gondola at guggenheim
Our plans for this trip were so "last minute" that it was difficult to get an affordable hotel.  (Someone has pointed out to me that "affordable hotel in Venice" is an oxymoron, and I believe them.) All the recommended places we contacted were full, but one of them referred us to the Locanda Novo near Ca d'Oro vaporetto stop, newly opened at that time and likely to have some rooms. It was a very good choice and a place we'd easily use again.

We finally visited the Peggy Guggenheim collection, housed at her former home along the Grand Canal.  It would be great fun to be able to arrive by gondola, but the entrance actually requires a little more work, searching down smaller streets.   The collection of 20th century art is interesting, but our favorite part of the visit was seeing her home and reading about her life.

The Accademia is without doubt one of the finest art galleries in all of Europe, but it suffers from the restrictions on its ability to enlarge.  We've never had any problems getting in without a reservation, and I'm glad.  There's not much room to form a waiting line in front.  From Bellini, to Mantegna, to Veronese, Tintoretto, and Tiepolo, the museum will not disappoint.  There are many Titian's, of course, and our favorite of his at the gallery is "The Presentation of the Virgin" because it is one of those large paintings from which doors have been cut.  Our favorite painting in the gallery is Giorgione's "The Tempest."  [There are many very good sources for digital copies of art on the internet. You can find digital copies of these paintings and most of the paintings that we reference at one of our favorite sites, the Web Gallery, a collection of European art.]
Accademia- Venice

St. Marks
There are many hidden delights in Vencie, but St. Mark's Square is not one of them, because it is definitely not hidden!!  With the Basilica itself, the Campanile, the Doge's Palace, and the Clock Tower, many of Venice's "must see" sights are within a stone's throw.  As a result, the square is always crowded.  I've seen a few movies that show someone walking across an empty square with no competition except the pigeons and wonder how much they had to pay the city to close it off long enough for that shot. Sometimes the lines for the basilica or the Doge's Palace appear to be really long, but they usually move pretty fast.  The line for the Campanile can be slower at times, but the views can make even that wait worth it.  

If you would like a bird's eye view of the square and don't want to wait in line at the Campanile, after seeing the mosaics inside St. Mark's, go upstairs to the balcony.  You'll have to share the space with (copies of) the bronze horses that were taken to Paris by Napoleon and returned only after the fall of the French empire.  The originals have been removed to a safer interior setting.  You can also get a closer look at the clock tower, and if you're lucky you can see the giant bronze Moors at the top striking the hours as they have done for 500 years.  [The clock tower is also a good reference point; the passageway just to its left leads to the quickest path to the Rialto Bridge.]
Venice- Bronze Horses  

Near the Frari
St. Mark's Square and the Rialto Bridge are probably the two most crowded places in Venice.  But there are treasures scattered throughout the city.  If you wander through the small streets and by the smaller canals in the San Polo district, you'll eventually find Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, or simply the Frari (barely visible on the left in this photo), named for the Franciscan Friars who first built a church in this area.  Titian's "Assumption" is found at the high altar, but many other treasures (including a triptych by Bellini) can be found inside.  One of the great things about visiting Italy is that so many of the art treasures are still displayed in the setting for which they were originally planned.

Almost any guidebook will tell you that the greatest sights of Venice cannot be compiled in any list.  More than any city we've ever visited, the whole of Venice is much greater than the sum of its part.  Anyone who's ever visited Venice for more than a quick tour group run through St. Mark's Square will tell you that the most fun they've had is Venice is just getting lost and wandering through any of the neighborhoods.  I think this particular small bridge is in San Polo, but it could just as easily be anywhere in the city.  Venice is truly a magical city that will always be near the top of our list of Places to See Again.  The only sad times we ever spend in Venice come at the end of each trip when we have to say good-bye.

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