Venice, Venezia, La Dominante – whatever you call it, it is without a doubt the most magical city in the world. It’s romantic, picturesque, charming and so much more. No words can describe the absolute unparalleled beauty that is Venice, Italy.
Do I really need to go on? I think we’re all convinced….go to Venice. That is all.
Just kidding I’ll tell you more. To start with, these are real photos. I know, I know, they don’t look it. That’s just too pretty a place to be real! But I actually took these, so I know Venice is real…at least I think it was…
So what should one do while in Venice? First, I’d like to squash a rumor. I went to Venice in July, and it was HOT. But, unlike what so many people told me, it did not smell. Well, except at the fish market but that is to be expected. One rumor that is true is that it is crowded, if you’re not careful of where you go. If you stay in a hotel right off the most popular St. Mark’s Square and never leave the San Marco area, you won’t like Venice. You’ll actually probably hate it. The most important thing to know before traveling to Venice is do not go where the tourists go. At least not all the time.
Venice, Italy – The Guide to Doing it Right
1. Where you stay in this city reallllly matters. This, for me, worked out completely by chance. I took a risk and booked a Living Social deal of all things for a three day stay in a hotel called Hotel Gardena Venice in Santa Croce. This hotel is right over a bridge from the train station – which you wouldn’t think would be a very nice area of a city. But since essentially all areas of Venice are lovely, this was no exception. Also, another bonus of the Northwestern area of the city is that it’s much much quieter. I highly recommend this hotel and and this area – although a point of caution. Gardena has “superior” rooms and “regular” rooms. The difference is that the “superior” rooms are nice, clean and contain some sort of gold painted sculpture. The “regular” rooms are hostel-like to horrendous. Pay more for “superior.” There’s also a quiet little courtyard in the back where they serve breakfast.
2. Venice is a small city – you can walk from one end to the other pretty easily using bridges. That being said, some forms of transportation in the city are a tourist attraction in themselves. Instead of cars, the city offers the water bus (it is as glamorous as it sounds), water taxis (wooden speed boats – very James Bond) and Gondolas (very touristy but adorable). They’re all three pretty expensive, but a must. The water bus is great for longer trips but be prepared for how busy they get — run for a seat at the front of the boat or you likely to end up with a baby stroller or stranger on your foot…or lap… for the whole trip. I still enjoyed it though particularly for trips out to the farther islands like Giudecca and Lido.
The Gondolas are a must — painfully expensive but you will enjoy it. It’s such an odd experience to be in the middle of a busy city and have it be so quiet. It’s amazing how much not having traffic impacts a city. However, prepare yourself….they DO sing. But I promise it’s more adorable than uncomfortable, and I am NOT a fan of public and unexpected singing usually.
Lastly, I recommend choosing between a water taxi or a gondola. We chose gondola but both are equally cool…and unfortunately equally expensive.
3. Venice has a long and interesting history, so make sure to see the sights. St. Mark’s Square, despite the crowds, is pretty cool. However, there are loads of other things to see. I recommend making point to see:
St. Mark’s Square
J in the middle at a particularly less crowded moment
Just off St. Mark’s Square, a living testimony of Venice’s links with Byzantium from the Middle Ages
Modern art in a beautiful mansion in the center of Venice
Cute market in between San Polo and San Marco selling
everything from fish to flags to spices (Its worth the slightly fishy smell)
Walk through Venice’s political and judicial headquarters while learning about the dark history and secrets of this government in the 17th Century
Part of the Doge’s Palace Tour, this bridge led into the Venetian prisons used
throughout the 17th and 18th Centuries – One of the most famous bridges in the city.
The main and most notable bridge in Venice – houses cute tourist shops all along it.
4. Have a Campari Spritz for aperitivo along the canals at sunset. There is no shortage of places serving this particularly Venetian beverage that mixes Campari with Prosecco and soda water, very refreshing after a day in the heat but to warn, it is a bit bitter. I recommend taking the water bus across the river to Giudecca to the Hilton Molino Stucky Hotel – head to the rooftop bar at sunset for a full view of historic Venice and the water with surprisingly affordable drinks. Also, fun fact about Venice, when you order drinks, you’re always served a snack, often peanuts. However, at the Molino Stucky, they serve you a huge buffet of finger foods….all for free! We had dinner reservations after our drinks and ended up scrapping them because we’d filled up on free food at the hotel! One of my highlights of Venice…and not just because it was free.
5. Go to Ca’ D’Oro restaurant for the best polpette (meatballs) you’ll ever taste in the Northern area of Venice, Cannaregio. It’s hard to find down a teeny side street, but worth the trip for a true favorite among locals and tourist alike. The North of Venice is also much less traveled by tourists, so you can actually see what real life is like in the Floating City. I had the octopus….which I didn’t expect to be whole, tiny octopi, but hey, worth the story afterwards. Have the meatballs though – that’s a non-negotiable.
6. You’re in Italy, Eat Gelato. It’s everywhere and just better than ice cream anywhere else in the world. Stop in once, twice, or like me, on the hour, for a treat as you explore the city.
There, all you need for a magical trip to Venice. I’ll leave you by saying andemo bever un’ombra (come with me for a glass of wine in the Venetian dialect). I’ll meet you at the Molino Stucky for an aperitivo…