Venice stole me away. From the moment I stepped out of the St. Lucia train station, I became a little dazed, mouth probably slightly open, as I realized that I was staring at a scene extracted from my idealized romantic mind. I wanted to close my eyes and open them again because rarely does one look onto a city such as Venice and not feel even slightly disappointed compared to the ideal they had of it before visiting. I could look past how much time it took to get used to navigating the canals in exchange for buildings the color of Bellini Canellas and gold reflecting on the calmest mute shade of blue water.
“Venice never quite seems real, but rather an ornate film set suspended on the water.” – Frida Giannini
Time goes by faster than you think if you chose to navigate the canals and not take the water buses (public transportation) or a water taxi. But getting lost isn’t so bad when you’re getting lost between beautiful centuries-old buildings, museums, and the faint sound of water hitting the edge of the canal. As far as staying in Venice, definitely shoot for an Airbnb. Hostels are few and questionable, you might be able to find a hotel with a shared bathroom (an almost hostel as I’d call it) that’s a little better, or you’ll be paying the big(ger) bucks for a hotel, which might totally be worth it — This holds true as far as staying on the island, prices differ when you start looking on the mainland.
Get in the Venetian mind-set by starting your arrival off with a Spritz Veneziano by the water. The Spritz has come to be the drink of Venice, consisting of a prosecco wine and dash of bitter liqueur such as Aperol or Select. A low key place exists right near the water stop Giglio. Their drinks seem to reflect common building colors around the city, hues of washed out pinkish or redish orange.
When it comes to eating you can go all out, in-between for a pasta at ~10 euros, or find quick delicious pizza slices and sandwiches in cafes for less than 5 euro. Good food for any budget. A personal favorite for thin or thick pizza slices found on the “yellow brick road” as I like to call it, closer to the Grand Canal, is Anlico Forno. I had to stop twice in one day for a slice of different flavors as we passed it heading one direction and came back through. Handmade crust with the freshest looking spinach and tomato slices I’ve ever looked upon, and giant, but you’ll still want more.
Note: Venice is somewhere you want a map. I am normally against the giant tourist map look, but here it can really come in handy as each turn starts looking the same and you have to relocate yourself multiple times.
St. Marks Basilica is the infamous cathedral, located in the popular San Marco square. However, a lesser visited church exists in Campo S. Zaccaria, Chiesa di San Zaccaria. Just as historically rich as St. Mark’s, maybe even more, this 15th-century church has a perpetually flooded crypt. In the crypt, there are 8 doges buried and this church houses the body of John the Baptist.
The whole riding a gondola in Venice thing is worth it. They will tell you it’s a different way to see the city, and it is — Especially if you get a gondolier who gives a good tour. All the prices are the same no matter where you go — 80 euro and 100 euro after 8 p.m. This works out great if there are a few of you splitting the price because it’s the same no matter how many people go (though the limit is 5). The next best deal is if you go before lunch and it’s only two of you and you’re not in the MOST touristy part of town you might find a nice gondolier who offers you a ride for 60 euro. Either way, just estimate this expense into your costs because: It. Is. Worth. It. You’re not going to come back from Venice and say you didn’t ride in a gondola.
The Grand Canal is a famous part of the city, unfortunately, it was under scaffolding when I was around. With it being famous it’s also very touristy, laced with vendors upon vendors. The plus side of these vendors was the one near the steps selling cold fresh fruit cups, like cantaloupe, and cold fresh fruit juices, like fragolini (or strawberry as we’d say in English). It’s just what you need on a hot day after all the carbohydrate-based meals.
St. Mark’s Basilica is apparently the must-see in town, famous for its Italo-Byzantine architecture. Rightfully so. It stands there painted in gold and other colors, depicting stories from before our existences. From an earlier post, I mentioned the proper clothing when visiting a European cathedral, the same applies here. Your dress or skirt can’t be too short and shoulders should be covered, no hats or shorts. At least here for a euro, you can buy an unusual papery like fabric to cover yourself and not have to miss out if you’re improperly dressed. The line for this seems to never be long, or it’s always moving.
Adjacent to this beautiful church is St. Mark’s Campanile, or the bell tower for the basilica. The tower is very cool itself, but the view it offers at the top is what it is known for. The view is one you can’t get anywhere else in the city. Each side offers an aerial look onto the buildings, the canals, the water, the islands. All of it — Uncapturable. You’re left with the most unique colors of blues and pink oranges. I know I keep talking about the colors of this city, but they are so unique to it — an identifiable part I’d say, and they are so soft.
A lesser-known gem in the city is Acqua Alta Bookshop, but an absolute must visit, especially if you’re fond of posters, postcards, old books, and the sort. When you enter you’re greeted by the owner, who speaks an array of languages, ready to greet you in whichever you speak. One of the most unique bookshops in the world, the books are stacked inside gondolas, ready for a flood. There’s a staircase made of old books to climb and see you’re right on the canal, and a unique fire escape with scuba fins included for a suitable exit. The layout is all bonus to the old postcards and posters.
To end the last day, though a southern Italian treat, I managed to find myself an affogato. A most heavenly concoction of gelato covered in hot espresso. I managed to find a place serving the ice cream and espresso separately and asking them to combine the two items for this dessert, and as much as they are into their espressos and gelato the man I asked to make my affogato very much so understood my want for the combination. But, if you’re not into finding a place that serves both coffees and gelato and asking them to combine it, there are a few cafes on the island that show up on Trip Advisor with reviews praising the affogatos.
Finally, because of an early flight out of Treviso airport, which is actually only a 15 or 20 minute ride away, waking up before 5 a.m. and watching the sunrise is magical. It’s warm out, all is quiet, all is closed, it’s rather light, no tourists in the streets to walk around — you can truly appreciate where you are.
A side note for people leaving from Treviso. A lot of blogs make it seem dramatic to leave from there instead of Marco Polo. The first bus leaves from the Piazzo Roma starting at 5 a.m. You can purchase a bus ticket from one of the stands there or from the bus driver. The ride to the actual airport isn’t long at all, the reason to give yourself so much time is because of the reliability of when the buses arrive. The buses arrive every 30 minutes, but planning to catch the bus that arrives before the one you actually need to catch is a safe bet, especially if you have one of the early morning ones to catch. So it’s not a dramatic ride to the actual airport, the dramatic part is not knowing if the bus for the time you think you need will arrive, by planning as mentioned above, if that bus doesn’t arrive the one you needed to catch anyways can be your back up plan. Of course, if at all possible, Marco Polo airport would be a preferable choice.
Favorite Sights/Activities: Chiesa di San Zaccaria, Acqua Alta Bookshop, and St. Mark’s Basillica
Favorite Food/Drinks: Spritz, Pasta (from everywhere)
Secret Suggestions: Visit the Acqua Alta Bookshop.
Travel Tips: Grab a map and don’t be afraid to explore deep into the city and get lost by the canals. When you exit from the train station it can be overwhelming because of how touristy it initially appears. Make your way far away from train station and you’ll start to see more local places to experience.