Venice is just one of those places where you know it’s there…but you don’t really believe it exists! I’d seen it in movies and dreamt about it but it was still so surreal being there. One of the wonderful things about traveling here is that the train station is right next to the dock, so you can grab your luggage and then walk over to the boats. Of course, we consulted our Rick Steves’ guide book and knew that we could jump on a vaparetto here and take a long, slow ride up the Grand Canal to our hotel room, which was close to St. Mark’s Basilica. Again, I felt like I was in Vegas or Disneyland. It just didn’t seem real! As we cruised down the Grand Canal on the way to our hotel, I tried to imagine what this looked like hundreds of years ago. This really wasn’t too difficult because I don’t believe things had changed that much.
We got off the vaparetto at the dock we thought was correct and started walking toward our hotel. Using GPS is SORT of helpful in Venice. Ultimately, you just need to be very friendly and ask for help when trying to figure out where you are going. We wandered up and down the streets until we finally came to our hotel. It was so hard to keep going and not stop at all the shops, the food markets, the large piazza (square) in front of the basilica, but we finally made it to our room. We stayed at the Rosa Salva Hotel and we were very happy there. Wonderful, friendly service, and in the heart of Venice.
We had been told that Venice was very small and that we didn’t need much time here, so we came arrived Friday afternoon and left Sunday afternoon. That was about right. I could have added another day to keep us from rushing but I was satisfied. If you have time, stay longer! You find little treasure here and one of the things I found was my favorite pizza in the whole world! Here it is! It was just around the corner from the hotel. There was some sort of little mushroom on it that rocked my world! Combining two of my favorite things, pizza and bruschetta…what could be better?
We spent our first afternoon just amazed at the sights. We wandered up and down little sidestreets, walked to the Rialto Bridge, and marveled at the gondolas. I was determined to get Zack on one of these little romantic boats but knew I would have to bide my time. He didn’t think it was going to be worth the expense…and it was quite an expense.
Since we got to Venice in the late afternoon, we didn’t have time to do much exploring, but we sure enjoyed the evening! We were about to discover the next day the biggest problem with Venice. That is, cruise ships come in during the night and start unloading their passengers around 9-10 am in the morning. This makes Venice almost unbearable. However, they all leave at night! So, you get to enjoy Venice as it was intended, casually. The days were brutally hot but the evenings were cool and pleasant. There are these cafes that surround the outside of St. Mark’s Square and they have live entertainment which is absolutely worth the exorbitant price they charge for food and beverages if you want to sit and sip. However, we found that if you walk to the edge of the square and just around the corner, the entertainment and food were just as good and you could still see the basilica in all its glory. We sat for a hour or two listening to the singing and looking at the buildings. All I can say is “Wow!”
The next day we awoke to a CROWDED city, full of tourists fresh off of the SEVEN cruise ships that had come in while we were asleep. My husband is absolutely intolerant of crowds, so I had the idea to head over to the little island of Burano. Thanks Rick Steves! This was one of the highlights of our visit! We had to get out of Venice so we took a boat from a nearby dock through the bay to this pastel little town known for its lace-making. I would recommend that you absolutely do NOT miss this place. Not only was it devoid of tourists but it was so picturesque that it seemed unreal. All of the homes and shops were different colors and there were gardens everywhere. I could have spent an entire day here, but we had to get back to Venice because we had an appointment at the Campanile, or bell tower next to the basilica.
I highly recommend going online and purchasing tickets to the Campanile, or bell tower. There were people lined up outside in huge lines, but since we had an appointment, we got to bypass them all! Why wait in line when you don’t have to! The view from the top and dazzling because we could see a 360-degree view of Venice. You really can’t get a grasp of it from the ground. Luckily, this time we didn’t have to walk the whole way and instead got to ride an elevator. I don’t think I would have made it otherwise. After we came down from the tower we walked through St. Mark’s Basilica. I think outside of this duomo was more impressive than the inside. The one thing that just blew my mind though was the amount of cold leaf that they used for decorating!
Since we didn’t have much time in Venice we had to hurry and do some souvenir shopping. We walked over the Rialto Bridge and into the heart of the shopping district. We got lost for a little while, but that’s OK! How fun to just wander around and have no idea where you are going! On the way, we grabbed some pastries and cappuccino as well. Yum!
To avoid the crowds again to the heat, we purchased a ticket from the Correr Museum and made an appointment to see the Doge’s Palace in the evening. Best decision ever! We were almost the only people in the entire palace. This may seem like a place you think you can skip but I would highly encourage you to see this! It was much more spectacular than St. Mark’s Basilica in my opinion. In actuality, I believe it rivaled the opulence of the Vatican. The ceilings again were my favorite. Covered in paintings and gold.
In the palace there is an entrance to the Bridge of Sighs and you can actually walk over it. Trials would be held in the palace and then prisoners walked over the bridge to the prison on the other side. This was often the last sight they ever saw of Venice.
I just couldn’t leave Venice without a gondola ride. These are NOT inexpensive, so Zack kept trying to talk me out of it. How in the world can anyone come all this way and then not go on a gondola ride?! He eventually caved in and we cruised through the canals with our gondolier singing to us (when he wasn’t looking on his phone). These boats are incredibly impressive and intricately decorated. Well worth the money!!
I know this is cheesy, but who can resist selfies when you are traveling!!!??? If you have any questions about traveling to Venice, feel free to contact me…or read Rick Steves’ Guide like I did!