Sometimes I like to play tourist in my own town. The camera strung around my neck let’s me blend in with the colourful mass of summer tourists. According to the latest statistics, each year nearly 20 million foreigners peacefully invade the alleys and small squares of Venice.
There are few areas of the city that they don’t get to these days, although it may be in smaller numbers than the crowds visiting the main tourists destinations like Piazza San Marco or the Rialto.
When I play tourist, one of my favourite excursions is also one of the simplest. It’s also one of the most picturesque and always strikes me with a charm that is forever different and new.
All you need do is get on a Line 1 “vaporetto” and follow the route along the Grand Canal. This is the main water thoroughfare of Venice, which reflects the homes and palaces of the city, creating varying patterns of shapes and colour that always leave me astonished.
My secret for enjoying this boat trip the most is to take a seat in the back of the vaporetto. From there, the palaces rise up instantaneously before your eyes in continuous succession only to recede out of view slowly as you go along.
The best route is that from PIazzale Roma (Rome Square) or from the the Ferrovia stop (rail station stop) which ends at San Zaccaria church. This affords you a view of the entrance to the Grand Canal at the Punta della Dogana (the old customs building) as well as a spectacular view of the entrance to the bay of San Marco.
This route is fantastic during the day, but at night it holds an even greater and special charm. The light on the canal softly breaks up and scatters reflected pieces of the surrounding buildings over the water. You get a glimpse through the illuminated windows of the homes as you pass and fleeting apparitions of studies overflowing with books, walls hung with paintings, incredible chandeliers, and the people as they move about their dwelling.
Your enveloped in silence as the vaporetto slowly glides along. It’s a magical, mute scene that passes before you eyes, which is only broken suddenly as the vaporetto rears up to the dock of the next stop.
There’s the spectacular bossages or stone walls of the Ca’ Pesaro and gothic Ca’ d’Oro palaces and la Pescheria (fish market). There is also the route under the Rialto bridge with the softly lit Ca’ Farsetti and contrasting Balbi palace, standing resplendently in its own light. This is the so-called “volta de canal” or the cove of the Grand Canal where you see the majestic Ca’ Foscari and Ca’ Rezzonico, to name only a few of the city’s famous palaces. Finally, you arrive at the majestic cupola of the cathedral of Santa Maria della Salute (St. Mary of Health). This marks the end of this breathtaking journey along the main “road” of Venice, which began at the Punta della Dogana, and its incredible view opening out onto the bay and Piazza of San Marco.