It’s the first of May, Labour Day, and the sun is shining brightly unlike the day we arrived. There’s a gondola race in Venice but it’s not in the centre and we’re afraid of the crowds. Instead, we head for the island of San Georgio to visit the church there. We push our way through the crowds near Piazza San Marco to San Zaccharia to take the vaporetto across the lagoon and I’m glad we decided against the gondola race!
We take photos of the opposite shore, with the Doge’s Palace and the famous column in the middle of the Piazza, then enter the church. Strange. It’s free. I see a sign “Lift to the top of the belfry” and suggest we take it. We pay our six euro each (that’s why the church is free!) and stand in line for the 6-person lift.
At the top, there is a spectacular 360° view but only a very small space so we take turns to get a bird’s eye view of Venice through our cameras and binoculars. We can see right across the island of Venice to the other side. Nothing could beat this view.
We have to forego a visit to the Renaissance cloisters because they are closed. The vaporetto arrives and we manage to get two seats outside at the back so we stay there for the next hour, going halfway around the island and up through the Grand Canal discovering new palazzi until we arrive back at San Marco by which time the crowds have doubled, if that’s possible.
As soon as we can, we leave the main area and head homewards. On the way, we find a little restaurant called Luna Santada on Rio di San Severo canal which we’ve already noticed. A table awaits us and we have another perfect view – it’s obviously on the gondola route!
After a poetic evocation of Marco Polo’s return to Venice after his voyage across the globe, the placemat tells us that Luna Santada is a culinary voyage that takes you from Venezia to many different gastronomic worlds, on his trip, on my trip, be my guest and travel with me. Could we have chosen better?
The obligatory siesta and we’re off again, past the Maritime Museum, along the lagoon and over the bridge to Santa Elena island to see the sunset. There are no bars along the way and sundown is still a couple of hours away so we decide to take the vaporetto to the Lido, Venice’s iconic island that I have been reading about in novels ever since I can remember. For some reason, we didn’t go there on our last trip.
The first thing that strikes us is the presence of cars and buses. The Adriatic and the famous Lido beaches are on the other side of the island which is 500 metres wide and 12 kilometers long. If you’ve never seen an Italian beach, it’s difficult to imagine. They are lined with paraols and deck chairs in neat rows and the sand is usually grey.
The Lido is no exception. We can’t see anything to redeem it and even the Grand Hôtel des Bains, where Death in Venice was shot, is closed. So much for our aperitivo. All is not lost, though, because we end up at a table on the lagoon at Villa Laguna, sipping pinot grigio and admiring the view for a surprising 5 euro each. This is the life.
We head back to Santa Elena in time to watch the sun set over Venice from a convenient bench. Unfortunately, the restaurant we found on the island seven years ago (Osteria Santa Elena da Pampo) is closed so a helpful local tells us to eat at Mario’s which I won’t recommend. The food is average and the service abysmal. But we are sitting outside and the weather is still balmy.
The end of another wonderful day in Venice.