High and Low in Venice

Venice Boat Tour l ©ornaoreilly.comDo some people really think that Italy is warm all year round? Judging by the number of under-dressed visitors often spotted in the arrivals hall at Venice’s Marco Polo Airport in mid-winter, the answer is evidently yes. Northern Italy, and this includes the Veneto, can be extremely cold in winter.

Take my recent trip to Venice to participate in one of Walks of Italy’s tours of La Serenissima, which was to involve two hours in a boat on the Lagoon. Arriving by train with fellow blogger Tom Weber, The Palladian Traveler, in my down-filled coat, fur-lined boots, gloves and woollen hat I thought I was dressed warmly enough for an afternoon on the water. But no, sadly, the day was colder than even I, a resident of the Veneto, had imagined.

Before joining the tour, we took a relaxing stroll through the pleasantly uncrowded winter streets, stopping for a cicchetti and an ombra on the way.

We then wandered through a relatively tourist-free Piazza San Marco, heading for our rendezvous with our tour group.

We arrived at the base of the famous Winged Lion of San Marco on the dot of 3.00pm. Venice Boat Tour l ©ornaoreilly.comHere we met our lovely guide Jennifer, an Australian who came to Venice for a brief visit thirty five years ago, met a gorgeous Italian and stayed. Obviously, by now, Jennifer is a bona fide Venetian with a great knowledge of her adopted city and her insights and observations kept us well informed as the afternoon progressed.Venice Boat Tour l ©ornaoreilly.com

The tour we were taking was the Venice Boat Tour, to include a trip down the Grand Canal  and a Tower Climb, courtesy of Walks of Italy for whom I have blogged previously. Their Venice Food Tour, Legendary Venice and Secret Passages Tour were all great fun with excellent guides and I was greatly looking forward to an afternoon on the Venetian Lagoon, even if it was mid-winter.

Five tourists joined Tom and me for the adventure and, wired for sound, we all boarded a water taxi.

The taxi driver immediately pointed his boat in the direction of the island of San Giorgio to see Palladio’s iconic church.Venice Boat Tour l ©ornaoreilly.com

This beautiful church was designed by Palladio in the sixteenth century and was built facing west so that, according to Jennifer, the façade turns pale pink at sunset. I could see the bell tower looming overhead as we crossed the Lagoon and I thought about the pending tower climb with some trepidation. Landing on the island we admired the facade of this magnificent church and the view back towards the city.

Jennifer continued to keep us all entertained and related a story about fishing a poor tourist out of the water outside San Giorgio Maggiore. The lady had, while taking a photo of Venice from that prime position, slipped on the green algae that gathers on the steps below the water line – often exposed at low tide. Jennifer, being a heroine, promptly plucked her out.Venice Boat Tour l ©ornaoreilly.com

Inside the church the last remnants of the Venice Biennale were being dismantled, but one exhibit remained: a large golden hand hung in front of the main altar, casting its eerie shadow on the rear wall.Venice Boat Tour l ©ornaoreilly.com

San Giorgio is a feat of ingeniously designed architectural detail and is well worth a visit by those of you who appreciate such things and are admirers of the great architect Palladio.

Down a narrow corridor, Jennifer pointed out the angel who used to adorn the roof of the church before he was, apparently, struck by lightning and was replaced by the current statue that stands guard over the entrance to the Venice Lagoon.

Then came the moment for the dreaded Tower Climb. I informed Jennifer that I was absolutely terrified of heights and she told me that this would be no problem as the walls at the top of the bell tower, where the viewing platform is located, were high and thick. Apparently, she has had many acrophobic people on this tour before without any problems at all. So I acquiesced and away we went. Luckily, the bell tower is reached by lift, so there were no steps to climb. And it all turned out fine, as the walls of the bell tower itself are, indeed, high and thick, so I did not experience that mind-chilling fear of falling that we acrophobes know so well.

The views from the bell tower provided me with probably my best ever photos of Venice. Looking over the island of Giudecca and Palladio’s other masterpiece, Il Redentore, on one side, swinging my lens around towards Santa Maria della Salute and Piazza San Marco, I marvelled at the city and lagoon spread beneath me.Venice Boat Tour l ©ornaoreilly.com

Venice Boat Tour l ©ornaoreilly.comReturning to terra firma, we boarded the water taxi once more for our trip around Venice.

Then I began to feel the cold. Even my trusty down-filled coat was inadequate in this wintry chill at water level. Those of you who attempt to take to the Venice Lagoon by boat in mid-winter please take note: wear thermals!

However, chilled as I was, the trip down the back canals was wonderful and it was fascinating to see the narrow alleyways of Venice from low-down on the water; quite a contrast to my previous birds’ eye view.Venice Boat Tour l ©ornaoreilly.com

Venice Boat Tour l ©ornaoreilly.comWe cruised past the hospital; such a beautiful building!Venice Boat Tour l ©ornaoreilly.comAs the sun began to set, we left the labyrinth of canals and headed for the open lagoon where we could see the graveyard island of San Michele with the glass-blowing island of Murano in the background. Venice Boat Tour l ©ornaoreilly.comThen down the Grand Canal we rode, with Jennifer pointing out the most interesting buildings and explaining their history.

After the Accademia Bridge we turned right and, heading down a narrow waterway, soon reached the wide Giudecca Canal where many cruise liners bring their passengers to admire Venice from their sky-scraper-high decks; a controversial subject here in Venice.

Finally, we returned to San Marco and looked back to marvel San Giorgio in the gathering dusk.Venice Boat Tour l ©ornaoreilly.com

Frozen solid as we felt we were, we managed to persuade Jennifer to join us for a hot drink at the Biennale Bar and we were soon sociably sipping hot China Martini which turned out to be the most delicious, heat-restorative drink I have ever tasted.Venice Boat Tour l ©ornaoreilly.com

Summing up, I greatly enjoyed my boat tour and would highly recommend this trip to those of you who would like to see Venice in a way that’s easy and comfortable; from high on the bell tower to low on the water the views are stunning.

Orna O’Reilly

Veneto, Italy

If you would like to vote for my blog to win the Italy Bloggers Award 2015, where I have been nominated in three different categories (thank you very much!) please click HERE.


27 thoughts on “High and Low in Venice

    • Our meeting in Venice was almost a miracle – in such crowded streets just to bump into each other. Seemed unbelievable! Thank you for the nice comments about my photos. Hard to take a bad one in Venice, to be honest. 🙂

    • Thank you so much Nicola. Venice is indeed a beautiful city – probably the most beautiful of all. You definitely need to revisit, preferably off season, in winter or early spring, when the streets are relatively quiet and there are no queues to see the major sites. I’m glad you loved my blog post. Orna

  1. Great post. I love your pics very much. I am Italian but I visited Venice years ago when I was a child. i definitely have to go back soon. 🙂

  2. Pingback: A Year in Italy: Photo Journal 2015 | Orna O'Reilly: Travelling Italy

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  4. Orna, I’m so glad you survived to share this beautiful trip with us. I was channeling my inner Brunetti while reading, as I’m a big Donna Leon fan. 🙂 I hope you and Tom are having a most wonderful and wonder-filled Christmas season.


  5. Thank you Janet. We are having a wonderful Christmas season here in Puglia where the sun shines and the air is crisp and the smell of olive-wood is everywhere. A beautiful time of year, especially here in the south of Italy. I hope your own Christmas season is happy too. 🙂

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