There's so much to see in Venice, and it really is a shame to see people trying to really take in the city in a matter of only a few days.
This is a place you need to rent an apartment in, and spend time living among the locals. Sure, you can walk the Piazza, marvel at the Grand Canal, buy some t-shirts and masks and take a picture of the Rialto,
but then you've really only taken a small bit out of a very large meal.
And just as there's more in Venice to see than the Piazza and Rialto, there's so much more to the Venetian lagoon than Venice.
Murano and Burano (known for glass and lace respectively) are also common draws for visitors, but there are places in the roughly 200 square mile lagoon that would amaze you, with histories and structures that speak of the lives and struggles of people centuries ago.
Riding out to the Adriatic on a gigantic cruise ship I can guarantee that you will see things from a very different angle than usual. I can also guarantee that you'll get a lot of attention - there's no shortage of people smil waving and smiling as you go by. We got plenty of waving as we passed Piazza San Marco, and a few more onlookers going by the gardens. Next we passed the Scuola Navale Militare Francesco Morosini - a military school that is patently Venetian and one that any mariner would be proud to be a graduate of.
My first encounter with a boat from this academy can be read at "Scuola Navale Militare Francesco Morosini".
The academy is on an island known as Sant'Elena.
This island is one of the many that make up the eastern end of Venice.
Also on Sant'Elena, you can find the official soccer stadium of Venice,
the church of Sant'Elena, and a lot of sailboats are moored there.
Tucked into a corner, I spotted a hoist with some guys hauling out a boat for the evening.
Let's take a closer look:
Looks like two men and a boy, getting a blue sandolo squared away on one of those rolling cradles that usually include car parts in their assembly
(a clever use for a used axle and wheels).
Meanwhile, around the corner is another man sitting near some of the other boats of this club.
It's fun for us to look at, but to most Venetians, this is a common everyday sight around the lagoon (lucky people).
Coming into view next was the Isola della Certosa, an interesting island which I was fortunate enough to visit several years ago; there was a small community of international craftsmen working together on several different types of boat building.
Behind Certosa I could see the island of Vignole.
Nereo Zane tells me about how the island probably got it's name:
The name Vignole most probably comes from the word vigna (vineyard). In the past there were lot of vineyards in that island.
An old building on the corner of the Isola di Sant'Andrea came into view,
Followed by the remnants of a fortification,
Once in a while you see something that you know used to have great significance - I knew that to be the case when I spotted the lion carving on this wall.
This classic fortification is placed quite strategically at one of the best places to fire cannons at invading ships. It stands as a sort of territorial marking for anyone entering the lagoon, and the lion carving makes it clear.
I wrote to Nereo Zane asking his thoughts.
One thing I've heard, and am honestly still learning about, is that in times of war, and in places of military significance - the lion holds a sword.
The lion on the front of Forte S.Andrea holds an open book because the plaque below him was placed to celebrate naval victory of Lepanto (1571). (The Doge was Alvise Mocenigo).
Please consider that all the lions holding a sword were removed by Napoleone troops. There are a few only in villages or small towns that were part of the Venetian colonies located on the eastern shore of Adriatic Sea. (Croatia, Slovenia, etc.)
More winged lions with books (in a fashion I've seen in other places) flanked an impressive face over a wooden door at water level.
I looked over my shoulder and spotted a familiar shape off in the distance, zoomed in and snapped a shot of what I'd recognized even as a speck in the distance: "Unmistakable Shape".
Heading past the area where we will one day see the MOSE system in place, I spotted a small beachside cabana:
Then, cruising towards the Adriatic, I spotted the beacon house at the end of the breakwater:
European breakwater structures often have these curious pieces that remind me of enormous versions of the jacks children used to play with. I'm guessing that they stick together well in their many battles against the rage that the sea can bring.
And in classic form, there was graffiti:
Swinging the camera lense around towards Venice one more time,
I snapped this final shot before we steamed off towards other ports.
Beyond the fortification at Sant'Andrea, we see domes and campaniles from lagoon islands, then the tallest and most recognizable campanile in the region, and then far off in the distance we can even see the unique arch of Marghera on the mainland.
I'll be the first to admit that I've still only managed to enjoy a portion of the meal that is discovering-Venice (and quite an amazing meal, it is).
I'm also quick to agree with anyone out there who might venture an opinion that there's more to write about the things I displayed in this post.
If you know something more - please share it with us.
We are all, in one way or another, on a voyage of discovery.
Next time I'm in Venice, I hope to discover more amazing places,
and I'm sure I will.