Venice - What can I say – wow!
It’s a place you’ve heard of, a place you have seen on TV or in books, a place you know has Gondolas. In reality – until you have visited, you don’t really know it at all. That is how I felt after having spent 48 hours in Venice.
Only 48 hours, you may say. I love short trips – I like long ones too, but I love short trips to places I haven’t been before. Trips just long enough to get a taste of the place. Trips just long enough to make you want to return again. Venice is one of those places. Travel is the one thing that inspires me to save and make money, in order that, as a family, we can indulge our travel passion. I wrote HERE all about the planning of the trip with costs included.
From the moment you begin to land at Venice’s Marco Polo airport, which is actually situated on the mainland and not in the island of Venice itself, the magic begins. As you look through the window of the plane you see a mass of water, islands and buildings that seem as though they are floating.
From the airport you have two options for travelling to the centre of Venice, train or waterbus/water taxi. We chose the waterbus at a cost of €27 per person return. I did not see the price of the water taxi but thought they were around €60. We did not look into the train prices as you needed to get a bus from the airport to the station, a train from the station over to the island of Venice and then either walk or water bus or taxi to your final destination.
The water bus took around an hour and a half and there were different routes you could choose. We chose the route that took us around the outside of the island. This also stopped off at other islands en route to Venice, like Murano and Lido, before dropping us off near San Marco’s Square. My recommendation would be to get the route that takes you down the Grand Canal, as the experience would be amazing, especially if it was your first time.
Next to the pier where the water bus dropped us, I was extremely pleased to see a long line of Gondolas. This was a definite highlight and was also the activity that the kids most wanted to do. However, we decided that the first stop would be a snack, as it was lunchtime, and then a look around to get our bearings.
We found our way very easily to San Marco’s Square and, again, found the square and the Basilica more magnificent than we had imagined. The buildings around the edge of the square are shops and restaurants, one of which was a very ‘posh’ place with a live orchestra playing. No matter what time of day or night we visited the square, the orchestra was playing. We took a walk round the edge and stood listening to them play. There were tables outside, but undercover, where you could sit and receive silver service. I took a look at the price list and it was €11 for a glass of coke! Fantastic experience and location but I think this is one that can wait until it is just the husband and I visiting!!
We found a lovely takeaway pizza place for lunch – well you have to, you’re in Italy – and we ate this whilst walking around. Venice has some lovely narrow streets and I loved walking around and going over the canals. It was whilst walking around that we realised the enormity of the way of life in Venice. Everything, and I mean everything, has to come by boat. Your rubbish is collected by boat, if you are taken ill the ambulance is a boat and you are taken to the hospital which is situated on the outside of the island, all the deliveries have to come in to the centre by boat – it really is an amazing place.
We made our way through the winding streets, up and over picturesque canals and bridges, until we reached the Rialto Bridge, a famous Venetian landmark. It was an extremely popular place for people wanting to take selfies with the Grand Canal in the background. It was here that we decided to do the main thing we were all looking forward to, the thing that most people imagine when you mention Venice – take a trip on a Gondola! It was brilliant. It was €80, which we had already budgeted for, after all, you really can’t visit Venice without experiencing this. The way the Gondoliers manoeuver around the narrow canals and under the low bridges is amazing. He even gave us a little guided tour, pointing out famous landmarks etc. At the end of the trip he offered to take a family photo – which I thought was a lovely touch – I am sure they could charge extra to take an official photo themselves! This is now one of our treasured photos.
Then it was time to make our way back to San Marco’s Square and to get our bearings to find the location of our hotel. On the way there, and out of the main touristy spots, we spotted a couple of restaurants which we decided to investigate. It was just what we were looking for – Bolognese and lasagne etc and at only €6 and €8 respectively, we decided to return for dinner later.
The hotel, Belle Arti, was lovely and were really pleased with both its location and standard. The staff were welcoming and friendly, the decoration exquisite and the outside areas amazing and with the temperatures at around 18 degrees, we were able to sit outside in the evenings. The continental breakfast was also lovely, with plenty of choice for everyone.
After checking in, showering and changing, we made our way back to the restaurant we had spotted earlier. We sat outside, watching the world go by. The boys had spaghetti Bolognese and my husband and I had the lasagne. We were also given a complimentary bread basket, containing a bread roll each and a packet of Grisini each. Along with a drink and a dessert – Tiramisu, what else - the meal came to around €70 which is excellent value and the food was lovely. So nice in fact, we decided to go back the second night.
Following our meal we decided to walk back towards San Marco Square. It looked lovely all lit up and the orchestra was still playing! At this point though, it started to rain. We walked around the covered walkways, taking in the atmosphere and then made our way back to the hotel.
After a lovely breakfast the following day, our first plan for the day was to view the inside of San Marco’s Basilica. A tip in case you are going to visit = YOU CANNOT TAKE BAGS IN – however, they do have a place where you can leave them but I recommend you do this prior to queueing for entry into the Basilica. I like to search for tips like this on Lonely Planet as we usually buy their travel guides. Being out of season, the queues obviously were not as bad as I can imagine them to be during the main summer season. It didn’t take long and the queue does move along quite quickly. The inside was beautiful and peaceful, definitely worth visiting.
The next item on our itinerary was to find a bridge without a parapet (sides). I had spotted this in the guidebook and it was only one of two still standing. Again, it was lovely walking along the streets, over the bridges each one uniquely different, passing canals and piazzas. We definitely needed the map to find our way.
On the way back I spotted what I thought was a ham and pineapple pizza on display in a pizza store. When I looked closer it was in fact a pizza with ham and chips!
We walked back to the Rialto Bridge and, again, had a huge slice of pizza each – there was so much choice and I had one covered in aubergines, courgettes, peppers etc. Yummy. We followed this up with a crepe smothered in chocolate. It was hard work but I managed it lol!
Then we had time to discover some more streets and canals as we made our way towards the Doge’s Palace and to the embankment. There were rows and rows of Gondola’s, lots of restaurants and cafes and an inlet where deliveries were bring offloaded from larger boats onto ones small enough to navigate Venice’s canals. The boats were loaded with all sorts – fruit, veg, clothing – everything you can think of has to be brought in by boat.
We stopped for a coffee and then decided to make our way back to the hotel, where we showered, changed and made our way back to the restaurant we had eaten the night before. This time they didn’t have many tables outside, as the temperature had dropped, so we were shown to a table inside. When the waiter came to take our order, he recognised us from the evening before and even remembered where we had sat. Is this a good thing or not lol?
We had another evening stroll around, it is such a lovely place, no matter what time of day you are there. This was our last night so we wanted to take it all in.
After breakfast the next day, we checked out and made our way back towards the Rialto Bridge. This time we walked over the bridge and wandered around and, I am afraid to say, it was pizza again for lunch. The amount of different flavour combinations are amazing. We then made our way to the Water Bus stop and caught the bus back to the airport, this time taking the route that takes you back up the Grand Canal. This is definitely the most ‘Venetian’ route with Gondolas galore competing for the water.
Venice is definitely a special place and one that I wish everyone could experience. It has certainly earned a place in my heart which will be there forever. I will visit again someday, but for now, it is on to the next trip – Berlin.
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