Ah… Venice. What can you say about one of the most mesmerizing and unusual cities in the world? Well, truly no words or picture can do it justice. Once you travel to this unique city, you will too be in awe.
Venice is made up of about 118 small islands connected through a series of canals and waterways. It is one of the oldest tourist attractions in Italy and annually over 30 million people visit every year. Italians sometimes call this marvelous city “la serenissima” meaning “the most serene.” Due to it’s location and unique architecture, the only viable form of transportation is by water taxi. The lack of cars and busy streets makes Venice a blissful destination.
Getting to Venice :
Venice is usually the first stop on most Italian vacations. Upon arriving at Venice International Marco Polo Airport, it can be a bit overwhelming. This is why I always recommend to my clients that they pre-book transfers. Yes, the bus station and water taxi are just a bit of a walk away. Let’s get real here. You just spent at least 10 hours on an overnight flight to get here. Do you want to lug all your bags around and queue up in a line? No thanks. Yes, It’s more money but, in my opinion, and the majority of my clients. Here is where you splurge a bit. For a party of 3-5 look at spending around $250 total. It’s well worth the cost. Seeing someone standing there with your name on a sign takes a bit of the stress off your back. Our driver (Marco) drove us to the dock where we caught our private boat over to Venice Island. After about a 20 minute extremely scenic boat ride we arrive in San Marco Square. My hotel just happened to be directly next to the Doge’s Palace in the heart of Piazza San Marco.
** Our first selfie, gotta love teens!**
Where to stay :
I choose to stay at the Ca’ Dei Dogi. It’s a smallish hotel in a fabulous location. I was traveling with two others, my daughter Anna and her best friend, Mikayla and it was our first time in visiting. In Venice, it’s kinda difficult to find a triple room due to the hotels and their size. Instead, I booked their Moon Apartment and it was perfect. It had two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Plenty of space for three. It also came with breakfast daily. We were just a block away from the Doge’s Palace, a very popular attraction in the heart of Venice.
** Looks can be deceiving. This hotel is rated 21 out of all the Venice hotels on Trip Advisor. We loved it.**
** Side note** If you wanted another more upscale option I would highly recommend The Gritti Palace. It’s one of my favorite hotels in the world.
What to see :
We only had one full day truly to explore, so we hit the ground running, waking up early and immediately going downstairs for our complimentary breakfast. I booked a Skip the Line tour of St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace, both of which were less than a five minute walk from our location. I highly recommend the Skip the Line tours as it’s better than wasting time standing round in a queue for what can be hours.
Venice is a very walkable city, and gondolas as well as water taxi’s are there at your discretion.However, My best advice is to just get lost. Just turn left and then turn left again, and don’t worry too much about the destination. The journey is the best part of this beautiful city, getting to walk the streets that hold over a thousand years of history. Definitely make time to see the Rialto. It was unfortunately closed for my trip, but its’ beauty is legendary.
– Make sure to check out the Piombi (prison) at the Doges. It’s where famous Venice resident, Lothario Giacomo Casanova escaped multiple times having been imprisoned for his lusty ways.
If you have the time, I also recommend the smaller islands of Murano and Burano. I work with a few companies that do half-day and full-day tours of both. Venice is known for it’s blown glass and interknit lace, here you can see how it’s made and even get in on the action.
The number one attraction in Venice is, you guessed it! The Gondola. Venice’s world-famous gondolas and drivers are the first things you think of when you think of Venice. Well, that and a gondolier with a striped red shirt.
Here are a few tips! Take a shared ride. It will save you money, and you’ll have an opportunity to make new friends. You can also travel on one of the back canals a few blocks from the Grand Canal. If you have the big bucks to spend, take a ride complete with a serenade on the Grand Canal. You will pay though, It can cost upwards of USD 700 per person. I highly recommend pre-booking. It can save you quite a bit of money and stress.
** LADIES! Make sure that you wear clothing that covers both your knees and elbows as many of the Catholic churches will not let you inside otherwise. **
St. Mark’s Basilica :
Getting around :
Exploring Venice is super easy. The water bus system (called vaporetti) is straightforward and easy to navigate. It is the best way to move around. You can get day passes or, stop passes at any ticket office but It’s cheaper to do a full day of unlimited travel as one stop can cost you about 7 Euros. There are also a ton of water taxis at your disposal as well. They cost quite a bit more than the vaporetti but, if you don’t want to deal with the crowds, it’s a good option. The central rail station, Venice Santa Lucia is also on the waterbus line. If you are planning a multi-city tour make sure this is the station you book.
Venice at night :
At night Venice comes alive. It’s both quiet and bustling. You can choose to get lost through its number of winding canals and bridges or explore St. Mark’s square and it’s many performers. It’s incredibly romantic as well with its cafes and canal-side restaurants. Get the gnocchi or, my personal favorite, carbonara! Both are staples of Northern Italy and even the Italians will tell you that Venice does both of these dishes the best. If you are a fan of the bubbly, you came to the right place. You are in prosecco country.
Best meals I had –
La Zucca: http://www.lazucca.it/en/
Osteria Alle Testiere: http://www.osterialletestiere.it
** The most prominent question I get is “Do we tip”? The answer is no. It’s already in the price of your meal. Having said that if you have exceptional service, it’s okay to leave a few extra euro for your waiter.**
Typical restaurant or Osteria.
When to visit :
Venice’s doors are always opened. While I highly recommend exploring this fantastic city in the Springtime, anytime is a good time to go. From April – Mid May being my personal favorite. September – November is also excellent. You will miss most of the summer crowds. A typical July afternoon in the Piazza San Marco and be challenging to navigate. The entire square is covered with tourists. If you have to travel in the summer, I recommend doing it earlier rather than later. Venice is always a bit crowded so any way to minimize that will help make your trip more enjoyable.
In closing :
All and all, Venice is not to be missed. We only had one full day of touring on this trip but, we were able to see quite a bit. If you want to visit some of the other islands, I would recommend AT LEAST three nights. You would need a full week to see all of it but, you can get by with two-three full days. Whether you are pre-cruising it or touring all of Italy, make sure Venice is your first stop. Oh, and the first thing you should do… Get a gelato!