Few other cities evoke feelings of romance and love and Italian charm like Venice. Venezia as the Italians call it, has inspired artistes and musicians for centuries, attracting them with its inimitable beauty. Whether it was Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”, or Jan Morris’ vivid portrait of the city “The World of Venice” or various Condé Nast features showing some gorgeous pictures of the city in their honeymoon/must see destinations, I always knew I wanted to visit Venice- a veritable city of dreams, quaint alleyways, delectable cuisine, historical bridges, gondolas and colourful Venetian lives along the canal.
Getting to Venice
I took a Euro Rail -Frecciarossa train from Milano Centrale station to Venezia Mestre station, a journey of a little less than two and a half hours. I highly recommend Euro Rail when travelling within Europe. It guarantees the best view and is consistently punctual. Book online and book them well in advance to avoid the most expensive fares. They are also mostly sold out during peak season! My ticket cost me €45.
I was welcomed at Hotel Plaza Venice, right in front of Venice Mestre railway station.
It is perfectly located if you decide to forgo the trek into the city and staying within Venice itself. Carting suitcases around Venice can be quite a hassle and public transport to and from the hotel is excellent. The bus stop and train station both are just across the road. The bus fare is €3 per person (return) and buses run every 10 mins.
I got a beautiful room on the top floor. The hotel also features unique artwork on all floors and a wonderful breakfast. Try the delectable hot chocolate!
Before you go anywhere on a hot August day though, put on some comfortable clothes, carry a bottle of water, apply your best sunscreen, put those shades on and go out there!
Top 5 Touristy things to do in Venice-
1.Get Lost in Venice
There is nothing, I repeat nothing, that is as important when you’re visiting Venice than just wandering aimlessly through its streets and alleys. In a city like Venice, where almost every home is rendered fascinating by the remains of ancient arches and windows juxtaposed with flowery window boxes. Even getting lost is a beautiful experience.
2.Go on a free walking tour
A great way to learn the history behind the places you are seeing and to avoid missing any must-see stops. Venice Free Walking Tour has a few tours that can show you what the city has to offer. Booking in advance is required and you could book online on http://www.venicefreewalkingtour.com/ or http://freetourvenice.com/ . These tours are well structured and you can see the entire city with a group of fellow tourists. The tours are termed free however a suggested gratuity is 20-40€ per person!
3.Visit the Piazza San Marco
The most famous piazza in Venice. Steeped in history, it’s a crowded place, full of pigeons, and occasionally flooded, but always, always a majestic place.
4.What’s Venice without a Ride on a Gondola?
No mode of transportation is more closely associated with it’s city of origin than the Venetian boats known as Gondolas. It has a flat bottom and an elongated banana shape; it’s always black, (There is a fascinating story behind this) and is steered by one person, the Gondoliere. They all wear a striped black and white t-shirt and are easy to spot while walking around town. The most popular area is the shore right in front of St. Mark’s Square. This area has a gondola station, or you can wander the streets and minor canals to find a quieter area to start your trip. The flat rate is €80 for half an hour during the daytime. After 7 pm, it’s €100! But Venice without a Ride on a Gondola? No!!!
Hop into your gondola and enjoy the gorgeous views as the boatman sings you ballads and tells you the secrets of Venice. Gondoliers are the oracles of Venetian history and are treasure troves of information and Stories of ages gone by! As a gondoliere comes to a bend in the canal or a corner he must yell “OY” to call attention to himself. Scream OYYY along with him, and wave to other tourists!
So, yes, the gondola ride is a touristy thing to do, but we saw many happy people walking away after their ride, a once-in-a lifetime experience in this magical city. So, go for it!
5.Tour the Doge’s Palace
A series of doges ruled Venice, and their incredible three-story palace predates the Renaissance. The facade features beautiful arches and pink and white marble. The inside of the palace is remarkable and filled with artwork. Entry fee starts from 19€. There are a range of tours, from the regular tour to the secret palace tour. Pick what suits you best and live the lives of the Doges who shaped Italy! Book tickets online on http://www.tickitaly.com/tickets/doge-palace-tickets.php
Food hopping in St mark’s square
While in St Mark’s Square grab an Aperol Spritz- the traditional Italian aperitif cocktail or a Gelato, or both! They keep you going and ensure you aren’t dehydrated with all that walking.
Aperol Spritz is bitter! But it gets to you and walking around with a take-away Aperol Spritz is the way to be in Italy!
Eat bigoli in salsa, a signature starter dish of Venice. The Venetian lagoon is home to all sorts of wonderful crustaceans, making Venice the perfect place for seafood lovers. Moleche, small green crabs, are a must try for seafood fans! And gelato, loads and loads of it!
End the day by dining at a restaurant by the water and lose yourself in trying to decide what’s more appetising- The food or the view!
For all its beauty and charm Venice is slowly falling to one of the modern era’s most pressing issues. This charming city of canals is slowly filling up with litter and pollution thanks to innumerable visits from cruise ships and day-trippers. This has led to steep pricing, the presence of a slum, plenty of graffiti and Venetian buildings cracked and covered in mould, and all this because of a tourist industry that has boomed and kept booming for decades. Ironically, this has not contributed much
to the growth or prosperity of the city. It’s time we all became more responsible tourists before this amazing place becomes something we read about only in books. The permanent population of Venice has fallen from 120,000 residents in 1980 to just 60,000 today and is still declining. Meanwhile, some 15 million tourists visit each year and the number is only projected to go up!
Day 1 in Venice was very touristy so on the second day, we decided to do the exact opposite. Unlike the first day, we went in the opposite direction of where the crowd headed.
Mountains, vineyards and parasailing
Yes, mountains in Venice!
A mere two-hours away from the city, is an untouched part of Venice which tourists haven’t discovered yet. The region of Veneto, is in the northeast of the Italian peninsula, between the Piave and the Livenza.
Prosecco Tour and Tasting
Cantina Toni Doro II Prosecco- is a family run vineyard that has existed since 1956 between the charming hills of Vittorio Veneto. Their grapes are hand-picked and we joined them to explore their wine making journey. Enjoy varieties of great prosecco along some delicious cheese and ham here.
You can also go parasailing & paragliding in the region and experience some breath-taking views! Sadly, I couldn’t squeeze that into my schedule since it wasn’t something I had been expecting.
And that’s about it! Venice was a collage of beautiful experiences and I wish with all my heart that it remains as beautiful and magical as always for many generations to come.
We are heading to Rome next and that’s my personal favourite! So come along…