Venice was the first leg of our Italy tour and oh, my, what a place to begin! It is dazzling, with a charm that resonates from it’s core; the glimmering grand canal, fabulous venetian architecture and a rainbow of buildings that pop-up sporadically in-between, ahh, bellissimo! I adored our time spent getting lost in the labyrinth of back streets and canals, where each corner turned is just as pretty as the last. Compared to the haste of most cities, the relaxed atmosphere is inimitable; free to enjoy an aperol spritz by the canal front, stroll the galleries or take a water bus to another part of the city. Enjoying Venice is – in the words of Lionel Ritchie – easy. Now, like most of you, I’d heard the rumours that during summer months the canals can smell a little funky but at the beginning of June, in 30 degree heat, only the enticing restaurant aromas were reaching my snout – aptly named as we were little piggies throughout the trip. On that note, the food, oh my! Seafood is a Venetian delicacy and it doesn’t come much fresher. In fact, my favourite meal of the entire trip was a linguini with muscles dish from a restaurant tucked away behind the Rialto Bridge; simple but super fresh and de-licious.
This year the 56th Venice Biennale showcases 136 artists in 89 national pavilions until 22 November. Every two years art lovers flock to Venice to immerse themselves in the world’s biggest art fair. The Biennale is so big that it’s easy to be overwhelmed but we chose to peruse lightly and saw some really cool exhibitions.
Riding the water bus is really convenient and lets you see all corners of the city but a gondola takes you into the nooks. The drivers don’t sing – unless you pay extra to the ones that can – but to compensate for the lack of serenade, ours told us tales and anecdotes about his wonderful city. At one point he said “our city is sinking” which I know is a rather simplistic statement for a much more complex problem but drifting along I realised, there’s something really beautiful about it’s deterioration. Life thrives above, as the derelict ground floors crumble away and I couldn’t help but feel a deeper appreciation for the time we got to spend there.
Where to Stay
We booked into a little family run hotel called Residenza La Loggia, tucked away behind San Marco square, the location couldn’t have been better. Matteo (the owner) made us feel really welcome; surprising us with a bottle of prosecco, delivering breakfast to our room each morning and giving me a necklace as a parting gift – what a sweetheart!
Location: San Marco 1008 Calle dei Fabbri – 30124 Venice
Price: £407 for 3 nights.
Water bus is the most effective way to travel the city. On arrival at the airport, pick up a 3 day Tourist Ticket (and return Transfer by shuttle bus) from the airport to Venice for €52.00. Take shuttle bus #5 from the airport bus station, directly to the top of the Grand Canal.
Things to Do
Head through to the Castello district; and you’ll find it deserted of tourists, just Venetian folk going about their day, along with an array of independent boutiques and antique stores to oppose the cookie-cutter gift shops of the centre.
When in Venice, take a gondola ride; a standard 45 minute ride costs 80 euros but if you want to be a little savvier, wait until the evening as drivers are more inclined to lower their price.
Peruse the galleries; turn any corner and you’ll stumble across some kind of exhibition or museum but there are various showcases at Gardini and of course the Guggenheim museum.
St Marc’s Basilica; is stunning, housing an interesting museum displaying mosaics and ruins that have been uncovered within the building over time. Entry is free (apart from the walk along the rooftop balcony which is only a few euros. You must follow the dress code: covered shoulders and no short skirts or shorts (as is the case with most religious buildings). Most tourist spots in Italy prohibit large bags and rucksacks but there are usually bag holds not too far away so keep a look out.
Doge’s Palace; very beautiful and each room is progressively bigger and grander than the last. This is a must folks! Entry is 18 euros.
St Mark’s Campanile; entry to the tower observatory is by elevator and the resulting views over the City and lagoon are purdy wonderful! Tickets are 8 euros.
Spend a day at the beach; yeah, Venice has a beach, who’d of thunk it? There’s a regular water bus that leaves from several stops along the Grand Canal – just look for the ones heading to the Lido.