I was underwhelmed by Venice for maybe an hour. This was because our boat ride in took us through the dankest industrial routes. By the time we found our accommodation I’d remembered what I’d loved about the hide-and-seek city as a teenager. What fun trying to find a single marble staircase amongst all those canals and bridges, narrow paths and wide piazzas.
Not to say the ride was all bad. I got viciously excited seeing the city bump in to view across the waves. It did, however, take me a while to get into my stride, but by early evening we were making our first curious wrong turns.
Of course it rained – it is January – and it lashed down during our evening walk about. And then it was gone. And for the two whole weeks of our journey through Italy and France we scarely saw a drop of sky liquid. I quickly snapped some reflective shots in Piazza San Marco before dodging drops back to our bed and breakfast. The next day the clouds had parted and the sun was out in full force. Locals were lounging in cafes along the canal with Spritzers in hand.
Tiernan and I met up with one of my friends from my first tour of Ireland Sinead, who has been living a hop, skip and jump from Venice in Treviso. She lead us through the paths to the Academia and we at gorgeous pastries and bakery delights in a cafe over cappuccini. It also happened to be the beginning of Carnivale, so there was the promise of actually seeing the famous Venetian masks in action. During the day, however, there was plenty of window shopping to be had all over the city.
In the afternoon we decided to take a gondola ride. Sinead told us that they average about €60, so we walked about the San Marco side of Rialto for a while before choosing one near our B&B. The ride was short and sweet, almost abrupt, but there is nothing to compare to an actual gondola ride in Venice. Our gondolier, Lucas, whistled Venetian tunes and regaled us with some local history as we explored the almost empty canals. Every bit as romantic as it was supposed to be.
After our aquatic adventure it was time to watch the sunset from Piazza San Marco. Not a lot of museumy, touristy stuff. A lot of walking. Nevertheless a perfect two days in Venice!
We had outrageous good fortune in terms of the weather. It rained again on our final night in Venice and we awoke to the raised paths being put out (a taster of what the sinking city regularly faces) and flooding in some of the lower streets as we marched towards Piazzale Roma to pick up our hire car. Onward Firenze!
Travel Tips for Venice:
- You don’t have to stay in Mestre (the nearest city to Venice on the mainland) to get cheap accommodation. For the modest budget of €25 per person per night you can stay in Venice itself and that will include breakfast. We stayed in the quirkiest and the worst of places – so shop around. At first we stayed in a lovely, though odd, B&B near Rialto. They were, unfortunately, full at the end of our trip. On our last night we were in a horrid 2-star hotel near the train station. You win some, you lose some. Remember – that 25 bucks should get you breakfast, wifi and perhaps and en suite in the low season. If you’re travelling in Winter you don’t have to settle for less. Peak will obviously be more expensive.
- Alilaguna is the name of the water taxi. It is about an hour from the airport to Rialto and costs €13 per person one way or €27 return. The bus is a lot cheaper, but I thoroughly recommend doing it at least once. There is nothing to build you up for your stay and get you excited than approaching the city the way they did in the Renaissance – by water!
- FOOD! Dinner for two in a restaurant will set you back about €50 for one course and drinks near San Marco. Pizza at a Pizzaria is about €5 for a generous slice. Gelato and crepes abound and simply must be sampled, about €5 for a chocolate crepe. Pastries are the way they do things in Europe. You will be plied with them for breakfast, but there are also some darling patisseries where you can purchase takeaway pastries for about a euro each. Delish!
- NO – a traghetto does NOT compare to a gondola ride. Sure, it’s cheaper (significantly) and sure, it does ferry you across the Grand Canal. But it will never be a tacky upholstery, stripey shirt punting, whistling and humming gondola ride! A gondola ride is normally €60 for half an hour. They will tell you that the “normal” price is €80 and that they are giving you a special discount. You’re really not getting one, but that’s just how the pitch goes. Haggle if you want, but don’t pay more than €60. We didn’t bother trying to go cheaper because it was something we really wanted to do. Have cash!
- Tipping is about 10% if a service charge is not included in the bill. But I always say you should leave what the experience was worth. Awesome service always gets an awesome tip!