house in dursoduro recommended by chef Russell Norman who wrote the great venetian cookbook Polpo. Check it out if you haven’t seen it.

    1. Many thanks Sue. Ruskin’s house (Pensione La Calcina?) looks lovely. I did try for a room there but none were available for my dates. One month ahead was too short notice and none on my list had availability for a week at a stretch in fact! One of the reasons, I changed hotels, apart from wanting to be away from the center for the larger part of my stay. The panorama from San Maggiore was indeed breathtaking 🙂

  16. Everything’s looking sooooo beautiful, Madhu – delighted for you that the Piazzetta and Piazza have been released from their hoardings, resplendent now, and gleaming as they were meant to do! I’d forgotten about the Venetian ‘single’, but at least your Flora room was beautiful (what a fantastic old bed-head!). 🙂

    1. The loggia above the main entrance did have some scaffolding left Meredith, and some on the Rive visible from across the water, but yes, I was happy most of it was out. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the mass, considering I am not religious at all! There were about ten people in all and I didn’t understand a word of anything being said, but it was very atmospheric and incredibly moving! The Flora was a good hotel, if pricey for that size 🙂

  17. Oh I loved your post, brought back many fond memories. Back than living in Germany, I visited Venice for so many times, once in February for the Carneval of Venice, once in November where I had the city to my own, tourists were all gone, so beautiful.

    1. Thank you Cornelia. I can imagine how much nicer Venice must be at those times. I hope I get to return during Carnivale someday.

  18. Madhu, you must have got your eyes checked again, prior to your trip–latest, updated-powered lenses? To notice the lack of modest accoutrement on those Moorish time keepers! :)) So especially enjoyed the write up of your solo Venetian travel, as I did the photographs. Thank you…..! Having travelled through Italy fairly extensively with J, we didn’t touch Venice, as I wanted to spend extra time (which we didn’t have) in this city.

    1. Ha, from where I was standing, it would have been hard to miss even with 1/6 eyesight!! 😀 Thanks for reading Harini.

  19. Wow this is a beautiful tale of a place I’ve been wanting to visit for such a long time! Thank you for taking me there with your words and pictures and I’m sorry for my extreme lack of commenting as of late.

    1. Don’t be! I am equally remiss with my blog reading and commenting….just never seem to be able to catch up! Many thanks for stopping by 🙂

  20. such a wonderful beginning to your day … I love that first photo … great story too Madhu, and who would have guessed about the Moors?

    1. You must! And I have no doubt you will figure out a way soon 🙂 Thank you for your encouraging comments always.

  21. Good account of Venice. I am thinking of going one day myself (but Rome first ;)). Don’t know if I could stay a week here travelling solo, but certainly it seems an amazing city enhanced further by your photos. 🙂

    1. Thank you Lee. Venice is like no other city I have been to, and my solo week passed by before I knew it! 🙂

  22. Your wonderful post has moved Venice up the list again ! Just marvelous Madhu! I am sorry I have been away so long.

    1. Ah no, don’t be Kathryn. Juggling our real and virtual lives is a constant challenge and I am as guilty of tardiness with my blog reading as you are. Glad you enjoyed this post, and a pleasure to have you back 🙂

      1. I just loved it Madhu and touché ! My phone just beeped – we are on the same wave length it seems! 🙂

  23. I love venice, i have been maybe 4/5 times now …each time i go i do only spend maybe 3or4 days there and eacht itme i do somethig different! – I love the way you captured it in your photos i now feel like i have been there again 🙂

  24. It is a very special city of enchantment, Madhu, and you have me longing to go back! Standing up there on the Campanile with the lights coming on- what could be more magical? (not looking up, of course 🙂 ) And your first shot of the empty Piazza, and through the Bridge of Sighs! Wonderful!
    Guided tours vary so much and the guide can play a huge part. I managed a tour of the Jagellonian University Collegium Maior in Krakow and it was worth every halfpenny (showing my age). Thanks for the memories. I’m sure there are more to share.

    1. Our guide was a sour faced dictator!!! The clock tower tour was excellent though. Happy to have refreshed fond memories Jo. Yes, lots more to share 🙂

  25. Enchanting photos Madhu and a wonderful back story. So glad that you were able to return at a slower pace this time. Someday I hope to visit Venice.

  26. Lovely post. Makes we want to return soon. It is incredible how quite Venice is before the tourists arrive for the day and after they depart.

  27. Nice. As usual. You do know the origin of the name “Ponte di sospiri” don’t you?
    One of my cousins, in France rents a house for a month every summer in Venice.
    Opinionated bugger! But who can blame him?

  28. When where you there Madhu? This month? The first photo with that soft light and desolate piazza is really special 🙂

    1. It is, and i am fortunate to have got an opportunity to return. I am sure you will get there someday if you really want to David 🙂

  29. Bella, bella, bravissima!!! How can you not get freshly pressed so often!!!??? Your words made fall in love with Venice all over again. And the images, your from-the-top, night-time photos are incredible!!! You did awesome angles on most of your images, but my favorite is the after-the-rain chair photos. Your story combined with your words is just a remarkable combination. Now, I know what to do with my 300th post. 😀

  30. Madhu, I find myself struggling for words at this post – all that art, beauty and history in one go, and of course your beautiful writing to provide the backbone. I never did make it to the top of the campanile, nor the clock tower on the other side of the piazza… it sounds like you had a fabulous solo trip!

    1. It was fabulous alright James. More than I expected. I meant to do a couple of day trips or over-nighters, but R’s apprehension made me stay put. I was glad to have the extra time in the end. Happy you enjoyed this.

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