Venice - Day 18

by - 22:17

Frecciargento to Venezia

We had an early start in the morning and skipped the hotel's complimentary buffet breakfast to catch the 0638hrs RV (Regionali Velocità) train service to Florence where we would transfer to another train to bring us to the famed coastal city of Venice.
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A single second class service is offered on Trenitalia's R and RV service, and a seat reservation is also not required for travel on these services. Our hour long ride to the historic city of Florence was operated by a Vivalto double deck train which was introduced on high demand regional routes in 2005. We unequivocally chose the upper deck to enjoy the early morning train ride, and alternated between staring at the scenery that flashed past the windows and the ceiling mounted display panels which show the current speed of the train. Powered by an E.464 electric locomotive, the Vivalto train is certified with a maximum operating speed of 160km/h and the train reached 142km/h during our journey.
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The lower deck of the Vivalto train featured similar non-reclining contoured high back seats which are arranged in a 2-2 layout with fold down meal tables.
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Firenze Santa Maria Novella (often abbreviated to simply Firenze S.M.N) is the main railway station for the historic city of Florence. The railway station takes its name after the nearby Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, with its unique frontal building serving as a contrast to the gothic architecture of the church. We took turns to buy take-away breakfast (Chocolate muffin €2, Croissant €1, Fanta Orange €1.50) from the crowded self-service station buffet during the one hour transit we had at the station.
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The ETR600 ‘New Pendolino’ tilting trains were introduced into service in 2008 and featured both interior and mechanical upgrades over the older Pendolino for greater passenger comfort. Manufactured by Alstom Ferroviaria, the trains have a maximum tilt of 8% when negotiating sharp bends that allow it to reach a maximum speed of 250km/h.
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This represents a 35% increase in speed over conventional trains which made them ideal to be deployed on Trenitalia’s Frecciargento (Silver Arrow) services where a Frecciarossa service is not feasible due to track and terrain constraints. Along with the flagship Frecciarossa services, the premium Frecciargento services sport an AV prefix (which stands for Alta Velocità) for the run number.
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The aesthetically pleasing interior of the ETR600 carriages was a marked departure from the UIC-X carriages which we had experienced on the Frecciabianca services thus far. Featuring slim line ergonomic seats, the curved panelling and details lent a modern feel to the carriage. However, the controls for the fixed gooseneck reading lamps were awkwardly placed and the minimal cushioning on the seats meant that despite the stylish interior, it was not as comfortable as the UIC-X carriages for longer journeys. Overhead screens provided information such as a real-time update of the train’s location as well as the current speed of the train.
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The ride quality was very similar to our experience on the ETR610 trainset that we had rode from Montreux to Geneve earlier in our trip with the train smoothly handling the curves along the tracks. The excellent noise insulation provided by the integral plug doors at the end of the carriages also gave a quiet ride that was only broken by the incessant chatter of an excited Taiwanese tour group who occupied the rest of our carriage.

A light breakfast was served in first class during the 2 hour journey to Venezia Santa Lucia which comprised of a Marie cookie and a cup of orange juice. A sweet and a freshening towel imprinted with the service branding on the packet were also distributed to passengers.
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Hotel Santa Chiara

Hotel Santa Chiara is located a short walking distance from Venezia Santa Lucia across the modern Ponte di Calatrava (Calatrava Bridge) beside the Piazza Roma bus terminal. The hotel building could be traced back to the 16th century when it functioned as a monastery and is flanked by the Papadopoli Gardens.
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We had chosen the three-star hotel for its unique attic room with a private rooftop balcony which afforded views of the bustling Grand Canal which runs through the heart of arguably one of the most iconic cities in the world. The first three storeys of the hotel are served by a solitary passenger lift while our attic room was located on the fourth floor that is accessed by another set of stairs. Adorned in classical Venetian decor, the smooth wooden floor and rafters were lit by incandescent lighting fixtures in the room and provided a very cosy ambience. The room also felt spacious despite the addition of a single bed and the conversion of a lounge couch to a bed for quad sharing.
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After drawing open the full height curtains, we eagerly stepped out of the sliding doors to the private rooftop balcony. A simple garden table and chairs were provided for guests to admire the view in comfort.
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Piazza Roma

Piazza Roma is the de facto ground transportation centre of Venice and houses the only parking lot in Venice, other than the carpark island of Tronchetto. Situated at the end of the Ponte Della Liberta which links the canal lined city to the mainland, Piazza Roma also serves as the bus terminal for Venice where passengers can hop on buses bound for various destinations of the Veneto Plain.

ACTV (Azienda Consortile Trasporti Veneziani, S.p.A.) is the main public transport operator of Venice and operates a sizeable fleet of buses alongside the famed 'boat-buses' that ply the canals of the city.

The older buses of ACTV are painted in a striking orange livery, such as this Iveco 480.12.21 Turbocity which was photographed leaving the terminal on service 84. The drop down sliding windows allow fresh air to circulate in the non-airconditioned cabin of the bus.
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ACTV 212 is a BredaMenariniBus M221LU which was found working on service 19. Although it had since been refitted with an air-conditioning unit, the sliding hopper windows were left open.
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ACTV operates a small fleet of Autodromo BusOtto UL.22 which are externally similar to those that we had photographed in Pisa the day before. Introduced in 1995, the nearside view of ACTV 375S shows the wide triple doors and the distinctive panelling that is characteristic of the model.
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The newer livery of ACTV features a horizontal blue and green stripe with orange highlights on the front mask of the bus that is set against a white background. ACTV 545 is a Scania CN94UB and was spotted working an express route to the town of Mirano.
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ACTV36 is an Irisbus Citelis 12m CNG and operates alongside other older locally built citybuses on service 19.
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The MAN NG313 Lion's City G CNG are amongst the newest buses in ACTV's fleet at the time of visit and are readily identified by the bulbous overhead CNG tank. ACTV479 was photographed entering the Piazza Roma at the end of her trip as service 4L from Colombo.
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ACTV also operates a fleet of coaches to further destinations and are painted in the standardised light blue livery that is typical of buses deployed on suburban routes in the country. ACTV840 is a Mercedes Benz OC550 Integro coach working a trip to Povea di Sacco. The integral coach is fitted with a full width centre exit doors which help to speed up disembarking of passengers.
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The De Simon IS2 articulated coaches are one of the more unique types to be operated by ACTV and are frequently deployed to ferry holidaymakers headed for the beaches of Sottomarina located to the south of the Venetian lagoon.
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A fleet of VanHool AG300 articulated buses were introduced in 1997 to service longer popular routes to towns located near the Venetian lagoon. ACTV 906 was photographed working a noontime departure to the university town of Padova.
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ACTV Service 5 is an economical means of getting to the city centre from Venice Marco Polo Airport located on the mainland. ACTV476, a first generation Citaro G, sports a full body advertisement to promote this shuttle service.
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ATVO is a major private coach operator in the Venezia region and similarly offers a dedicated route to Venice Marco Polo airport with its varied fleet of coaches. AZ 024 EV, a French built Renault Iliade coach, stands out from the crowd of Iveco and Irisbus coaches at the crowded Piazza Roma bus terminal.
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SITA operates dual door high floor Irizar bodied Scania coaches between Venice and Padova. Better known as Padua, the city houses the famed Padua University where Galileo Galilei had lectured.
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After camping for photos of buses at Piazza Roma, we settled for lunch at a convenient café beside the bus terminal. Although the prices were unsurprisingly marked up in the touristy city, the Pizza Prosciutto (€12 + €2.50 cover charge) turned out to be of rather good quality and some of us faced difficulty in finishing the generous portion that was offered.

The Venice People Mover System links the 800m distance between Piazza Roma and Tronchetto via the cruise terminal where the bulk of cruise ships dock at for day trips. Opened in April 2010 and operated by ASM (Azienda Veneziana della Mobilità), the system is in fact a horizontal funicular system which is operated by 2 units of Doppelmayr APM Cable Liners.
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Venice Walking Tour

With Venice being one of the most visited destinations in Europe, the sheer number of tourists in the peak summer season crammed into the narrow lanes that fringe the iconic Grand Canal could be overwhelming for a first time visitor. Thus, we decided to heed the advice of several travel books and let ourselves be lost in the warren of quiet backlanes of this unique city. Heading out from the bustling Piazza Roma Bus Terminal, we headed along Fondamenta de la Fabbrica dei Tabacchi to the vibrant San Polo and San Santa Croce sestieri bounded by the upper reaches of the Grand Canal.
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We first set off finding the five interconnecting bridges which we came across while doing our research on the Internet and were pleasantly surprised to chance upon it after walking a short distance from Piazza Roma. The mix of wooden and brick pedestrian bridges span across the confluence of 4 small canals.
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A lone gondolier rows his gondola down Rio Nuovo.
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The crowds thinned out noticeably as we headed away from the Piazza Roma into the heart of the city. The cafés and restaurants located in the less touristy areas tend to cater more towards the needs of the local Venetians and often serve better quality food at more reasonable prices.
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Heading across a small bridge and walking beside the Rio del Tolentini, the tightly hemmed earthen coloured buildings opened up to the wide open space of Campo dei Tolentini. The 17th century San Nicolò da Tolentino with its white washed facade is also the final resting place of the Venetian patriarch, Francesco Morosini.
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The calle, or backstreet, behind the crowded thoroughfare leads to a more exclusive and charming view of random street art installations, backstreet gelateria and hidden campi or squares off the well-trodden path.
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Continuing our exploration of the calli, we headed east into the residential area of San Polo where simple launches are parked in front of the houses as the primary means of transport for the Venetians much like cars in a typical suburb.
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The narrow canals are perfect for stretching clotheslines across to form an ingenious pulley system for drying the laundry in the dry summer heat. Although we were no more than two or three blocks from the crowded Grand Canal, we were often the only people walking around the narrow sidewalks and exploring the numerous bridges that criss-cross the canals.
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First built by the Franciscan friars in 1250, the current structure of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari was completed in the middle of the 15th century. The Gothic church is notable for its immense, elaborately detailed interior and the quality of priceless artworks that are exhibited in it.
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We made a detour to a nearby gelateria at Campo San Rocco to take a rest and cool down with a gelato. As compared to the rather unremarkable gelato which we had sampled at Rome, the gelato at this outlet proved to be a treat with the tangy fruit flavours of the ice cold dessert complementing well with the silky smooth texture of the more traditional flavours. It also probably explained why the gelateria had a comparitively longer queue while another one just two units away was deserted, despite the two outlets charging similar prices.
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We exchanged the quiet solitude of the calli for the vibrant Campo dei Frari in front of the church and crossed the Rio dei Frari to the eastern part of the sestiere.
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The gilded fittings and plush gold coloured seats of a gondola evoke a sense of romance that is perhaps unmatched elsewhere in the world. However, such luxury comes at a price as it is not cheap to hire a gondola for a private sightseeing tour of the city.
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A portal carved out under two joined buildings beckon visitors to enter and explore the calle that laid ahead.
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The network of calli in Venice ranges from wide, deserted footpaths to impossible narrow and crowded alleyways that serve as a convenient shortcut to the banks of the Grand Canal.
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Reflections in the still waters of the side canals.
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Directional signs plastered on the side of walls helpfully point the way to major landmarks, but it can be a common sight to see adjacent signs pointing to the same place but in different directions!
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Ranging from tomato flavoured to exotic squid ink flavoured pasta, a tantalising variety of pasta are on sale at grocery stores tucked away in the labyrinth like network of calli.
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Grand Canal and Giudecca Canal

We eventually emerged by the banks of the Grand Canal near San Silvestro and were greeted with the sight of a trio of gondolas cruising down the iconic waterway. With the exception of ceremonial gondolas, all gondola today are painted black as a result of a ruling passed in 1562 to ban ostentatious display of wealth on the gondola.
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A traditional gondola moored beside more modern powered motorboats at a pier along the Grand Canal. The gondola is typically adorned with a ferro at the bow with 6 rows metal teeth that represent the 6 sestieri, or districts, of Venice. The top prow represents the doge's cap. Apart from decorative purposes, the ferro also serve a practical purpose to act as a counterbalance to the weight of the gondolier stationed at the rear of the craft.
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The majestic Rialto Bridge is easily recognisable from far and marks the geographic centre of Venice. Designed by Antonio da Ponte and completed in 1591, the Rialto Bridge served as the centre of commerce and activity and was also the only bridge to span across the Grand Canal for nearly three centuries before the Accademia Bridge was constructed.
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We reverted back to being a mainstream visitor and followed the crowd that thronged the congested passageways past the overpriced riverfront eateries towards the Rialto Bridge. The footpath over the external balustrades on both sides of the bridge are popular spots for visitors to soak in the sight of the Grand Canal and watch the constant swirl of activities after shopping for souvenirs at the central thoroughfare of the bridge.
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The view from the top of the Rialto Bridge had remained largely unchanged over the centuries thanks to the preservation of the buildings in this historic city. However, it is a fascinating sight to see a constant stream of crowded waterbuses, or vaporetti, co-existing in the crowded Grand Canal together with the graceful gondolas and private motor launches.
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At this juncture, we discovered that we had been far too engrossed in our exploration of the calli that we had exceeded our allocated time for the walking tour. Thus, we decided to forgo looking for a bridge without parapet that is located in the northern part of the city. With that in mind, we headed to the nearest vaporetto stop and bought a 36-hour pass which allowed us unlimited rides on ACTV's waterbus services and urban bus routes to Mestre (Venice mainland). Despite Venice being a first stop in the Italian peninsula for many visitors, the ticket personnel refused to accept large Euro notes (€50/€100) which had us searching for smaller change to pay for the €23 ACTV Hello Venezia! contactless travel card.

Mainly deployed on the busy Grand Canal routes, the vaporetti can carry slightly over 200 passengers each and can be broadly divided into 3 types: The Serie 80 which were built between 1974 & 1990, the Serie 90 that were built between 1999 and 2000 and the Serie 100 that were built in 2004.

The Serie 80 vaporetti were built by 4 different builders (Morini, Vittoria, Lucchese and De Poli) and can be readily identified by the seats in front of the control cabin. These older vaporetti are very popular among many visitors as these seats offer an unobstructed view of the Grand Canal during the journey. ACTV 93 (VE 7818) was photographed leaving the busy Rialto stop on service 2 to Tronchetto.
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The Serie 90 and Serie 100 can be differentiated from the Serie 80 by the lack of seats in front of the control cabin which were probably removed due to complaints of over-enthusiastic passengers blocking the view of the Captain and thus posing a significant safety hazard. ACTV 22 (VE 8779) is a Serie 90 vaporetto with a full body advertisement and was pictured against the 15th century Gothic Palazzo Bembo in the background. Note the slanted first and last windows that are characteristic of the Serie 90.
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We boarded ACTV 44, a Serie 100 Vaporetto, for the short ride to the nearest traghetto stop at San Angelo. The traghetto crossing between San Angelo and San Toma is also regarded as the oldest of such services in Venice.
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Traghetto are a cheap and fun way to experience riding a gondola in Venice without breaking the bank. Crucially, they provide a way to cross the busy Grand Canal at areas where the nearest bridge is a certain distance away. The traghetto operate from their dedicated pier and we had to make a detour inland through narrow alley-ways to find the pier as there are no footpaths beside the Grand Canal at this stop.
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The traghetto is similar to a gondola but lack the decorative fittings. It is also piloted by 2 gondoliers and departs at the gondoliers' discretion. Getting on and off the traghetto also requires a certain amount of dexterity. In addition, while locals stand for the short crossing, visitors often sit instead.
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The traghetto crossing was unremarkable with the gondoliers swiftly guiding the craft to the opposite bank at San Toma. The nominal fare of €0.50 is either handed to the gondolier or deposited in the pile of coins when stepping off.
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The next ride on our itinerary was another ride on a vaporetto to Tronchetto to catch the vehicular ferry to Lido. We were rather pleased when an older Serie 80 vaporetto pulled up at the San Toma stop as it has seats in front of the control cabin. Service 2 operates as a limited stop variant of service 1 and skips certain minor stops along the route.
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San Simone Piccolo is located across the Grand Canal from Santa Lucia railway station and is built in 1738 with reference to the design of the Pantheon in Rome. The intense ochre hues of the Casa Adoldo and Palazzo Foscari-Contarini to the left of the church stood out in the warm rays of the evening sun.
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We were dropped off by the docks of Tronchetto and walked up the quay to the docking point for the ro-ro vehicular ferry service 17 to Lido. Passengers are also able to have a good view of the larger ACTV boats which were docked here. These larger boats are usually deployed on the longer inter-island routes around the Venetian lagoon that have a lower frequency and face more challenging operating conditions.
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ACTV Aquileia is a Class "4 Li" motonavi and was one of four similar vessels which were constructed at Cantieri Breda di Porto Marghera in 1935. This ship can seat 800 passengers and is deployed on route LN (now service 14) between San Marco, Lido and Punta Sabbioni.
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Tronchetto is also the terminating point for some of ACTV's vaporetto services and a Serie 80 vaporetto ACTV 4 (VE 7970) was docked alongside several smaller private craft.
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Operated by a navi traghetto ro-ro vehicular ferry, service 17 had often been billed as a budget cruise to take in the sights of the Venetian Lagoon as it makes the 30 min long crossing between Tronchetto and Lido through the Giudecca Canal. Although it is meant as a car ferry service, ad hoc passengers can simply walk up and board the ferry after validating their Hello Venezia! card at the card readers located near the entry ramp. As it was already evening, there was only a light load of cars and vehicles headed for Lido which allowed us to explore the upper deck passenger cabin.
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Enclosed upper deck saloon. The passenger deck can be reached from the lower vehicular deck by climbing a steep stairway set into either side of the ferry.
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A large open air seating area is available for passengers who wish to enjoy light summer breeze while admiring the scenery during the ferry crossing.
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After rounding the western flank of the Dorsoduro sestieri, we spotted sister vessel ,San Nicolo heading towards Tronchetto with a healthy load of cars and passengers. San Nicolo was built together with the ferry that we were travelling on, Metamauco, in 1998.
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The smaller Renaissance church on the left is the Santa Maria della Visitazione which was built in the 16th century by the Order of the Gesuati. The significantly larger Gesuati church on the right with its stately facade is the most distinctive landmark along the Zattere quayside in the Dorsoduro sestiere.
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The long and narrow island of La Giudecca situated across the Dorsuduro sestiere to the south is home to the church of Il Redentore, which was designed by Palladio in thanksgiving after the end of the plague in 1576 which saw one third of Venice's population being wiped out by the disease. This suburb used to house leafy gardens and palaces during the Republic days.
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St Mark's Square and the Doge's Palace are two of the most iconic attractions in Venice and visitors flock to admire the sunset here in the evening. However, the huge crowd of like-minded tourists is certainly not the romantic ambience that most visitors had in mind!
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As we continued eastwards along the Giudecca Canal, the southern banks of the Castello sestieri came into view. An ACTV Motonavi Torcello picked up passengers at a stop located in front of the La Pietà which was well known for its quality musical performances and continues its heritage as a popular concert venue today. The leaning San Giorgio dei Greci bell tower in the background is one of the many bell towers in the city that had fallen victim to ground subsidence over the centuries.
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Mega yachts and specialty luxury cruise vessels lay anchored off the banks of the Giudecca Canal in the Castello sestieri.
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Motoscafi are more streamlined and protected from the elements than vaporetti are, with fore and aft passenger cabins that are recessed in the hull. They're used on routes such as the 4.1/4.2 and 5.1/5.2, which travel outside the sheltered waters of the Grand Canal, Giudecca Canal, and St. Mark's Basin.
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Motoscafi ACTV 276 (VE 9027) cruised past our ferry towards Piazza Roma with the suburbs of Lido in the background.
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ACTV 27 (VE 8796) is the last of the Serie 90 vaporetti to be built and sports a different window design from the rest of the fleet with slanted window frames and standee windows. The public gardens in the background with its wide open green spaces offer a convenient getaway from the crammed waterways of western Castello.
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Since service 17 caters primarily to vehicular traffic, the car ferry calls at the Lido-San Nicolò slipway which is located to the north of the town centre.
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Lido is a narrow 12km long sandbar located to the southeast of Venice and serves as a natural barrier between the Adriatic Sea and the densely built up city. The island is predominantly a residential suburb, but crowds throng the island's beaches in summer. ACTV operates feeder services within Lido which are named after colours - routes A,B,C,G and V correspond to orange, blue, cyan, yellow and green (arancione, blu, ciano, giallo and verde) respectively. A bus stop is conveniently located near the San Nicolò ferry slipway and we hopped onboard a BredaMenariniBus Monocar 240LU on service G for the short ride to the town centre.
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The route brought us into a tree-lined suburb and we also caught sight of a converted old double deck with a half cab design that functioned as a drinks stall.
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After alighting at the main vaporetto stop of Santa Maria Elisabetta, we backtracked to the main street where we grabbed a quick takeaway dinner in the form of sandwiches and bottled drinks from the local Billa supermarket.

Some online travel guides recommend taking the service 1 vaporetto service which calls at every stop along the Grand Canal for a self-guided tour. We decided to wait for an older Serie 80 vaporetto before boarding and settled into the seats at the bow for the journey.
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A dusk shot of Lido’s Santa Maria Elisabetta vaporetto stop, named after the parish church in the background which was built in the 16th century. This is a major stop with multiple connections to Venice and the neighbouring islands in the Venetian Lagoon.
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ACTV 29 is a Serie 100 vaporetto which was photographed heading towards Lido on service 2. Like the Serie 90, the Serie 100 does not have seats at the bow in front of the control cabin but has straight edged rectangular windows instead of slanted front and rear windows on the Serie 90.
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In our enthusiasm to board the vaporetto at Lido, we did not realise that the vaporetto was in fact operating a short-working service between Lido and San Marco. We dejectedly stepped off the boat onto terra firma again only 12 minutes into the "tour", but not before taking the opportunity to squeeze off a quick interior photo of the vaporetto's seating area without any passengers onboard.
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We walked to the adjacent pier to board a service 2 vaporetto that was operating the full route to Tronchetto and squeezed onboard with the crowd that was dispersing from San Marco to other parts upstream of the Grand Canal. However, as with other public transport systems in the world, the crowd was concentrated near the boarding and alighting point at the front of the boat and was significantly less crowded towards the rear.
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The soft, final rays of the evening sun accentuates the distinctive cupola and intricately carved statues of the Santa Maria della Salute. The Baroque church is widely regarded as one of the iconic landmarks of Venice and was built in thanksgiving for sparing the city from the plague of 1630.
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We moved towards the rear of the rounded, open end of the vaporetto where we were able to admire the ever-changing scene of the Grand Canal as the vaporetto made its way upstream towards Piazza Roma. Framed by the Santa Maria della Salute which sits at the eastern tip of the Dorsoduro sestiere, a procession of different form of water transport makes its way along the Grand Canal - A gondola, a chartered boat operated by Alilaguna, a private motor launch and an ACTV vaporetto.
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The Venice Biennale is an exhibition staged every 2 yrs in the city which exhibits a range of contemporary art. During this period, many historic buildings in Venice double as pavilions for exhibiting artwork from participating countries. Palazzo del Duca, a partially completed palace that dates back from the 15th century, played host to the Luxembourg Pavilion at the time of our visit. The wooden Accademia Bridge located a short distance downstream was originally intended as a temporary structure but had proven so popular with its unique design and construction that it was retained to this day.
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A lone gondolier steers his gondola across the Grand Canal at the end of the day. As compared to the hive of activity earlier in the day, the Grand Canal took on a wholly different feel in the later hours of the evening with its relative serenity.
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A young family enjoying an evening cruise on a gondola down the Grand Canal near San Silvestro. The romance of a gondola ride in Venice is often spoilt by hoards of enthusiastic tourists snapping the gondola and its occupants along the banks and from bridges!
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The Renaissance palace of Palazzo Grimani was built by Michele Sanmicheli in 1556 and now serves as the Venice Court of Appeal.
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The busy Rialto Quarter at dusk as our vaporetto slipped under the Rialto Bridge. The whitewashed building on the left is the Fondaco dei Tedeschi which had originally served as a warehouse and accommodation for visiting German traders.
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A row of mid to top range hotels are located downstream after the Scalzi Bridge near the Santa Lucia railway station.
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The Scalzi Bridge takes its name after the nearby Santa Maria di Nazareth church which is now known as the 'Scalzi'. The name makes reference to the reportedly shoeless Camelites monks who had founded the church.
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Santa Lucia Railway Station is the main gateway into Venice for the bulk of visitors and was built in 1860 following the demolition of the church of Santa Lucia which the station takes its name after. The slate grey building with its wide open piazza at the front stands out as one of the few modernist buildings along the Grand Canal.
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San Marco

After a short rest at our hotel, we headed out again with our tripod to San Marco. The frequency of the vaporetto services decrease sharply after 8pm with service 1 & 2 running alternate trips.
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Night scene along the Grand Canal. After a day of sightseeing, many visitors retire to the comfort of their hotels and dine while admiring the Grand Canal.
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The magnificent Basilica San Marco was built based on a Greek cross plan and was crowned with 5 domes, each with its own significance. The edifice was dedicated to St Mark whose remains are buried under the altar, and a gilded statue of the patron Saint and the angels top the central arch over the main doorway into the church.
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The intricate sculptures over the central doorway to the basilica feature carvings of the Labours of the Month which date from the 13th century. Each month is represented by an activity, such as a grape harvester being depicted for September. A pair of the replica Horses of St Mark's gilded bronze statues stand guard over the central doorway (left).
The Porta della Carta is a 15th century Gothic gate which served as the main entrance to the adjacent Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale). The winged lion over the doorway is known as the lion of St Mark and is a symbol of Imperial Venice.(right)
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The main facade of the Doge's Palace is fashioned out of pink Verona marble which is seemingly supported by delicate Istrian stone arches below.
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We headed around the palace to the Ponte della Paglia where the famed Bridge of Sighs could be viewed. The overhanging bridge gained its name from prisoners who sighed at the last look of their city as they make their way across to the offices of the State Inquisitors and the dungeons. It had certainly elicited much more sighs in modern times as visitors were disappointed to see that it had been commercialised with huge billboards to raise much needed advertising revenue for the restoration of the Doge's Palace.
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As the city's most famous piazza, the Piazza San Marco or St Mark's Square had been the centre of the annual gaudy Carnival festivities and the scene of countless pageants and symbolic events over the course of history.
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The magnificent architecture that surrounds the square provide a stunning backdrop for visitors to enjoy some of the open air jazz performances or orchestras that are staged around the Piazza till the late hours of the night. Alternatively, it is also a popular activity to enjoy a quiet moment at one of the many al fresco cafés and watch the constant tide of excited visitors that pour into the piazza.
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The long day had since taken a toll on our bodies and we felt sleepy along the 40 minute long ride back to the hotel with the constant grating and bumping of the boats against the pier along the canal. By then, the novelty of taking a boat bus had started to wear off on us.
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A pair of adjacent palazzos were creatively lit up with coloured spotlights to transform the facade into the vibrant tricolour of the Italian flag. Italy celebrated her 150th anniversary of unification during the time of our visit in 2011.
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Before we retired to our hotel for the night, we photographed an ACTV Scania CN94UA at the Piazza Roma Bus Terminal as she was preparing to depart to Venice Mestre on the mainland.
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Next Post: The Venetian Lagoon - Day 19

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