The Rialto Bridge

The Grand Canal

The Campanile, St Mark's Square and the Doge's Palace

The church of Santa Maria della Salute

A replica of the Doge's barge

The entrance to the Arsenale

SATURDAY 23-6-18

We didn't sleep too well last night as we were awoken by some youngsters talking loudly at 03:00. The Chef said she'd heard them pulling their suitcases along not long before that which suggests they had actually been allowed on to the site at that time of day. In the end I had to close the bedroom skylight and run the fan to eliminate the noise and keep us cool.

We were to have been up fairly early in order to get in to Venice for our final day, but when it came to it we couldn't be bothered.

It was probably about 09:30 when we arrived 'in town'. This morning's walk from the bus terminal to St Mark's Square took the longest yet. Every day we seem to go a different way, and each takes longer than the last. The bonus today  was that we got to look around the market near the Rialto Bridge.

On our arrival at the Square it was very busy indeed, busier than I'd expected, but having four cruise ships in port today probably explains it. there were tour groups everywhere following flags on sticks and raised umbrellas. I had intended to get a ticket and go to the top of the Campanile (Bell Tower) where apparently you get amazing views not just of Venice but all the way to the Alps. The Chef isn't crazy about heights and had no intension of joining me. In the end I decided not to bother as there was already a long queue. I could have kicked myself for not having gone straight up a couple of days ago when we were here early. Never mind. Next we made our way along the 'Prom' towards the Arsenale. Having read about it in the tour guides I didn't expect to get inside because it has restricted public access as it is now jointly owned by the city and the military, but at least there was a Naval Museum there which we could have a look around.

The Arsenale was founded in the 12th century and enlarged in the 14th to 16th centuries to become the greatest naval shipyard in the world. The world "arsenale" derives from the Arabic darsina'a, house of industry - which indeed it was.

At its height in the 16th century, a workforce of 16,000, the arsenalotti, was employed to construct, equip and repair the great Venetian galleys. One of the first production lines in Europe, it was like a city within a city, with its own workshops, warehouses, factories, foundries and docks. Surrounded by crenellated walls, the site today is largely abandoned.

During the Arsenale's heyday, a Venetian galley could be constructed and fully equipped with remarkable speed and efficiency. From the early 16th century the hulls which were built in the New Arsenal were towed past a series of buildings in the Old Arsenal to be equipped in turn with rigging, ammunition and food supplies. By 1570 the Arsenale was so fast it was capable of turning out an entire galley in 24 hours.

As we approached the entrance to the Arsenale I took a few pictures and then we walked along part of the perimeter before making our way to the Naval Museum. It was whilst in there that I spotted stewards and barriers erected outside in the Arsenale complex. On further investigation I discovered that in fact for this weekend between 10:00 - 19:00 it was open to the public. That was it - we were though an open door and out in to the complex.

Just to be wandering around such an historical complex was very interesting indeed. This would be similar historically to our former Naval Dockyard at Chatham in Kent, which is very interesting indeed, especially their rope making shed. When we visited there about three years ago they were filming scenes for 'Call The Midwife' among the old buildings.

As we made our way further round the complex there was a corporate event for Ferreti Yachts who are celebrating fifty years of building yachts for members of the Mafia, drug dealers and global tax dodgers. This perhaps explained why it was open to the public as well during the same period. There's no point in berthing yachts to be viewed and purchased if prospective buyers have nobody to look down on or impress, so we were there to play our part for free.

All that walking around had made us hungry and so we stopped off at a restaurant for a pizza and beer for lunch, which was most enjoyable and as we were still in the Arsenale area, we were away from the madding crowds around St Mark's Square.

Then it was off to the Vaporetto station where we would catch a water bus for a €6.50 ride all the way down the Grand Canal to the Railway Station which is close to the bus terminal. The ride lasted  well over an hour and was both good value for money and a fitting end to our visit to Venice.

I have to say Venice has grown on me and I'm glad we spread our visit over four days, rather than do a crammer in the very hot sun.

Back at base I washed the plastic groundsheet which we peg down outside the habitation door as it got muddy in the rain a couple of nights ago, then it was more chores preparing the vehicle for hitting the road tomorrow heading for Vicenza about fifty miles down the road, just for one day.

FRIDAY 22-6-18

My word, that will have given the roof a good wash. Our first wave of thunderstorms hit us about 02:40. The Chef was bashing me and I thought I'd been snoring, but instead I needed to get up and baton down the hatches, that is the skylights.

It was like trying to sleep in a tin shed as the rain pelted down, but I had a warm comforting glow about me knowing I wasn't enduring things half as badly as the poor youngsters in the tents. Then we had a second wave at about 07:30. This gave us an excellent excuse to have a mega lie-in since there was nothing we could do, other than go back in to Venice and get wet.

Eventually we surfaced and scrubbed up, before having lunch and preparing to go back in to 'town' this afternoon. I wanted to take a closer look at the Church of Santa Maria della Salute. Don't ask me why, but I've seen lots of pictures of it in the background of pictures of Venice and now was the chance to actually visit it, and also to escape the huge number of Yanks who come here. There are the quiet ones and the gobby ones, they're all here believe me. Maybe it's because they've never heard of an Italian Jihadist, so they feel safe, and they can be understood, and eat pizza out of a box compete with fries if that's what they want, in fact there's even a 'Burger King' outlet here.

WE had to wait a while for  a bus in to 'town' so I suppose we had just missed one. the bus shelter had been bagged by a vagrant who I assume spent last night in the shelter to keep dry, and good luck to him. Yesterday when we got off the bus on the other side of the road he was laid out on the bench at the bus stop there, so I suppose this is his patch and he's staking his claim. This meant that all of us bus passengers left him to it and stood outside of the shelter.

Eventually we were in Venice with me carrying the backpack. We had decided to bring along macs and thin fleeces as the weather could have gone either way. Well you know which way it went and the sun came out. I had to take off my thin fleece and stuff it in to the backpack along with every other thing. And then the sun got really hot and bright and then we realised that although we had bought along all of the 'just in case' clothing we had failed to pack sunglasses etc.

Using predominantly the wall direction signs supported by our map which I'd purchased on day one for €3.50, a great investment as it gave us far more detail than the freebie given to us by the campsite on our arrival.

To get to the church we would need to cross the Grand Canal at a different point, across the Academica Bridge, the only wooden bridge in Venice. Well you know the story of course - it was covered in plastic whilst undergoing restoration work - I hope it's woodworm!

After more weaving through narrow alleyways we came across the  Church of Santa Maria della Salute. What a lovely sight, and so far away from most of the tourists (I think they all came out this afternoon because of this morning's weather). We had a look around inside and then The Chef told me that there was an organ recital at 16:00 and asked what time it was, and as neither of us had a functioning watch about us I had to guess. I said that we didn't get out until 14:00, so all things considered it should be about 16:00 now. And it was....... just as I said it the organ music started playing. I think I shall audition for the job of BT's Speaking Clock when it comes up again.

So there we sat, in front of the organ area, along with other foreigners, listening to somebody play the church organ. Frankly such music doesn't inspire me much, but The Chef was enjoying it and that's all that matters.

That done we had a walk around the Punta della Dogan area which offers a good view across the Grand Canal towards Piazza San Marco (St Mark's Square).

With that done we decided to make our way back slowly to the bus station. We did stop off briefly at the Betty Guggenheim Museum, not our cup of tea and at €15 a hit to get in, a rather nice little earner for Guggenheim Jnr's. It's a modern art museum and for me that's just a p**s take. I remember many years ago the BBC setting up a 'hit' whereby they randomly stopped people in the street and invited them to come along and create some art. the BBC had hired  some facilities close by and invited the selected members of the public to indulge themselves in creating art. At the same time the BBC promoted an art exhibition to show off the work of the 'Artists'. Needless to say come the night of the exhibition the luvvie critics of the art world gushed at the quality of the work exhibited, and were equally embarrassed when confronted with the truth. Basically it's all complete bullshit........ now where was I?

On our slow walk back I treated myself to a couple of slices of fresh coconut at fifty cents a throw and The Chef had a drink of fresh orange juice. I had just one moment of weakness and purchased a bottle of Bellini which was invented at Harry's Bar in town and is made of Prosecco and peach juice.

So back on the bus for the ten minute ride 'home' where we enjoyed a curry and rice for our evening meal.

Tomorrow the cunning plan is to have a ride on the riverboat all the way down the Grand Canal to the Arsenal, where I doubt we'll be able to have a look around, but either way it's worthy of a visit, then I want to take ride to the top of the Campanile in St Mark' Square for a view of Venice from above.

Lots to do tomorrow as well as do a bit of hand washing and prepare the vehicle for leaving town on Sunday morning.

Gondolas near the Rialto Bridge

View from the top of the Rialto Bridge

A prison cell

View through the gaps on the Bridge of Sighs

Doge's Palace courtyard

The Basilica San Marco

The Church of Santa Maria della Salute

Basilica & Doge's Palace, Piazza San Marco

Clock Tower & Basilica, Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco

An early morning Grand Canal

THURSDAY 21-6-18

It was a bit noisy last night, the campsite offers diddy frame tents with two camp beds in which are great for the youngsters as they pass through for an overnighter. Unfortunately you sometimes get a noisy few, and we had a few last night. Still technically they didn't break the rules as the quiet hours here are from midnight to 07:00, and finally quietened down at about 23:45.

We up early this morning, though not as early as I would have liked owing to my setting the time on the alarm clock but not then activating it. Never mind we were away by about 07:50, timed it just right for a bus and as a consequence we were in Venice at 08:05. My thinking was to have a wander around at leisure making our way towards Piazza San Marco (St Mark's Square) where we were to meet up for our tour of the Doge's Palace at 10:30 for 10:45.

On our arrival at St Mark's Square there were quite a lot of uniformed military people about plus a load of others who looked like our British Legion. Some of the senior officers had loads of medals on their chests and I wondered where on earth they'd earned them.

Then we noticed that a large area of the Square cordoned off with barriers. Satisfied that there was to be a parade or something before too long and not bothered whether we saw it or not we continued wandering around. I was hoping to get a better picture of the Church of Madonna della Salute across the Grand Canal, but each time I had weaved my way to a new location I found it barred by the Gondoliers piers, and you can't set foot on them. Those boys have it all sewn up between them. Even the Rialto Bridge if difficult to get a clear picture of due to the floating water bus piers, gondola piers and restaurant chairs and umbrellas. Never mind, we do what we can.

Then it was back to the square where the parade had started. I think they were marines, since they had green berets. There were lots of speeches by high ranking officers and the local mayor which made me think this must be to celebrate one of three things. Either it was their 'National Surrender Day' the new EU 'It Would Have Been Nice To Have Won - Just One' day of celebration or they were a bunch of new recruits who were having their final passing out parade. I think it was the latter because as during the ceremony they would all shout out in unison words or phrases at the appropriate time, and as they marched off they were singing those tunes you see in the American war movies when the recruits and their Sergeant Major sing as they go along. Songs like:

"He's got as dog named Uncle John"

"HE'S GOT A DOG CALLED UNCLE JOHN!"

"It's got a dick that's three feet long"

"IT'S GOT A DICK THAT'S THREE FEET LONG!"

You get the idea. I think they were new recruits who had just finished their period of brain washing. They were followed off the 'Parade Ground' by the Italian British Legion and the band.

Then it was time for our tour of the Doge's Palace. We turned up at the stated time and place as did an awful lot of other people. Fortunately a number went off with a French tour guide, another with a guide for a gondola ride. Our group had to wait longer than anybody else because our English speaking guide was running late. We were all wired up to the individual sound system and rearing to go......to the back of the queue for bag searches. Despite it being clearly stated on the paperwork not to bring bags as they cause delays, our adorable fellow tourists knew better, and it took quite a long time before we were all shepherded through the system and found each other on the other side.

I wasn't really taking in much of what the guide was saying bless him as the old chap spoke English with a very Italian accent and we needed to concentrate really hard to make out what it was he was on about. Once we got going I wished I bought along my video camera. I knew we were going to see some very ornate interiors but I though bringing along my stills cameras was pushing my luck as the guidebooks clearly state 'No Photography', but when we get going we find we could take photographs but we mustn't use flash, and it was one of those times when only a video camera could capture the size and magnificence of such decor. Never mind, no point in dwelling on it, nor the fact that it was a whistle-stop tour because the guide needed to make up the time for his lateness and the long delay at bag-search (our group were the fourth waiting in line to be searched, this is in spite of the paperwork suggesting we would be queue jumping - some hope). And to add insult to injury my online booking for two tickets for just the palace tour cost €72, and this grand sum got me two tickets with a face value of €16 each. Not a bad little mark up that.

So the Palace then:

The Palazzo Ducale started life in the 9th century as a fortified castle, but this and several subsequent buildings were destroyed by a series of fires.

From the early days of the Republic, the Doge's Palace was the seat of government, the Palace of Justice and the home of the doge (a sort of President of an independent Venice - they wanted nothing to do with the mainland).

For centuries this was the only building in Venice entitled to the name palazzo. The power of the Serenissima is ever present in the large and allegorical historical paintings which embellish the walls and ceilings of the splendid halls and chambers. These ornate rooms are testament to the glory of the Venetian Republic, and were designed to impress and overawe visiting ambassadors and dignitaries.

The rooms we passed through were indeed ornate, and when taking pictures it was difficult to show where the paintings on the ceiling ended and those on the walls began. We eventually got to walk across the Bridge of Sighs which is all enclosed, and was used to transfer prisoners from the Rooms of Justice to the dungeons in the prison on the other side of the canal.

When the tour ended we started to make or way back stopping off for some lunch at a backstreet bar. We were only going to stop for a cold beer but then spotted the food - well you have to don't you?

We managed to find our way around today without having to look at the map once. It's not that we're getting batter at finding our way around it's just that we now rely on the direction arrows to various places marked up on the walls at street corners.

It's been another very hot day again with temperatures up in the thirties again. That's really too hot to be enjoying yourself. When walking around in the narrow alleyways with tall buildings either side it's fine, but once you step out in to the sunshine you certainly notice the heat.

This evening we have packed stuff away and wound the awning back in as we do every night because it is forecast rain and thunderstorms during the night and tomorrow morning. I'm quite looking forward to it actually, and hope that it cools everything down a bit.

The Chef tells me that she's seen a poster up at Reception advertising a 'Song & Karaoke' night. If there's a decent prize maybe I'll go up there and give them my rendition  of "He's got a dog called Uncle John".

The Grand Canal

The Rialto Bridge

WEDNESDAY 20-6-18

In the end we didn't go in to Venice until this evening when it was much cooler. It was only a twenty minute bus ride away and the bus stop was just across the road from the campsite so that was nice and convenient.

I have to say that Venice was much smaller than I imagined and was quite walkable, though during the day I imagine it must be an absolute nightmare as there are just so many very narrow alleyways to get you from A to B, and so many thousands of tourists to squeeze along them.

Soon after we got off the bus we passed a cheap take away food place where I had a kebab and coke and The Chef had a slice of pizza all for about €6.50, so that was us fed and watered for the evening.

Basically we were heading for the Rialto Bridge which is a tourist must-see and it was also a way of crossing the Grand Canal giving us access to St Mark's Square.

There were an awful lot of people about which is understandable as it was much cooler and everywhere was open for meals and drinks. I've never seen so many restaurants and bars crammed in to such a small area and all trying to make a living. I can see that there would be a market for many of them during the busy daytime but this evening there were many places where you could have had one to yourself.

Still at least I have finally managed to see Venice following our problematic attempt three years ago. It's nice, the architecture in places is magnificent, but I think it's all a bit over rated.

Tomorrow we have our guided tour of the Doge's Palace on St Mark's Square at 10:45 which should be interesting and I'm hoping we get to see inside the Bridge of Sighs which joins the palace to what was once the prison.