Let’s get back into the swing of things with a new travel post. It has occurred to me several times that I haven’t been out of the country since November, which is very unusual for me. I don’t think I’ll be beating my record of 7 countries in a year, but that’s alright. I’ll be off to Croatia in August, so at least I’m getting out a bit. Not to mention, Mutay and I did visit Edinburgh in February!
For my mum’s 60th birthday I treated her to a trip to Venice because you only turn 60 once, right? To be honest, it was also an excuse for me to come along, and I managed to lock in a good price with my sister accompanying us as well.
We arrived in Venice pretty late on Monday night, so we didn’t do anything when we got to the hotel except unpack and fall asleep straight away. The real fun started on Tuesday.
CA’ D’ORO, CHIESAS AND SO MANY BRIDGES 🌉
This day consisted of a lot of walking, which I was definitely not ready for. Our first stop was Ca’ d’Oro, “Golden House”, a palace overlooking the Grand Canal. Built between 1428 and 1430, it is one of the oldest palaces in the city. We didn’t stay long here but we did admire the mosaics that adorned the palace floor and the gallery on the upper floors. There were many busts, statues and paintings. We also got to witness a stunning view of the Grand Canal from the top floor!
After Ca’ d’Oro we headed over Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Miracoli located in the city’s historic Jewish Ghetto. This church holds a portrait of the Madonna which many believe to be miraculous. You have to pay €3 to enter, but that’s mainly to help with the upkeep of the church. Fun fact, the painting is said to have brought someone back to life! The inside was beautiful with white, grey and pink marble decorating the walls. As with all churches, I found it really peaceful.
Our next stop was Ponte di Rialto, one of the oldest bridges to cross the Grand Canal. It was insanely busy, as expected, but I did manage to snap a few photos! It’s a huge bridge, and I would recommend trying to get here as early as possible because of how busy it gets. On either side of the bridge are rows of shops, which I think is pretty cool. Considering it started off as a wooden bridge, it has definitely come a long way.
After the bridge, we popped into Chiesa di San Salvador – this church was free to get in. There are many, many churches around the city some of which you have to pay, but you if don’t wish to you can always admire the architecture from the outside. Venice boasts some beautiful architecture, and will definitely appeal to the architect junkies out there. Built in the Baroque and Renaissance style, legend has it that Bishop S. Magnus saw a vision of Jesus asking him to build a church on this site. The history behind many of the churches is so fascinating!
Finally, after much walking over many bridges, we reached Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square). This place was probably the most exciting area for us to visit and it is Venice’s most famed tourist attraction. A colleague I used to work with actually proposed to his girlfriend here! Hella cute. St. Mark’s Square holds the Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark’s Basilica), and if you don’t have Skip-The-Line tickets it is literally hours to get in. When we first arrived, the queue was snaking all the way around to the Doge’s Palace! Speaking of the Doge’s Palace, we decided not to go here only because they don’t do single entry tickets and you’d have to either buy a ticket for all the museums in St. Mark’s Square or all the museums in general.
St. Mark’s Square is actually the only ‘piazza’ in Venice, all the other squares are called ‘campi’. The square is surrounded by buildings on three sides and open on one side where you’ll find the gondola service. There are loads of stalls and restaurants where you can even catch some live bands! It was very busy in the square with everyone crowding around the Basilica trying to get that Instagram snap on point (me included) and there were so many bloody pigeons! Bleurgh!
We decided to leave the Basilica for the next day as the queue was way too long, and there was no way we would stand there for hours especially in that heat. The square also holds Campanile di San Marco (St. Mark’s Bell Tower), a huge tower which is right near the Basilica. Originally a lighthouse and watch tower, it has undergone several reconstructions and currently houses 5 bells: the Mezza Terza Bell announced the Senate; the Nona Bell announced midday; the biggest bell, the Marangona Bell, announced the beginning and end of the work day; the Trottiera announced council meetings and the smallest bell, the Renghiera Bell announced executions. It was nice to admire it from the outside, but we ended up not going up it.
After the square, we visited another one of Venice’s famous bridges, Ponte dei Sospiri (The Bridge of Sighs), the meaning behind the name has several stories. One is the sighs that the prisoners would make as they crossed the bridge from the Palace to the Old Prison and another is that of the sighs of lovers as they passed under the bridge on a gondola (cheese). The bridge itself is quite small and was hella crowded when we got there, and again, I would recommend coming here early if you can!
Having exhausted ourselves with so much walking we went on a search for somewhere to eat and we ended up in Bar Oasi, purely because my sister and I thought the waiter was cute. I had one of many pasta dishes that I would have on this trip, starting with the spaghetti alla bolognese. Simple, yet so tasty – I had to post a picture of it along with a pasta pun 😜 We were thoroughly exhausted at this point, so we headed back to the hotel to relax. We ordered room service and I caught up on the latest episode of GoT.
BASILICA DI SAN MARCO, ‘FLOWER’ WAITERS AND A GONDOLA RIDE 🚣🏾
We would start our mornings early, mainly because the breakfast buffet was between 6:30 – 9:30 AM. It’s definitely good to start off early when in Venice though because it can get insanely busy. Also, because we stayed in Mestre, rather than in the city centre it would have been harder for us to get back if we stayed out later.
So, Wednesday morning we started our day at Arsenale di Venezia (The Venetian Arsenal) which is a complex of former shipyards and armouries where you can see Porta Magna, the Arsenal’s land gate. It’s not that busy around the Arsenal, so I don’t think it’s on many tourists lists, but I would definitely recommend a visit because it’s nice and peaceful and there’s a really cute bridge.
After the Arsenal, we headed over to Scuola Di S. Giorgio Degli Schiavoni which is one of the city’s most historic confraternity houses (a Christian voluntary association of lay people created for the purpose of promoting special works of Christian charity or piety). We found many scenes depicting St. George slaying the dragon, as well as panels featuring St. Jerome and St. Tryphone. The scuole is small, and you do have to pay to get in. If you’re lucky, the guy will mistake you for a student like he did with me and you’ll pay €3 instead €5 😜
The next stop was Riva Degli Schiavoni, which is a waterfront promenade located between Piazza San Marco and Arsenale di Venezia. It’s really nice to stroll along here and you’ll find many market stalls where you can pick up souvenirs.
We were meant to pop into Punta della Dogana, an art museum, however, after finding out it cost €13 to get in and having already spent so much getting into places we decided to skip this. We did manage to view ‘Mermaid’ by Damien Hirst, which is at the back of the building overlooking the water and is one of the 180 works in his ‘Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable”. Stunning sculpture!
Before the Punta della Dogana, we did find a random exhibit for the illy Art Collection at the Magazzini del Sale which is in its 25th year. You can find out more about the exhibit here. It was a really interesting find and I enjoyed viewing the different cups on display – especially loved the alien one.
We found a random restaurant called Ai Fabbri Trattoria where I had the gnocchi alla bolognese, which again was simple but delicious. We were given sweets at the end of the meal and when we asked the waiter was kind of sweets they were he responded with, “They’re flower… like me” 😭 We think he meant sweet, bless him, but it did make us laugh. The other waiter looked like my ex, though, which stressed me out and I had to text Mutay about it who said it was probably him in disguise trying to make sure I got holiday anxiety 😂
After eating we headed to the Basilica! It’s free to get in, but in order to avoid waiting in the queue, we opted to get the €2 Skip-The-Line tickets. We actually got turned away the first time because you can’t bring backpacks inside and also because you need to cover your shoulders and legs when you go in. We all had to buy this dusty orange wrap for €1 before we were allowed in. The Basilica was absolutely stunning, though, albeit very dark inside! You also have to pay extra if you want to see St. Mark’s treasure, the museum or if you to climb to the top of the terrace. When I tell you Venice is expensive…
The most exciting part of the day was the gondola ride we took – we opted for the long ride and the gondolier was a really nice man who explained to us the sights along our journey. We passed under the Bridge of Sighs and the gondolier told us the next time we are there with a boyfriend, you have to kiss when you pass under the bridge 😂 We also passed Casanova’s house, which gave me David Tennant feels because he was brilliant in his role as Casanova, as well as Marco Polo’s house! The gentle rocking of the gondola nearly put me to sleep, haha. We didn’t get serenaded but there was plenty of music surrounding us and a few gondoliers we passed were singing, which was nice. It was just as nice quiet with just the gentle sounds of the river surrounding us.
After the gondola ride, we stopped by for some gelato which AH-MAY-ZING. I got a regular cone with three flavours: oreo, dulce latte and chocolate chips covered in caramel sauce 😍 It was a messy affair, but it was so delicious! I would recommend Gelato Fantasy as their scoops are massive, so you definitely get more for your money. After gelato, we decided to head back to the hotel where we had dinner. I’m not even gonna write about the dinner we had because it was so disappointing 😢
GLASS BLOWING, COLOURFUL BUILDINGS AND MORE GELATO 🍨
We had had enough of churches and galleries at this point and all the ones on my guide for day 3 were indicating you had to pay to get in, which frankly we’d also had enough of. Instead, I researched free things to do in Venice and was surprised that Burano and Murano weren’t on my list anyway! Nevertheless, we took the water bus from Piazzale Roma to Murano.
Murano has many stops, but we got off Murano Faro where you can go to a glass blowing demonstration. Murano is famed for its glass making, so you will find many shops displaying glass wares. Murano is composed of seven islands which are all linked together by bridges – it’s super easy to get around, so it really doesn’t matter where you get off the water bus.
When you come out the station, you can turn left to visit the shops, etc. or turn right for the glass blowing demonstrations. We watched a demonstration at Vetreria Artistica Colleoni, where it is €10 per person, however, the €10 can then be used as credit in their gift shop, so a win/win really. The demonstration was amazing – we got to see the guy make a glass vase complete with decoration as well as make a horse in under a minute. To show how hot the glass gets, the speaker put a piece of paper near the horse and it burst into flames! It was very hot in there, though, I was literally sweating my balls off. We were lucky to catch the demonstration as well because the following day they would be closed for a month because it’s too hot to be doing glass making in the summer!
We explored Murano a bit more, before heading back to the station and catching the water bus to Burano. Burano is made up of four islands and is famed for its embroidery and colourful homes. I absolutely loved Burano! The colourful buildings honestly made me so happy and even though there were quite a few tourists it was still nice and quiet. If you want to get away from the noisiness of main Venice, then I would suggest taking a trip to Murano and Burano.
My mum and I stopped by Museo Del Merletto, which is a lace museum and was once the lace school of Burano. The embroidery we saw were so delicate and my mum was certainly enamoured, being a seamstress and all.
After the museum, we decided to grab lunch at Restaurant Galuppi where I opted for the tortelloni ai Funghi porcini – HMM. The tortelloni was stuffed with cheese and spinach, which made it extra delicious! We made a few stops at the lace stores and stalls before heading back to St. Mark’s Square to pick up even more souvenirs. I finally got a shot glass to add to my collection.
We then decided to get gelato because when in Venice and you can never have enough gelato, honestly. We got it from a different place and the scoops weren’t as big 😢 Still, it was very yummy and I opted for strawberry, cream cherry and vanilla flavours. It tasted liked bubble gum! After gelato, we headed back to the hotel before going to Roadhouse Grill for dinner where I had to fattest T-bone steak 😍 We then ended up going to bed early because we had a flight at 7:45 AM the next morning!
Venice is a stunning city. You’ll only really need to spend a few days here because it is very much a walking city, so everything is easily accessible. It is very expensive, which is not surprising because it is such a tourist attraction but when in Venice, amirite? Venice is the perfect getaway, whether you’re with your partner or with family, and it’s even better in the summer months because the weather is beautiful. Art, culture and architecture – there’s something for everyone in this city!
- I used visitacity.com to get an idea of what we were going to do whilst in Venice. You’ll find 1 to 3-day guides on the site, and you can even get the app and download the guide for offline use! It was definitely very useful. Thanks to Sharmayne for suggesting this site! I’ll be using it when I head off to Croatia ☺️
- On our first day, we only took the bus which is €1.50 each way, which also ended up with us doing A LOT of walking (I guess that’s what I get for complaining about cardio all the time). I’d suggest going for the Vaporetto/Bus pass which will cut down the walking time. You can get: 24 hours: €20 / 48 hours: €30 / 72 hours: €40 / 7 days: €60
- As I mentioned the Basilica is free, but if you can’t stand queues then head to this site and get the €2 skip-the-line tickets. Make sure your shoulders and legs are covered when you visit, and no backpacks. If you happen to have one then they do have a free locker service around the corner of the Basilica.
- I opted for a hotel that included a full breakfast so that we could fill ourselves before lunch. I would suggest getting your big meal at lunchtime because it is pretty pricey eating out. For the three of us, prices ranged from €50 – 80.
- Take a day for Murano and Burano as it is a fairly long journey on the water bus from the mainland of Venice.
- We actually didn’t stay in the centre of Venice and instead stayed in Mestre, mainly because it was much cheaper, and it was only a 25-minute bus journey to get to Piazzale Roma which is basically the entrance of the city centre.
- If you go to the gondola service by St. Mark’s Square there are two options: a short ride is €80 and a long ride is €120. I know, I know – it is expensive but did you really visit Venice if you didn’t go on a gondola? Also, escape premium prices and take a ride before 7 PM 😉
Ending this post with these photos my sis took of me 😜