Boy! Do I love Venice! Its’ tiny streets, hidden walkways, and beautiful bridges that intertwine like a complicated maze make you feel like you are in some magnificent fairytale. Venice is somewhere I think everyone should explore in their lifetime. I have found that most people either love it or hate it because without a doubt, it is very touristy. I personally love it, it just has this charm and elegance that is like no other place on Earth. The people are very friendly and are proud of their unique home. Everyone is in a good mood because most people there are on vacation!! My mom, sister, and I flew to Venice from Brussels on Ryanair. We flew out of the smaller Brussels airport (Charleroi) which I don’t recommend because it is a pain to get there and is best to arrive via taxi which can be costly. I always suggest flying out of Brussels International when possible. I have now used Ryanair a few times and it has been great for my weekend travels. When we arrived at Venice Treviso airport, we took a shuttle bus to the port of San Marco to get on a water taxi to our hotel. Be aware, private water taxis are very expensive (around 50-75 euros one way) so I suggest taking the public water bus for 12 euros which is what we did. Once we arrived at our stop we got off and lugged our suitcases through the streets and up and down the bridges…………. I have now done this two years in a row. You would have thought I would have learned the first time. Long story short if you don’t pack light and you have quite a ways to go, either take a private water taxi to get you directly to your destination or pay a porter to haul your luggage to your hotel!!! Walking with luggage through uneven narrow cobblestone streets with thousands of people is not worth it when you don’t know exactly where you are going. Just some advice! Haha
We stayed in Hotel Colombina. It was a lovely hotel with all the amenities located near San Marco’s Square. It was a great location! It was surrounded by marvelous restaurants and some great shopping. They also have a private water dock if you choose to take a private water taxi to and from the hotel which is very convenient. Breakfast was included and my mom used booking.com to reserve the hotel. Many people have gone to using this method because you don’t have to pay until you get there. I would say three days in Venice is the perfect amount of time to get all of the main sightseeing completed. You can easily see all of the main sights in the first two days, but it is nice to have a free day to relax and just walk around, shop, and get lost in its myriad of streets.
The first site we explored was the Doge’s Palace. In fact, when you buy your tickets you can buy a ticket for 13 euros that includes Doge’s Palace, the Museo Correr, and the Archaeological Museum. We only went to Doge’s Palace and the Museo Correr. The Doge’s Palace is located in “Piazza San Marco” and is a venetian gothic style palace. The Doge of Venice lived in this palace and in 1923 it became a museum. The museum allows you to tour through the beautiful court rooms lined with gold molding and trim with gorgeous paintings on every ceiling and many of the walls. It also allows you to tour the prison that is part of the palace and you will get to walk through the famous “Bridge of Sighs”. I highly recommend going through Doge’s Palace because it allows you to learn about the history of Venice.
Basilica San Marco
Next stop, I suggest heading right next door to the Basilica of San Marco which used to be the Doge’s chapel back in the day. Entry is free into the basilica and make sure your shoulders are covered and your dress/pants are knee length or you won’t be allowed to enter. (THIS GOES FOR ALL BASILICAS IN ITALY!!!!) What I always do is bring a scarf in my purse just in case my shoulders weren’t covered or my dress didn’t pass the length test. Basilica San Marco is a gorgeous basilica covered in mosaic tiles. It is a gothic style church with a Byzantine architecture. It was completed in 1092 and is a Roman Catholic Church. Beware, the lines are long, but they go pretty fast and it is worth the wait to see this beautiful basilica. On the second floor of the basilica is a museum and I went there on my first trip to Venice. It has many historical items in and it allows you to learn more about Venice.
THIS IS A MUST!!!! Be prepared to pay for the ride of a lifetime. A gondola ride cost at least 80 euros, but it is worth it and there are reasons why it is so expensive, so save that 80 euros and go find a gondolier. There are docks all over the city and you can do a group ride that is less expensive, but the private rides are the best! Gondolier gondolas are specially made just for them due to their height and weight. These are beautiful boats made of eight types of wood and 280 other pieces. While on our gondola ride we struck up a conversation with our gondolier and he informed us of the process to become a professional. You must first complete training, an apprenticeship, and pass an exam before you are granted a license. The exam consist of information about Venetian history, foreign language, and the proper skills to maintain and use the gondola. It is quite an art. I don’t suggest buying tickets online for this because there are gondoliers every where and I feel you can just do it whenever you are feeling the time is right.
The Island of Murano
Murano is an island just north of Venice that creates some of the most beautiful glass works you have ever seen. You can get to this island by taking a ferry. We took a ferry from Piazza San Marco ( Line 7) and it allows you to get off at four different stops at Murano. The tickets are nine euros a person roundtrip. I highly suggest picking a factory to go in and watch a glassblowing demonstration. They will show you how they blow the glass and then form it into the beautiful designs they do today. You also learn how they incorporate different colors in the glass and how long it takes them to make certain pieces. Our glass artisan made a glass horse. Then you can walk around the souvenir shops which contain pieces of all shapes, sizes, and prices. This is a great place to pick up little gifts for friends and family, for example, wine stoppers and jewelry. I highly suggest a visit!
In this museum there are five different wings that display different types of art, sculptures, and layout designs of rooms from when Napoleon was in Venice. This was a very interesting museum and I was happy I got to tour it because I did not get to go here last year when I travelled abroad with my class for a month. The five wings are the Neoclassical room, Imperial Apartments, Venetian Culture, Wunderkammer, and the Pinacoteca. I really enjoyed this museum and learning about the history of Venice.
Wine & Dine
I have been to Italy twice and it is very hard to go wrong with Italian food. I have not been to one bad restaurant in Italy. Ask your waiter about their specials and try something new! I personally discovered my liking for Bellinis this time around and those were nice and refreshing to drink when I didn’t want to drink wine. In most restaurants, water cost just as much, if not more than a good glass of wine. I also suggest trying the house wines if you are looking for the cheapest glass. I do have one recommendation for you if you find yourself in Venice. For two nights in a row we went to a restaurant called Ristorante Marciana because we had such a wonderful experience the first night. We had fabulous food and the staff was so fun and nice we couldn’t pass it up. We went there for the second night and they got my sister a birthday cake and helped us celebrate her special day! So, go see Viktor and Joele and tell them Scarlett sent you!! The restaurant is located near Saint Marco’s Square and near Hotel Colombina.
I also suggest going to have a drink or gelato by the Rialto Bridge and just enjoy its beauty. The Rialto Bridge is the oldest bridge across the grand canal. It was completed in 1599 and it has little shops located inside the bridge if you are interested in a little souvenir. I don’t suggest eating right by the Rialto bridge because it’s more of a tourist trap and the prices will be higher.
~NOTE: You don’t need to tip in Italy, but some places in touristy areas expect it and will tell you the tip isn’t included, but that being said there were a few restaurants that went above and beyond, and you will want to tip because they provided such a great experience. Also if they provide you a drink or an appetizer on the house, then you should most definitely leave a tip!!!
I hope you have enjoyed my advice and stories from Venice! I recommend to add Venice to your travel bucket list and experience firsthand what a wonderful city it is. This is definitely perfect vacation if you are looking for a romantic destination! Venice is like no other place in the world. That is the one thing I love about Italy, each city could be a country of its own because they each have their own unique specialities and culture within them. If I had to live in Europe, I would choose Italy. Not to mention the weather is very nice!
P.S. “Of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport” ~anonymous