We met our guide, Chiara, between the two iconic columns of Piazzetta di San Marco. Succumbing to superstition, we refused to walk between the two pillars and instead met the group on the other side. We had heard a legend that it was bad luck to walk in between the two (public executions had occurred there) so we decided not to tempt the fates.
Like other Roman Guy (now known as the Tour Guy) tours, the “Venice Walking and Boat Tour with St. Mark’s Basilica” featured a small group. Including our guide, there were only ten of us. This size meant an intimate and personal tour where we could easily interact with one another and ask questions of our host. It made the trip feel private and more costly than its price of $99.
Over the three-hour long tour, Chiara (and later our boat driver) would take us all over Venice. It was a wonderful way to get an overview of the island. This tour is essential to get the most out of limited time in the city. It would also make a great introduction for those with several days to spend. The trip is sure to pique your interest in places that you could later explore indepthly. Over the course of approximately three hours, our Venice Walking and Boat Tour explored St. Mark’s Basilica, Piazza San Marco, took an hour-long boat tour all over Venice, and walked around the Dorsoduro sestiere.
St. Mark’s Basilica
A nice benefit of this tour is the ability to skip the very-long line to get into St. Mark’s Basilica. We swept past those waiting in the hot sun and entered the golden church with its fabulous mosaics (sorry, no pictures in the church). Our tour included admission to see the Golden Altar (Pala d’Oro) and St. Mark’s museum. Bronze horses (rumored to date from the time of Alexander the Great) used to grace the basilica. Copies now prance frozen in time atop the huge front doors, but the originals are available for viewing in the museum. Another feature of the tour is access to the basilica’s terrace where you have a magnificent view of Piazza San Marco, the piazzetta, and the lagoon. There, Chiara took advantage of a an impressive photo opportunity and offered to take pictures of anyone in the group who wanted them. This is a great service that Roman Guy guides offer, since the only other option my husband and I have of getting a shot of the two of us on vacation is to take a selfie (not great for capturing a background) or trust a stranger with our camera.
Piazza San Marco
After learning loads of interesting tidbits about the basilica, we ventured out into its namesake piazza—the only true piazza in Venice. Chiara told fascinating stories about the clock tower (Torre dell’Orologio), the Bell Tower, the Doge’s Palace, and the executions that occurred between the columns on the piazzetta (little piazza off of the main one). Walking to the front of the pillars we viewed Venice’s front door and then moved on to the dock where our floating chariot awaited.
Our boat was luxurious with lacquered wood interior and seating on either side of the cabin. There was also exterior seating up front and the back. Jon and I (along with another couple) took the back area. We chose to stand up and felt like rock stars as people waived at us from bridges, sidewalks, and passing gondolas. Having a leisurely ride along back canals and down the Grand Canal was the best way to see parts of the city that I wouldn’t have ventured off to on foot if only in Venice for a short time. Venice is divided into six sestieri (neighborhoods) and from our boat we passed by all of them. Chiara shared interesting tidbits about the Bridge of Sighs in San Marco, a hospital in Castello, the Jewish Ghetto in Cannaregio, small canals in Santa Croce, the Rialto Bridge in San Polo, and the former home of Peggy Guggenheim in Dorsoduro. We cruised down the Grand Canal seeing grand homes like Ca’ Rezzonico, a casino, and Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute church. We picked up speed a little when we scooted out into open water and ended our hour-long boat tour on the lagoon-side of the Dorsoduro sestiere.
Disembarking our boat, we got our land legs back and strolled down a wide fondamenta where we came upon a gondola workshop (Squero di San Trovaso). I also saw the first grassy area that I had viewed since arriving in Venice. Chiara asked if we wanted gelato and the group agreed. I, perhaps, the most enthusiastically—I do love gelato! After enjoying our cool treats, we continued on our walk and crossed the Grand Canal via Ponte dell’Accademia. Chiara ended our tour on the other side leaving us in a place where we could easily walk to Rialto or San Marco area. Having had a great time, we bid everyone arrivederci.
Once again, The Roman Guy had exceeded my expectations. We had a culturally and intellectually stimulating tour filled with fun. We were treated like royalty, but were able to see Italy on a budget. There was also great value as hiring a private taxi for an hour is a pricey venture…and that wouldn’t have included commentary of what we were seeing. I felt privileged the whole time (but especially on the boat!)—the “Venice Walking and Boat Tour” had the cool style I’ve come to expect of The Roman Guy’s trips.
**Please note that this specific tour is no longer available, but there are other great Tour Guy tours in Venice, including some where you can see St. Mark’s Basilica and take boat tours.
Here are some video clips I took:
Disclosure: The Roman Guy provided us with complimentary tours. All views and opinions expressed in this blog are my own—receiving gratis services does not change that fact.
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