We arrived to Venice late and navigated our way to the hotel via vaporetto water bus and a walk. Thanks to Hilton Honors and a nice bank of Hilton points, we spent two lovely nights at the five star Hilton Molino Stuckey in Venice for free. Our room was pretty darn amazing and located off the main island, it provided stunning views of the water and the rest of Venice. After settling in, we grabbed “dinner” in the executive lounge before heading to bed.
The following morning we sat for a quick breakfast before taking the hotel shuttle across the canal to St. Mark’s. We met a lovely American family while waiting for the shuttle and enjoyed having a nice chat with them during the shuttle ride. It is always nice to meet anyone who speaks English, a break from hearing all Italian, all the time!
Our first stop was St. Mark’s and it was well worth the visit. This was the only tourist stop on our Venice list and it should be on yours as well. The church is free to enter which is a welcome change, but no pictures are allowed inside. Probably best because no picture would really do this place justice. The church is covered wall to wall, floor to ceiling with mosaics. Gold mosaics sprinkled with biblical scenes and characters across the massive interior. Tiny tiles creating vivid images. The light streaming in creates quite the glow on the gold tiles and solidified St. Mark’s as one of the most amazing church interiors I have seen in Europe. The floor, also mosaics, rolled like the waves on the sea surrounding Venice. Truly amazing and nothing like anything I have seen before.
We then paid the 5 euros to go upstairs to the museum and take in the view from the balcony. It is worth the 5 euros just to get the view and use the bathrooms, as Venice is severely lacking in the latter. You will also get to see a few of the mosaics up close, a better view of the ceiling of the church, and the original Horses of Saint Mark, also called Triumphal Quadriga. The Triumphal Quadriga were thought to be from the 2nd or 3rd century AD and brought from Constantinople in the early 13th century. They are interesting to see close up as they have markings you wouldn’t see from far away. The view of the square is also worth a look as it is the largest gathering place in Venice. After viewing the church, it was interesting to consider the cost of building a church like St. Mark’s. So much time, effort, and money for a community of people to support. Where did it all come from? Who did all the work? And what were the unintended consequences of a construction project that large? History nerd questions and the kinds of things Adam and I discuss in places like this.
My favorite part of Venice, and most other places, are the things I find when simply strolling and wandering. This was how we spent the rest of our day. Wandering through the narrow corridors, exploring various waterways and bridges scattered throughout, and weaving in and out of stores full of all kinds of lovely things. In the midst of our wanderings and because of Adam’s thorough research, we identified a restaurant we wanted to try for dinner. After a bit of trial and error, we found Ai Mercanti and made a reservation for that evening hoping we would be able to find it again! We spent the balance of the afternoon exploring Venice and stopping every ten yards for pictures before taking a break for a cappuccino and, later, hot chocolate.
Venice is such a unique place. We didn’t feel like we needed museums or sights checked off a list. We just wanted to see the city and explore. The character of Venice is found in the side streets and tiny cafes tucked away in hidden courtyards. These hidden gems are often found in seemingly forgotten corners of the city. So magical and endearing. Also, a bit on the creepy, eery side at night.
With a little effort and Adam’s navigational skills, we made it back to our restaurant for dinner. It was truly one of the best meals we have had on this trip and reasonable in price Beef cheeks and polenta for me and stuffed pasta for Adam. Delicious!
A brisk walk brought us back to our hotel shuttle and back to our warm beds. The next morning we set out for London. After a walk, water bus, airport shuttle bus, plane, and train later we made it to London for our Merry, Happy Christmas.