After spending time on the coast and green countryside of Sicily, it was time to make my way up to Italy’s highly populated destinations for an eight day highlights tour, starting in Venice.
The floating city of Venice is a World Heritage Site that is said to be one of Europe’s most romantic cities (I admit, I could certainly feel the love). This fascinating city is set on a lagoon, separated by canals and connected with bridges. Founded way back in the 5th century, Venice is famous for incredible architecture and artwork. Unfortunately my short stay didn’t leave me enough time to visit the many museums and galleries however I did get a chance to marvel at some of the cities beautiful buildings.
The main train station is Venizia St Lucia (Venice Grand Canal) and as I was on a budget tour, our hotel was just one stop away near Venizia Maestro station.
It was unexpectedly hot during my stay (I had to buy a straw hat to save me from getting burnt) so on the first afternoon I found a restaurant to sit back in and take a break from the glaring sun. I ordered a simple dish of gnocchi pesto and was blown away by how delightfully light and fluffy the little potato pillows were. It was like meeting for the first time as I realised that I really didn’t know gnocchi at all.
After lunch I took a stroll down some of the narrow alleys – past gelato stands and pastry shops, by rows of dodgy guys selling convincing (and illegal) copies of expensive handbags, across little bridges over green waterways, within a maze of coloured buildings and wandering tourists.
On my second and full day I took an early train and having forgetfully left my map in the hotel, decided to aimlessly wander the city without guidance. For a time I followed two old nuns as I figured there was no way that women of the cloth would lead me astray.
After a few hours I ended up in the Piazza San Marco, the home of Venice’s best known landmark, the Basilica di San Marco. The exterior of the cathedral had beautiful mosaics, statues and bronze artwork (and a long line of tourists waiting to go inside).
As romantic as they are, at around €70-80 gondola rides are super expensive so I had a tip from gal pal Sophie from The Sticky and Sweet who recommended doing a 2 hour walking tour (including a gondola ride) for €40. By the time I found the information booth where tickets were sold I was 20 minutes late so instead I opted for a 1 hour boat tour of the Grand Canal for €30. This turned out to be a great idea as I had a guided tour of Venice, view from the water and got to rest my weary legs from the hours of walking.
Seeing the impressive Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge) was a highlight – it’s one of the main bridges over the Grand Canal and is lined with busy shops and stalls.
Walking, sightseeing, shopping, getting lost – it’s all hungry work. I stopped for lunch at one of the many restaurants near Piazza San Marco and had a few bellinis and a mushroom pizza. A bellini is an Italian cocktail originating from Venice that has prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) and peach nectar. Very easy to drink they are fresh and light with a little bubble. I might just have to make some of these at home.
Having been warned about scammers and pickpockets in big tourist cities, I saw three young Germans seemingly being scammed on the water bus. A woman in plain clothes, very quickly flashed some sort of badge then loudly and argumentatively fined the trio for not having a valid ticket. She made them each pay €59 (in cash) and I noticed a sticker on the window of the bus stated that the fine was only €52. She was quite aggressive with the bewildered travellers and once she had their money, she stuffed it into her pockets. It could all have well been legit but the fact that she didn’t then check the tickets of any other passengers made it seem a bit fishy to me. I wondered why no one else (locals or other Italians) stopped her or said anything. Would you step in and say something if you saw someone being duped?
While certainly not long enough, a day and a half in Venice was great for getting a taste of the unique watery city and the want to come back and explore it in more detail. May was a good time of year to go as it was warm but not nearly as busy as peak season in July / August. Next time I’d like to visit some of the surrounding 118 small islands like Murano, famous for glassmaking techniques that date back to the 8th century.
Next up, a short stay on the Italian coast in Cinque Terre.
Have you been to Venice? What was your favourite part?