During our 5 days in Venice, our professor offered us an optional activity: watch one of the best sunrises in the world over the Grand Canal from Accademia bridge, then visit the centuries-old Rialto Fish market to get some perspective on Venetian life.
I usually don’t have a problem getting up early, and I never like to miss out on a cool experience, so at 5am, so we set off on some early-morning adventures in Venice!
How to See the Sunrise at Venice’s Accademia Bridge
Although the sun doesn’t rise until 6am in Venice (in October), We had to be up at 5 in order to grab a quick breakfast at the hotel before securing a spot on the Accademia bridge. Thankfully, the bridge was less than 5 minutes from our hotel, but we still had to be at least a half hour early in order to make sure we had a good view for the sunrise. This is because Accademia bridge is well known for providing the best sunrise views over the Grand Canal, and photographers flock to the bridge hours in advance in order to get the perfect shot.
Watching the Sunrise over the Grand Canal
Thankfully, I was able to get a good spot on the center of the bridge in between to a cold looking fellow with a giant tripod, and another guy who kept adjusting the settings on his camera the whole time (power to him, I could never operate one of those DSLRs). I’ve learned that photographers are a focused species who don’t like to be bothered while working, so I gave them their space and forwent any small talk.
Under the blue-violet hue of before-daybreak light, I could see small speedboats, vaporettos, and fishing trawlers begin stirring and making their way through the quiet canals, gondalas bumping against the docks in their wake. I think this quiet, morning Venice is my favorite. Finally, violet gave way to purple and the golden sunrise made her grand appearance over the canal, just as promised. It was glorious, definitely one of the best sunrises I’ve ever seen!
Just be sure to check the weather forecast for Venice the night before, or you may be stuck with a view like this:
After raving about the Accademia bridge sunrise, we went back the next morning with some friends who were excited to see it for themselves. This time, luck was not in our favor, and it was too foggy to tell whether or not the sun had actually risen.
How to get to the Rialto Fish Market
The Rialto Fish market can be a little hard to find at first. It is off of the western side of the Rialto Bridge. Once you cross the bridge to the western side, take a right and walk down Campo de la Pescaria until you find the market.
The Rialto Fish Market
If you’re already up from the sunrise, you might as well visit the Rialto Fish Market near Venice’s famous Rialto Bridge!
The Rialto Fish Market has provided locals and tourists alike with freshly caught fish from the Venetian lagoon and beyond for centuries. Technically, the market is open Tuesday-Saturday from 7-2, but you’ll want to be there early in the morning when the market is truly alive. This is because in the early hours of the morning, fisherman are just returning to Venice with their catches, and restaurant owners arrive at the same time to get the best selection for the day’s dishes. In such a touristy city, the Rialto fish market provides a rare chance to explore and observe local Venice.
My first impression of the market was shock at the variety of sea life they have for sale. So many species of fish and other sea creatures I’ve never seen before, and some I’ve only read about, are out on display. For example- I had no idea that anglerfish lived in the Venetian lagoon, but you can best believe I tend to look a little closer whenever we walk along the canals now.
Some of the fish for sale have already been filleted, and some are whole, or even still alive! My friend Maddie and I had quite a shock when we noticed a bunch of small silver fish wriggling atop a pile of ice. Then, as we leaned in to see if they were actually alive, one took a flying leap off the pile and onto the ground, where it flopped around manically. Maddie and I screamed in shock as we were nearly hit by a flying fish, and then wondered whether or not we should pick it up and put it back on the pile, worried that the shopkeeper would think we were stealing it. I ended up walking up to the man, and since I only know basic Italian phrases (none of which include, “sir your fish has flopped onto the ground and I’m afraid it’s going to escape), I could only point at the ground with a confounded look on my face. Thankfully, the old shop keeper seemed to understand. He laughed and scooped the fish back onto the pile, reassuring us in Italian. I really should learn Italian.
The rest of our wandering around the fish market was less eventful than the fish escape. We rounded up the group and stopped at a cafe for some Italian doughnuts (sugared doughnuts filled with sweet custard) and cappuccinos on the way back to the hotel. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but we’re staying at a converted monastery here in Venice!
The Experience of Staying in a Venetian Monastery
I forgot to mention in my other Venice posts that we’ve been staying in monastery that’s been converted to a hotel- the Casa Sant-Andrea. It’s certainly something I never thought I’d be able to say!
It’s like no other hotel I’ve stayed at before. As this was most likely a Cistercian monastery, the rooms are colorless and sparce of any kind of art or decoration. This is leftover from the monks’ belief that anything aside from necessity was distracting from prayer. Still, the rooms have the necessities like drawers, showers, and in our case, 3 twin beds. The beds are all lined up parallel to each other, probably another tradition left over from the monastery.
Besides the long, winding hallways, another clue to the hotel’s past life is a pristine courtyard, a highly unusual feature for a hotel in Venice. Its use was to connect the monks’ dorms to the church, though the church was locked when I tried the door.
At night, I thought I might meet some ghost monks. While the idea of staying in a haunted hotel would normally freak me out, I figured that these were holy ghosts, and wondered what seeing one would entail. For better or for worse, I did not meet any ghost monks this time.
Overall, the Casa Sant’Andrea hotel is nice and spacious, included breakfast is always good, and its location near the Accademia bridge and vaporetto dock makes it convenient for getting around the island. I would recommend it as a place to stay while in Venice.
When I travel, I like to pack as much into one day as possible. Watching the sunrise over the Grand Canal at Accademia Bridge and visiting the Rialto Fish Market is a great way to do this, and gives an early start to your day in Venice. I think that both were worth the early wake up call. These are also good things to do in Venice if you’re hoping to escape the hoards of tourists, as both places were relatively uncrowded.
That wraps up our time in Venice, Italy! After 4 nights and 5 days in one of my favorite cities in the world, we continued north with a stop in Padua to see the famed Giardini chapel before moving onwards to the Dolomite Mountains for a relaxing mountain getaway.
Where did she come from? Murano, Burano and Torcello islands, Italy
Where is she going (next)? The Dolomite Mountains, Italy