BLOG

This is the blog of Steve Burkett of Italy, Our Italy

Venice's Sestiere

Index of Blog Articles

First, let me be one of the last to wish you a Happy New Year! I hope this year is filled with joy and hope-realized for you.

I know I’ve been away for a bit, as many of you have reminded me as you asked and wrote, “Where are your articles on Italy?”  But, I’m back now. However, I do feel a bit fickle about my absence because of what I was doing when I wasn’t preparing my Italy, Our Italy articles.

During the next few weeks, I will be going over the various districts, or ‘sestiere’, of the most interesting, beautiful and mysterious city in the world – Venice.

I hope you don’t think less of me when you find that I was working on photos from our latest trip – a trip to England, Scotland and Ireland. There were fewer vineyards there (actually, we saw none), less pasta and wine (we made up for the wine with ciders), but the people were just as friendly as those of our Italian encounters. I’d have to say that the countryside of the UK environs was a good bit more cultivated and elegant than those of Italy…but maybe simplicity and magic are what continues to draw us to Italy.

At any rate, it took me a good bit of time to get through the photos from our trip. If you would like to see just a few of the photos from our England-Scotland-Ireland trip, you can see them by clicking this button...

During the next few weeks, I will be going over the various districts, or ‘sestiere’, of the most interesting, beautiful and mysterious city in the world – Venice. I began this journey with the article on the San Marco sestiere on February 16, 2016 in the article titled ‘The Sestiere of Venice”.

As this new year progresses, I’ll cover the other 5 sestiere of Venice. In each, I will give you a quick overview of the sestiere. Then I will cover where to stay and where to eat in that sestiere. If there is something else that I think you need to know of that sestiere, I’ll include that, too.

Here is the simple map similar to the one I included in the article on the sestiere of San Marco.

This map presents a rather modest view of the six sestiere. I say 'modest' because this map just cannot characterize the world that it represents and that awaits you...you will have to experience it on your own.

You will note that the map includes the Giudecca island, which is not actually one of the six official sestiere. Further, not all maps show the same delineations for the sestiere. For instance, some show the Giudecca to be part of Dorsodouro. While others show that orange, polygonal island at the eastern end of Giudecca (the island on which the church of San Giorgio Maggiore sits) to be part of the sestiere of San Marco. For our purposes, we will use the delineations shown in the map above as we work through the sestiere.

Finally, understand that there are many, many islands in the Venetian lagoon (around 117 it is estimated) that are not considered to be within the districts of Venice – islands like Murano (glass), Burano (lace and colorful homes) and San Michele (dead people).

I'm wondering if you remember what the six sestiere and Giudecca have to do with the accouterments of a Venetian gondola. If not, you can review that in the San Marco sestiere article

Here is a rather different view of the six sestiere of Venice…this in the form of a Google maps satellite view. I want you to see this to see just how large the municipality of Venice is.

Venice is quite huge. Note just how many buildings there are. From east-to-west, Venice is about 3 miles, while north-to-south, it is just shy of 2 miles. Within these six square miles you will find 409 bridges crossing over the 177 canals that divide Venice into 117 islands. 

And in this detail view below, you can see churches, gardens, pozzi, restaurants, boats, canals and bridges. 

There are places you will never see as you stroll Venice, as they are kept hidden behind walls and locked doors, like the one of which I wrote here. In Venice, intrigue abounds now as it has for centuries!

You've seen our favorite sestiere of San Marco, so tune in next week when we visit our second most-favorite sestiere, San Polo.

Ciao for now,

Steve

ps:  The Berlin Foto Biennale is now over. If you missed the significance of that exhibit this past fall, please see my previous article here

Your Venice Arrival

Why Go?

In our opinion, Venice is the most excellent destination in Europe. If you haven’t been, I would suggest you get there!  For those who haven’t been to Venice, it’s hard for those who have been there to describe the whole experience.  

If you’ve read a lot, nothing is a great as you imagined. Venice is…Venice is better.”
— Fran Lebowitz

Since Venice is an island in the middle of a lagoon, getting to Venice and getting into Venice are two different things. And then getting to your hotel within Venice is another thing. With these tips, I know your grand entrance into Venice will be fun and easy!

 

Arrival By Air

If you fly to Venice, you will arrive at Marco Polo International Airport, where you will still be 5 miles from the island as the crow flies.  From the airport, your choices are to take a bus, a vaporetto (water bus) or a water taxi.

Bus

This would be my least favorite way to enter Venice. The bus takes about 45 minutes and at the end of the ride, after crossing the causeway to the mainland, you will be deposited at the Piazzale Roma. Now you are within the confines of the city, but you still need to get to your hotel, where you most likely need transportation via vaporetto or water taxi, anyway.  

There is absolutely no charm in taking the bus – I’ve done it, and if you are looking for romance, look somewhere besides the bus from the airport into Venice.

Vaporetto

A vaporetto is a water bus.  Just like the buses back home, they are slow and very often very, very crowded – and don’t forget that you have your luggage to deal with.

A Venetian Vaporetto or Water Bus as it Passes Under the Rialto Bridge

A Venetian Vaporetto or Water Bus as it Passes Under the Rialto Bridge

The trip from the airport to the closest vaporetto stop for Venice proper is about 40 minutes  (but more than likely you will not be staying in this out-of-the-way area) .  To get to a vaporetto stop close to your hotel (let’s assume the San Marco stop) will take about 1 ½ hours. 

Now you are at the San Marco stop (or some other stop along the Grand Canal) with your luggage.  Do you know that there are 409 bridges in Venice?  And that nearly all of the bridges have steps?  Begin your journey to your hotel from the closest vaporetto stop and you will more than likely have an adventure to tell your grandchildren about.  The ACTV website suggests that only one piece of luggage is included with your ticket, though I have never seen anyone make an issue of it – but be aware that you need to get on and off of the vaporetto quickly – and you are lugging around that luggage (does the word ‘lugging’ relate to ‘luggage’ in some way?).

My suggestion: You will have plenty of opportunity to ride a vaporetto while in Venice, but I wouldn’t suggest that this be your inaugural ride.

Water Taxi

This is the way to go. Yes, it will cost a bit more, but there are some definite advantages.

First is the time advantage. Don’ t you want to get going in Venice to see the sites, have a nice lunch, etc.? I’m thinking that the time from airport to Grand Canal is about 20 minutes.  

Our Water Taxi Driver on the Grand Canal --  Heading to Our Hotel

Our Water Taxi Driver on the Grand Canal --  Heading to Our Hotel

Second, the price of the water taxi will cover your group of two to four persons with several pieces of luggage. If you take the bus or vaporetto, don’t forget to multiply the ticket price by the number of people in your party.

The third advantage is that you will be taken more-or-less directly to your hotel.  Yes, many of the hotels have water gates where your water taxi will drop you off right at your hotel, where the hotel bellman helps you and your luggage off of the water taxi. Where a hotel does not have its own water gate, there will be a small canal that will provide very close access to most hotels. 

Palazzo Reflections in a Water Taxi's Shiny Deck

Palazzo Reflections in a Water Taxi's Shiny Deck

Our favorite hotel is the Hotel Flora which is not on a canal. But on our second visit there, we found that there was a narrow passage from a close-by canal that we were not aware of.  Our water taxi driver said ‘just go down that passage, take a right and then a left and you will be at your hotel in about 50 feet with no steps to climb”. He had called ahead and our hotel bellman was there to greet us at a side gate. 

Finally the cost: expect to pay from 100-120 Euros, depending on whether you have 2 or 4 persons in your group.

So, if you fly to Venice, I suggest that a water taxi be your mode of transportation from the airport, directly to your hotel.  

 

Arrival by Train

When taking a train to Venice, but sure to get your ticket all the way to Venice Santa Lucia station and not just the Venice Maestre station, which is the station just before crossing the causeway to the island of Venice.

After departing the train and exiting the station, you will be in the bustling Campo Ferrovia. What a sight! The Grand Canal is right before you, along with the pretty church of San Simeone Piccolo. Now what!?  

Vaporetto

To your left as you come out of the station is the vaporetto  stop and ticket kiosk. As previously discussed, there are issues with getting your luggage onto and off of the vaporetto.

And the crowd to get tickets and then get onto the vaporetto? I’d say, “forget it!”. Unless you are arriving in Venice in the off-season, there could be a hundred people waiting on the vaporetto transport experience. And, as  none of you will have the benefit of already having your ACTV tickets, plan to stand in line at the ticket kiosk (as you ride the vaporetto later, you can have the advantage of carrying a multi-day or multi-ride ticket so you can bypass the ticket kiosks).  

But, depending on your arrival time and the season, you may find very few people awaiting the vaporetto. But again, you will now need to get to your hotel, so the vaporetto information in the ‘Arrival by Air” discussion applies.

Water Taxi

Directly in front of you as your come out of the train station is the water taxi loading area. There is always a taxi or two waiting there to whisk you away to your hotel – luggage included.  And as discussed previously, you will more-than-likely be dropped off right at your hotel’s water gate.

 Does this water taxi cost more than the vaporetto? Most definitely.  Think about spending 60 Euros.  Is it worth it? That’s up to you based on your travel style.

Arrival by Rental Car

Hmmmm.  Why would you want to do that?  You are going to have to park your car in the large parking structure at Piazzale Roma and leave it there for the duration of your time in Venice. You do know that you can’t drive in Venice, right? You walk or take a boat – period.  But if you must drive to Venice, just read the ‘Arrival by Air’ ‘Bus’ discussion since you will be at Piazzale Roma.  Because of Venice’s location in Italy (kind of at the end-of-the-line, so to speak), we usually begin or end our Italy trips in Venice. So, if we were driving in Italy, we would drop off or pick up our rental car in Milan, Florence, Verona or some other city along the rail system, and then use the train.

Alternate Transport

Now, if you know a guy with a boat...

 

Summary

Go to Venice by bus, vaporetto, water taxi, or rental car. But go.

 

Ciao for now!

 Steve