Let’s start with this – Venice is a magical place. Like Disneyland, for grown ups.
Up until this point, I had never been to Italy. I’ve seen hundreds of photos, dozens of films set in the hazy warm light that radiates from every corner and studied the techniques for painting, glass blowing and ceramics of the Roman Empire. For me, Italy has been the number one place to visit for a very long time. In May the stars aligned and I booked Intrepid Travel’s Umbrian Discovery from Venice to Rome for the middle of June. Let me tell you this – it was exactly what I thought it would be and every second I was like a child on Christmas morning!
Add this to it – my first solo travel experience. My first transatlantic flight.
My first time in a non-English speaking country. Everyone pretty much spoke English.
I came into Venice by boat from Marco Polo Airport. You can arrive by train as well, it was fast and easy to leave this way, but I feel that you just wouldn’t get that crazy excitement from slowly getting closer and closer to Venice. If you have three or more people traveling with you, you could most likely negotiate a good fare with a “taxi” and have a boat all to yourself. The ferry service was slow and crowded but where I was by myself it was the most affordable way to get there by boat. Venice is the most walkable city I’ve visited, but I should add I brought a backpack instead of a suitcase, which I was very grateful for. There is a bridge with stairs every fifty feet which makes it neither suitcase, stroller or wheelchair friendly.
My first night I stayed at Hotel Continental, which is right beside Ferrovia station. I had a single room, extremely basic very typical for Venice but clean and I only used it to shower and sleep – I didn’t need anything more.
I spent the entire first day walking. I walked first to Rialto, on to Saint Mark’s Square and went back to my hotel via the residential area of San Polo. I arrived a day earlier then my tour officially began so when we had our orientation walk on Day 2 of the itinerary (Day 3 in Venice) I had already seen most of where we went. Having someone who knew everything made the whole walk feel different and it was more fun doing it with my group friends. Plus there was a trustworthy non-stranger to take my picture in front of the Rialto bridge.
The mask shop who created for “Eyes Wide Shut”Hotel Belle Arti – if I go back to Venice the location here was hard to beat
I met up with my Intrepid group leader, Massimo, my second morning in Venice when I checked in to Hotel Villa Rosa. He introduced me to some lovely Australians who were on the last day of their “Intrepid: Best of Italy” tour and I walked with them as far as the Peggy Guggenheim collection, where we split. For anyone who appreciates a personal collection of surrealist art, displayed as if it was hanging in your house – you don’t want to miss this. Unlike Dia Beacon, MoMA or the Guggenheim New York, this collection only requires a few hours of the day and has some great works by Kandinsky, Tanguy and Dali. It was one of the highlights of Venice for me.
In the tight and narrow ally to the Guggenheim I found Italy’s best slice to go.Drinkable water fountains come standard in Italy. Those that weren’t are distinctly marked non-potable.
Fresh fruit on every cornerVenice best – Rialto Market
My lovely roomie, Michelle and awesome leader Massimo
Food. I didn’t spend a great deal of time researching restaurants simply because fine dining wasn’t in my budget and Massimo decided where our group ate dinner together. This was entirely optional but everyone in our small group always did. For basic eats, Venice compared with the other four stops on this itinerary wasn’t overly impressive. What the Venetians can do well is happy hour. More accurately Spritz. I arrived in Venice mid-morning and let’s say by 4:00pm bright orange drinks were popping up on every patio. Served with a big bowl of chips. Mmmm. This was Veince’ only surprise (now I’ve ruined it for you) since everything else was well exactly what you see in books, films, etc etc.
When in Venice drink Spritz. Always with the olive.
On the last day, most of us separated into pairs and bought a 18€ day pass for the ferries that would take us to Murano & Burano. These little places are pretty well explained by photos. The further you get from Venice the more local and natural these “towns” felt. Murano was a thirty minute ferry ride, all glass blowing and shops that sold the finished works. It’s impressive, but I’m not a huge fan and shop owners loved to tell us how 50% of shops imported their glass from China and just took the stickers off the bottom. Burano, fifty minutes or so from Venice, is known for lace making and is very tiny. I walked past Trattoria da Romana from an episode of Anthony Bourdain but the little fish risotto cost more then two of my other dinners combined so I passed.
Burano – 45 minutes from Venice with a distinctly more fishing village vibe.
Trattoria da Romano – look familiar fellow Anthony Bourdain fans?
Air – I flew Air Canada from Halifax to Montreal and then Air France from Montreal to Paris and Paris to Venice. Considering both airlines have a 4* rating Air France is quite superior. The level of service was outstanding and the meal for Montreal – Paris (return) was the best I’ve had on any airline. Paris to Venice – my favorite flight to date. It started at Charles de Gaulle with a breakfast of Macarons from Laduree. On the flight, all you can eat croissants and really hot, well brewed coffee – yum. Besides good eats by airline standards, the Boeing Air France Paris to Venice was also super quiet and brand new. I’m not 100% sure of where borders start and end but somewhere over the French/Swiss alps is where we flew and the endless view of mountains blew my mind. I’ve flown over the entire US Midwest and the Grand Canyon and they did not compare. I kid you not, it was that good. Next time.
Overall I loved this place! It was so iconic Italy and literally on every
street canal corner I was crouching down to take more photos. I could have spent a fourth day there, and if I had I would have gone to see the Venice Biennale Architettura 2014.
Next stop, Gubbio!