Buongiorno! I have just been on a Venetian date with my mate Kate and it was as fabulous as we expected. Kate is my friend who was supposed to come to Miami with me. A few months ago, a group of us felt sorry for Kate because she didn’t have a nickname so we renamed her ‘Kath’. Ironically, two weeks after adopting her new name she had a haircut….
When booking our trip we were told that it would be best to sort out the transfers at the airport. After a lengthy conversation with the lady at the kiosk (and a brief Italian lesson) we caught a bus to Roma, which has a connection stop to the water bus. At first it seemed rather daunting, especially in the dark, but it is actually a frequent and efficient system which you get the hang of quite quickly. It’s best to get a travel card at the airport and at €27 (including the airport transfers) for unlimited travel for 3 days, it was very reasonable. Especially in comparison to the 10 minute water taxi that cost us €60.
We stayed in West Venice, in a modest but friendly Best Western Hotel in a ‘suburb’ called Saint Elena. Although it wasn’t the most central location, the regular water buses meant that everything was easily accessible.
Our first daylight experience was a little bit stressful due to our naivety in thinking that the building with the ‘big white dome’ on it was in St Marks Square when in fact, there are lots of buildings with ‘big white domes’ on. After a nice stroll toward what we thought was our destination, we realized that we were actually opposite St Marks Square and we had a great big canal between us. The taxis/buses don’t diagonally cross the canal we wondered off to find a bridge to get us to the other side. What should have been a 5 minute walk ended up taking us an hour as we wiggled through the maze of alleyways and over the pretty bridges that seemed to decorate each corner. Getting lost is a lovely way of sightseeing, I often do it when I’m in London so I can familiarize myself with unknown areas but we had an allocated time for our tour and whilst wearing heels it was quite inconvenient.
We made it just in time for our tour which started at Doges Palace and was spectacularly wonderful. We were marched through the palace by a nice Italian lady who we couldn’t really hear/understand through our walkie-talkie earpieces but it was worth the trip to appreciate the size and beauty of it. The 14th century Venetian Gothic style building contained courts and government institutions and holds one of the largest rooms in Europe (The Chamber of the Great Council) at 53 meters long and 25 meters wide. The room was painted by some of the most famous artists of the 14th century, including Titian, Carpaccio and Pisanello. The picture on the bottom far right (below) is called The Paridiso which is the largest canvas painting in the world and is truly magnificent. We were taken over the bridge of Sighs to the old prison and as part of an extra ‘secret’ tour, you can visit the ‘torture chamber’ and rooms that display the structures that hold up the carved wood ceilings which are elaborately decorated in gold leaf and beautiful murals.
She then moved us on to the second part of our tour at Saint Marks Basilica. You’re not allowed to take pictures inside as it is so sacred but it really was was breathtaking (I did manage to sneak a picture of the beautiful floor, below). Google it, just beautiful. I wouldn’t necessary recommend doing 2 tours back to back as we were a bit ‘toured out’ after a while so we went off to find somewhere for lunch and ordered two small glasses of wine….
I would suggest having a varied selection of Italian themed songs ready for any spontaneous singing that may occur. Unfortunately, I had ‘when the moon hits the sky’ in my head for the whole duration of the trip. I’m actually on the verge of visiting my local Domino’s and buying a number of pizza’s and aggressively throwing slices at their window whilst screaming ‘GET OUT OF MY HEAD’!!! (Sorry Domino’s, not sure why I’m picking on you, it must be your rustic Italian charm)
Although expensive at €80, it is definitely worth getting a gondola. We were approached by a lovely couple from Texas who asked to share the cost and willingly put their life into our hands as we plied Luca (our gondola driver) with wine and announced that we would be doing the ‘driving’.
Ever the picture of class, we floated around the waterways whilst singing (or shouting) the lyrics of the only ‘Italian’ song we knew and heckling ‘CIAO BELLA!’ at every passer by. Bloody Brits.
After our gondola experience (and a stop off for another bottle of wine with our new best friends from Texas), somehow we managed to make it to The Hilton Hotel which boasts the best rooftop bar in Venice before grabbing a caprese salad in a nearby restaurant and eventually jumping back on the public waterway transport, miraculously navigating our way back to our hotel and tucking ourselves into bed by 1am.
The next morning we were quite happy to stay in our hotel feeling sorry for ourselves and snacking on the cake selection that I had smuggled from the breakfast buffet. We had a nap (a rare luxury for a mother with a 3 year old) before getting ready for more explorations after 1pm.
We started at an art gallery in Accedemia which held an exhibition on publishing hosting a range of books dating back to the 1500’s. As Kath pointed out, ‘books aren’t very common now so you may as well just take a trip to your local library if you want to see a load of old paper’ (excellent prospects for a career in tourism). After catching the water bus to ‘the top’ we wanted to walk down the Grand Canal but there isn’t one specific path that runs along it and before we knew it we were completely lost and trapped in the middle of a labyrinth which ended up making me feel quite claustrophobic. It sounds pretty obvious, but there are no roads in Venice… which means that there are no road signs. There are no direction posts or public transport links when you are centered within the heart of Venice and everything looks the same. We walked through the residential area which was spookily eery and quiet and it felt like we were going round in circles and unable to get back to the grand canal.
Longing to come across open space, we finally found ourselves back in civilization where we perched at a nice restaurant and had dinner (and AMAZING hot chocolate) whilst watching the relaxed but busy activity on the canal. A perfect way to end our trip.
I loved Venice and I am happy that we explored the culture, architecture and history of this mystical place. It would be perfect for a romantic break (only 1hr 45minutes from Gatwick) and you wouldn’t need to stay for more than 3 nights but I have to admit, I was slightly happy to return to the mainland (where I am still feeling like I am swaying) and once I’ve stopped humming songs about pizzas I shall head to my nearest park and run barefoot across the grass pretending to be Julie Andrews, before admiring the beautiful Tarmac on the road…. And giving my little Molly Beau the biggest cuddle in the world.
The sun has set on our Venetian adventure but no trip would be complete without another one on the horizon…