On to Venice and Padua

I had visions of an empty Venice, like those I had seen during the lockdown. Deserted alleys and waterways. No gondolas on the canals. No lines to enter attractions, such as San Marco (St. Mark’s Basilica). A dolphin or two frolicking in the Grand Canal.

That was then. Fast forward to early July when I visited. Even though travel restrictions were in place, tourists had returned to Venice. Long, long lines to climb the campanile (bell tower) of the Basilica. Gondolas aplenty gliding through the canals. Happy crowds feeding pigeons on the Piazza San Marco.

And, it was hot, much too hot. But, I adore Venice. I was spending a week at Abano Terme, about an hour from the city. (See previous post, “Taking the waters – and the mud”) I could not pass up a visit, especially after a conversation with a staff member at the spa. 

“I love Venice,” she said. “You must visit.” She planned an all-day itinerary for me. “Don’t schedule any treatments on the day you visit Venice. You will need all your energy for Venice.”

More energy than I had. I followed her recommendations, took the train to Venice, then hired a water taxi to take me to the Piazza San Marco, under the Rialto Bridge, past magnificent centuries-old palaces. There was no shortage of boats of all sizes on the Grand Canal. No dolphins in sight. 

Campanile (bell tower) of the San Marco Basilica

I was surprised and disappointed to see the lines, both to enter San Marco and climb the campanile. I decided against both, instead opted for a very expensive cappuccino (11 euro) at one of the many cafes lining the piazza. The pricey cafes had few customers. However, the legendary San Marco pigeons happily soared above, then landed and soaked up attention from tourists who were happy to fed them and pose for photos.

Even though the waiter at the cafe complained of little business, restaurants I passed during my wanderings were not lacking for customers. Gondolas seemed to be in high demand, yet a young gondolier also complained. “It’s very quiet. There are not a lot of people. Normally in July and August, it’s crazy. You can’t walk around here.”

Perhaps I was lucky after all. I could walk without being pushed by throngs. I found a quiet restaurant adjacent to a canal and enjoyed a fascinating lunch. A government building stood on the opposite side of the canal. A police boat arrived. Two scuba divers jumped off and quickly disappeared under water. Looking for underwater explosives? It was intriguing. I also wondered about the wisdom of being immersed in this water which I assumed was dreadfully polluted. Then I noticed fish. I mentioned this to the restaurant proprietor. He threw some bread in the water. More fish appeared. The dolphins have not returned, but, at least for now, fish are thriving.

Police diver on a secret mission?

Thanks to a recent ruling by the Italian government to ban cruise ships from approaching Venice’s lagoon, things could be looking up for those fish, not to mention the foundations of the city.

Cruise ship opponents argue that the massive ships which can transport more than 5,000 passengers each are responsible for waves and pollution that damage the delicate fabric of the city. Work is underway to construct a cruise terminal outside the lagoon. 

The Wall Street Journal quoted Gianluigi Rizo, a porter at the Piazza San Marco, who summed up the sentiments of those whose business depends on tourists. “It’s good that tourists are back, but the real money comes from the cruise ships with the Americans and the well-off Asians. They spend big in a short time, before sailing out.”

View of Venice from the Terrazza Panoramica, a new observation deck a top a multi level. upmarket shopping gallery.

Even with the tourists and the heat, I was happy to return to Venice. I love to meander, discovering intriguing alleys and passageways, off the beaten tourist track, usually getting lost. However, since I had a train to catch this time, I dared not be too adventurous. 

The trek to the station was longer than anticipated. I panicked, walking faster and faster so as not to miss my train. I made it, exhausted and perspiration drenched.

That excursion should have been enough. Perhaps best to stay and relax at the spa.? No, I needed to see Padua, again urged on by my mentor. She raved about the city’s star attractions, the Scrovegni Chapel with frescoes by Giotto and the Basilica of St. Anthony.

Scrovegni chapel with Giotto frescoes.

Giotto, an Italian painter of the late Middle Ages, and his team covered the walls of the entire chapel with frescoes illustrating the life of the Virgin and life of Christ. Their work, completed in 1305, is considered a masterpiece of the early Renaissance. It is mind boggling.

St. Anthony’s Basilica with Byzantine-style domes and art treasures was a must for me. St. Anthony played a role in my Catholic upbringing. My mother was a fan of the saint, the patron of lost items. Whenever she or we lost something, “Pray to Saint Anthony,” she urged. Often he came through. 

St. Anthony’s tomb.

The church shelters the saint’s grandiose tomb. Worshippers place hands on the tomb and pray. St. Anthony holy cards are available for free. I gave a donation, took a few, and mailed one of each of my three brothers.

Praying at St. Anthony’s tomb.

I passed up relaxing days and therapeutic treatments at the spa for Venice and Padua. I have no regrets.

Statue of St. Anthony.

Please scroll down and comment. I love to hear from readers.

Another monumental church in Padua: Basilica of Saint Giustina

We recently returned to Marseille, one of my favorites. It merits a blog post. And, soon I will off for Adventure Croatia with friend Karen.

Don’t miss out. If not a Tales and Travel follower, sign up. Your address is kept private –not shared.

Giotto’s Last Judgment fresco.

20 thoughts on “On to Venice and Padua”

  1. Hello Leah: Beautiful pictures and beautiful memories. We were there 4 years ago with our sons and had a wonderful Airbnb rental off the second stop of the water taxi from the airport!! (That’s worth a story by itself..) Just returned from our two weeks in wonderful France – Grenoble, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Toulouse (you HAVE to see the Victor Hugo market!), and Bordeaux where we had several visits to wineries and lunch at La Co(o)rniche in Pyla sur Mer – worthy of a T & L cover shot (and about as expensive as you would expect – but worth every euro…). Hoping your Marseille experiences include bouillabaisse at Le Restaurant Chez Michel…. And yes, the humidity in Europe is everywhere – but the drought here in California also continues…
    George

    Like

  2. I’m so impressed with your photos. I recall you had damaged your camera during a trip a while ago. You certainly have found an excellent replacement — an instrument worthy of your skill.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Leah.. When do u leave for Croatia? Ordered second proof today…got first one on Mon…had to correct a few things n took 3 days. To come on Tues. Love GAYLE

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Like

  4. If only you hadn’t ended this with the photo of the last judgment. This is my worst fear given the life I’ve lived. One of my favorite photos was from our first trip with you, my mom, my brother and my sister in law. I pointed my camera up and got a photo of a genuine Venetian in her window sunning her face with a shiny reflector. Thanks to my mother, St. Anthony continues to look after my wife and I; we lose things on a daily basis. Thanks for this. It was fun reminiscing about our earlier trip. So what were those scuba divers looking for? I wonder if they prayed to St. Anthony to assist them.

    Like

      1. Leah. It’s nice that you are traveling again. I love your posts and photos. We miss you here In the Luberon.
        Sandra and John .
        When we visited decades ago it was in February during Mardi Gras. It was wonderful. That was in an Era before the major cities became overly touristed.

        Like

  5. Venice, and would like to meet you for lunch along the canal.
    Can well remember being told to pray that Saint Anthony will help find a lost item.
    Thank you, for the Holy Card.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Gorgeous pictures! Wonderful, unique city, but better to go off season. Last time I was there was in mid- August pre-pandemic. Never again. Next time, Carnivale

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Gorgeous pictures! Wonderful, unique city, but better to go off season. Last time I was there was in mid- August pre-pandemic. Never again. Next time, Carnivale

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.