During my two weeks stay, there were so many highlights. Well, being “in” Venice is itself a highlight, but here are more that I found added to my overall experience:
|Secrete Itinerary Tour|
After reading so many positive reviews from other Slow Travelers about the famous Secret Itineraries’ Tour of the Doge’s Palace, I decided that I really wanted to take the tour myself. This tour will provide me with a deeper exploration of the hidden corners of the palace. The Doge’s Palace (ie., the Palazzo Ducale) is an amazing looking piece of Gothic Architecture and this tour will go beyond the exterior into secret passageways where some of the most powerful leaders of Venice walked through to get around the Palace. The tour takes you to some of the administrative offices of the men who ran Venice during the medieval and Renaissance times. And it will also take us to the very cell where the notorious Giacomo Casanova made his escape in 1775.
As this was a popular tour in Venice it was recommended by other Slow Travel members that I should pre-book this tour before I leave for Venice and so that is what I did.
I used an on-line website called Tickitaly.com, They confirmed my reservation for Thursday, November 15 and sent me an e-mail with the confirmation voucher of my tour purchase. Other than my Dolomite Tour to Cortina, this was the only scheduled organized tour that I pre-booked for my visit. I was very excited. I printed my voucher before I left and then on the day of my tour I followed the instructions that were printed on the voucher on where to go for my tour group.
On the scheduled day of my tour, I arrived at the Doges Palace entrance which is clearly marked on the side (facing the water) of the Doges Palace. They had these ropes leading to the entrance with an employee there to direct you to the correct counter. I presented my voucher to the staff and was given an orange round circle which I was told to stick somewhere visible on my clothing. This was apparently to indicate which group you belonged to. I was with the group that spoke English. There was another group with a different color circle and they spoke Italian. A girl from Lake Tahoe started chatting with me as we waited for our tour to start. She was in Venice with her mom for two weeks also. In two days there were leaving. She was going to return back to Tahoe but her mom was going to spend another month in London with her sister. It was kind of fun chatting with her especially because I use to visit Tahoe a lot when I used to live in Sacramento.
Within a few minutes a short Italian lady came to our group and assembled us to one corner of the entrance (there were several other groups being assembled in the same courtyard. She introduced herself (unfortunately I forgot her name) and began her great and articulate explanation of the great history of Venice and specifically the Doges Palace. She gave us a brief outline of the itinerary for the tour then proceeded to move us to our first stop.
Next we went up this long stair case and although we were allowed to photograph the well decorated stairwell, this was basically the last time that we were allowed to take photographs because once we entered the palace taking photos were prohibited. She brought us into several rooms of the palace and in each room our tour guide provided us with a fascinating tale of power and intrigue. At one point we were brought to these jail cells that were so small and depressing looking. Here came the fascinating stories of Casanova and his escape. I found the stories so interesting and when I looked around the room and out the windows. Two things stuck out for me. First, I would hate to have been imprisoned here and secondly how in the world did Casanova escape. It really was interesting. At some point prisoners when for whatever reason had to leave their cells and be transferred elsewhere, there were sections where a prisoner could actually look outside a window and view what was just outside their miserable surroundings — beautiful Venice. That must have been torture in and of itself to imagine seeing that gorgeous view through these tiny holes in the walls and know that you were stuck in these dungeons.
After the last part of our tour we were allowed to view the other public rooms at our own leisure. Just as I was pulling out some Euros to give our guide a tip (another couple was doing the same thing), our great guide was gone in a flash. It’s too bad because she was so good and I really wanted to give her a nice tip in appreciation for the wonderful tour she gave us.
I thought this tour was great and I too would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Venice. I also agree with the recommendations made by my fellow Slow Travel members that it is best to pre-book your tour before you arrive in Venice. As low season as November may be, there were several groups on the morning of my tour so I can only imagine how many groups there would be during high season. Take the tour, it is well worth your time and money!