Venice – Beyond San Marco

San Marco’s monumental magnificence aside, it was a relief to escape its relentless crowds and persistent fake bag vendors. My second hotel, the Al Ponte Mocenigo in the sestiere Santa Croce was far enough away from the touristy center to feel local, while being close enough to the Stan Stae vaporetto stop to remain connected.

In my four full days there – not including the day-trip to Bologna – I discovered the pleasure of unplanned exploration. Of picking one random activity each morning and letting my day evolve naturally thereafter depending upon my mood. And the weather of course.

For a person that micro manages every minute travel detail, it felt vastly liberating.  And surprisingly, I managed to fit in a lot despite all the aimless wandering and quite a bit of backtracking, that would never have taken place on one of my super organised trips.

DSC_3153 copy
Mirrored mansions.

The highlights in no particular order were: A long afternoon on the island of Torcello, losing count of the number of exquisite Bellinis, Tintorettos, Canalettos and more (still in the churches they were originally commissioned for.), the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari with its glorious Titians and mausoleums, attending a performance of Madame Butterfly in the fabulous Teatro la Fenice, browsing through the Rialto markets, learning the difference between piazza (the one & only!) piazzetta and campo from a total stranger on the vaporetto, hanging around parochial campos (squares) at dusk to people watch.

The silence! The hushed, whispering, strangely comforting silence on the walk back after dinner save for the occasional splash of an oar or the bells from a nearby campanile.

And most of all, swapping my map for random yellow signs on the walls of narrow, mysterious alleys steeped in rich and ancient history. Getting lost in this most clichéd of cities was a cliché worth exploring.

Salute stop named after the church of the same name
Venice - Vaporetto
Vaporetto approaching stop
Venice - Campo Santo Stefano
People watching on Campo Santo Stefano

Venice - Campo dei Gesuiti
Football in the shadow of the ornate I Gesuiti, also known as Santa Maria dei Assunta

Venice - Clothesline

Venice Pesceria
At the Rialto Pesceria (fish market)
Venice - Campo San Trovaso
Campo San Trovaso – where gondolas are still built and repaired.
Venice - Isabella Teotochi Albrizzi
The salon of Countess Isabella Teotochi Albrizzi, whose soirees included arists and writers such as Ugo Foscolo, Lord Byron, Ippolito Pindemonte and Antonio Canova.

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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

102 thoughts on “Venice – Beyond San Marco

  1. What a great trip you had, Madhu. I do so admire you, travelling on your own. I’m afraid I might get lost forever. 😦 You have captured some lovely reflections, and I loved seeing the laundry hanging over the water, between the buildings. Hope the washline is strong. 🙂

    1. Ha, you could never get truly lost in Venice Sylvia! 🙂 I wondered too how they managed to hang out their washing across the canal!! There was a lot less of it in the touristy parts, perhaps a sign of the dwindling population.

      1. Over the years, yes! This whole idea that you can ‘do’ a place in an hour or two leaves me cold…. Admittedly, there are interest ing detours when one doesn’t have too much time, but quite often I have returned to a place later 🙂

  2. Madhu, It’s great that you let yourself wander – so many wonderful discoveries are made that way. And then you feel like you discovered it yourself! 🙂 ~Terri

  3. Lovely tour and reflections of traveling solo and unplanned, Madhu. It doesn’t appear you would have done anything differently. Extra admirable.

  4. Madhu, that is one place I would love to be…so much beauty, everywhere the eye can see. I know you are enjoying yourself! Thanks for sharing…the pictures inspire me…maybe I will visit there soon!

  5. Madhu, it seems like you did manage to escape the crowd and find some of Venice’s quiet yet scenic alleys. It’s funny when you said about your super organized trips. Sometimes I feel like I fit into that category of traveler. However I often had to deal with situations which forced me to change plans, for example when I got lost, which happened more than once. 🙂

    1. The thing is, I usually have plans for those times as well Bama, a plan B and C 🙂 Not having a daily agenda was wonderfully liberating, but might not really be practical when short of time and when travel partners don’t share the same interests. I might try to opt for a balance of the two in future.

  6. Fabulous … and beyond San Marco are so many treasures … the Scala del Bovolo immediately came to mind, and then … magically … there’s your pic of it! Cheers to your find!

  7. We just had 5 days in glorious Venice. It is amazing just how quiet it is away from the major tourist sites. Torcello is a favourite place to visit. Our last day was so hot we could barely do anything, but it was a great trip. Your photos are wonderful.

    1. Glorious Venice is right Debra. And it is amazing how quiet it is away from the touristy center and after dark! Glad you enjoyed my photos. Loving your ‘Secret Venice’ finds 🙂

  8. I always get lost anyway so I make a carefully planned itinerary of aimless wandering. Wonderful photos again.

    1. Thank you. A ‘carefully planned itinerary of aimless wandering’ sounds like the perfect solution Stephen 🙂

  9. Madhu, your beautiful photos were a wonderful mini-vacation for me, and I got a great laugh out of the gondolier on the cell phone 🙂 Most definitely, yes, the blue boat is a perfect extra!

      1. Madhu, I appreciate pictures (photography); at times even more so than words, for their uniqueness and power to capture the moment in our precious and brief life, and you have that special talent for this very journey 🙂

  10. Some exquisite images, Madhu! My favourite is ‘vaporetto ornaments’
    Just wandering produced some great results. I envy you the Madam Butterfly performance :).

    1. Thank you Jo. The opera was an afternoon show, and I am afraid i spent more time ogling at the interiors than watching the opera 🙂

  11. Madhu, these are magnificent photos. I can’t complain, as we’ll be going to France in July, but I’ve never been to Venice. You displayed it’s beauty wonderfully. Have you read any of the Donna Leon books? I love them and they take place in Venice.


    1. Thank you Janet. I haven’t read any of the Donna Leon books, shall pick up copies right away. Have a great time in France. When do you leave?

  12. Love that shot with the boat in it Madhu. I would definitely say it gives a little something extra to the picture.

  13. Mi Madhu! What a coincidence! Yesterday I also uploaded some pictures of Venice! I was there last Tuesday for only 3 hours (an unusual but delightful break from work), and it was amazing! When were you there? You’ve got great shots!

    1. Thank you. Your pictures are lovely! I was there for a week between 28 April to 05 May. Would love to return for a longer visit.

  14. These are so wonderful, the artful tourist. I had just said to someone a few days ago after seeing your previous pictures, I wanted to return to Venice, I wanted to see it again. Now here you are with these and I am once again longing to return.

  15. Lovely post once again. I love unplanned discoveries! Whenever I go somewhere I write down what I would like to see and plan in *free time* to do something that was not on my planning. It’s when we stop running around we discover how to live!

    1. Absolutely. But I find I do need a bit of structure when I travel with hubby. Thank you for reading and for your lovely comment Mariska.

  16. I micro-plan, too, and have been very pleasantly surprised by what happens when I don’t. But I think the openness to wandering is best done when I’m travelling alone. Otherwise, I have people asking me, “Now what?” constantly.

  17. We love traveling when we can be spontaneous and let the scenery and weather dictate our plans. It sounds like a perfectly wonderful trip Madhu.

  18. A beautiful collection, Madhu, and I esp. love the first photo…it’s colors, reflections and the gondola! 🙂 This is on top of my bucket list; don’t know if I’ll ever get there, but I can continue dreaming…

  19. I always look forward to browsing your sumptuous travel photos. They give me a feel of the place. Your narrative always complements them very well. 🙂

  20. Aimless wandering was always the highlight of travel for me. And you’re right – there’s no need to fear that you won’t get anything done or seen – everything around is new to see! And you’ve captured it so beautifully, as usual.

    I think Venice, in particular, lends itself to this kind of sightseeing.

    1. Yes Venice is particularly suited for spontaneous wandering, perhaps because the entire city is so appealing.

      1. I’m stuck here for another year or so, Madhu (don’t ask – pension rules) but as soon as I can I need to go to Switzerland to see my oldest friend and you can be sure I’ll hop right on the Venice train! 🙂

  21. The photos are magnificent but the tour through your adventures deserves cheers. I’ve been captivated by every
    photo on your slides. You have taken me to places on your adventure I will never see. Thank you for taking me along.
    A fabulous post no matter what category you want to place it in. ❤ : )

  22. Unplanned exploration is the best way to go 🙂 Thank you for this wonderful share, Madhu. Your selected reflection photo is magnificent.

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