Two days in Venezia (Venice)
After two trains, we arrived in the one-of-a-kind, no where like it, you’ll either love or only kind of love it, city of Venice. Nothing can compare to the view as you walk out of the Santa Lucia train station and immediately see the gondolas, small boats and mini ferries sailing down the Grand Canal! And to get to the majority of Venice, you have to immediately walk over a bridge and see this …
I strategically picked accommodation that ticked two very important boxes: 1. that we could walk to and from the train station without too much difficulty and 2. wasn’t ridiculously expensive. After quite a lot of searching, I found what we needed in B&B San Giacomo Venezia. The apartment is in a non-descript three – four storey building in a very quiet part of San Polo, and had, as I discovered when we arrived, an owner that wasn’t expecting us! I later found out that she had emailed me earlier in the day but we had been travelling since the early morning so I hadn’t seen it. While she wasn’t happy with us arriving unannounced, she ended up being more than accommodating despite needing to leave to take her young daughter somewhere. She was absolutely lovely and between telling us that our unexpected arrival meant we were not going to be able to check in for awhile and about 5 minutes later, she came down stairs (we had been communicating from street level, she was up on the top floor talking to us out the window) and showed us the room. The rooms have shared bathrooms but since there are only three rooms, it was never an issue, nor did we actually see any other guests.
As much as I love Venice, the best part of the day was when she finally told us that there was a package for us. Since it had taken awhile for her to mention it, I thought for sure it hadn’t arrived. (It was a very important parcel with two our of passports that we’d asked to be delivered from Greve in Chianti to Venice. We only realised we didn’t have them when we arrived in Cinque Terre three days earlier).
We came to find out that another guest saw the post man trying to deliver something and between her and the owner, they were able to chase him down the street and get him to deliver the parcel. Grazie Mille lady I will never meet!! After a huge relief of not needing to travel to Milan to have emergency passports made and booking new flights, we could finally relax!
After dropping off our bags, we set off on Operation ‘Find the Italian Guy Who Made My Kangaroo Last Year”. During our quick trip to Venice the year before, I bought a small glass kangaroo. During the journey home, his foot had broken off, so I thought I’d bring it with me on this trip and get the artist to fix it. After about two hours of wandering fairly aimlessly (since I wasn’t sure of the name of the store and only vaguely had an idea of the area), we finally found it! The beauty of Venice is that all the detours and the dead ends just meant that we were able to see more back streets and alleyways than we would have otherwise explored. Of course, it’s always a surprise to turn a corner and run into the Grand Canal!
After a bit more wandering and a stop for some lunch, we set off to the train station to pick up Jarrad, who was arriving from Rome. After taking him to the B&B, we decided it was a good time to have a bit of a break. By this point it was mid-afternoon and we had been going non-stop for hours.
After a bit of recuperating, we set off again, this time in search of some dinner. We ended up in a very touristy area in the Santa Croce district. The meal was very forgettable (the restaurant is rated very low on trip advisor) and definitely not the greatest meal of the trip. More on that later.
After a lovely breakfast at the B&B, we set off early to see the Rialto Markets. It’s very worth getting an early start to miss the crowds!
I ended up buying fresh figs from one of the vendors, trying to recreate the amazingness that were the figs at Castello di Verazzano. They were very good, but not quite the same.
After some more wandering, we joined a ‘free’ walking tour creatively called ‘Venice Free Walking Tour‘. The walking tour lasted about three hours and focused on the Cannaregio district, which is a (relatively) quiet and authentic area of Venice. This group’s theory is that the major sites of the Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco can easily be done on your own, so they specialise in taking groups to the areas of Venice you wouldn’t necessarily find yourself. Our tour started at Campo Della Fava, with highlights including this church, which we wouldn’t have found on our own.
And a palazzo like this:
There was a cafe / Spritz break about halfway through the tour to keep up everyone’s energy. Besides many examples of previously decadent palazzi now converted into ‘modern’ homes, one of the highlights was a very old bookstore, that had converted a small canoe into a display cabinet and a staircase made out of old books.
Overall I thought the tour was really well run, we saw so many places we would have never found by ourselves, but I found the group size a bit large (probably about 30 people). And this was despite the tour being split into two groups. In my experience, the group size can be an issue with a well-known and respected ‘free’ tour. If you decide to join a similar tour, know that a donation of some amount (I would say 10 euros per person as a minimum for a good tour guide – this is a 3 hour tour!) is expected and appreciated. If you want to be able to ask a lot of questions, and hear everything that is being said, you may want to go with a private tour (or travel off peak season).
Because we hadn’t quite walked enough that day, we continued on, walking through the area near San Barnaba, one of my favourite areas of Venice.
After almost two days in Venice, it was finally time to see Piazza San Marco! For anyone thinking this is the true Venice, there is sooooooo much more to see! Unfortunately by this time we were pretty much walked out, so didn’t spend too long in the area. There were loads of people (and most likely even more pigeons). I can now say I’ve been to Venice three times and have yet to step inside San Marco’s Church.
The area between San Marco’s and the water is one of my favourite (highly touristy) areas. This is the area where you can find the Bridge of Sighs. On the waterfront side, there are several very expensive and luxurious hotels which were a bit out of our price range.
After taking in the area around St Mark’s Square and all the beautiful buildings, it was time to give our legs a break and take a trip up the Grand Canal on one of the Vaporetto, Venice’s public ferry. For 6 euros per person, you can soak in priceless views of the Grand Canal and all the gorgeous palazzi. For the best views, make sure to get on first so you can stand near the side! I don’t think the side of the Vaporetto matters, unless there is something specific you want to see. The views are amazing from either side.
Being our last night in Italy, we went in search of the quintessential Italian dining experience which I think we nailed on the head! While the restaurant looked like a non-descript bar during the day, at night the small square is filled with tables, adjacent to a small canal. At the restaurant, Taverna da Baffo, I had my favourite meal of the trip – a duck and mushroom ravioli. To. Die. For. And to top it off, we saw a couple get into a taxi boat (so Venice!) and then just to amp up the touristy-ness of the night, an accordion player walked over and we got him to play “That’s Amore“. We thought we’d help him by singing along!
After dinner, we went in search of a tiramisu place I’d read about but after a bit too much walking, we gave up and all very happily crashed at our B&B. Lesson learned: the best places are the ones you stumble across.
In the morning it was time to say goodbye to Mom and Marce. After a (as always) teary goodbye at the bus station (Piazzale Roma), Jarrad and I still had a few more hours to kill. After yet more walking and more general ‘taking it all in’, we hopped on the train and onwards on our journey to Croatia.
Our 10 day trip to Italy included: two days in Rome, an overnight in Orvieto, two days driving around the Val d’Orcia based in Montepulciano, two days in Chianti based outside of Greve in Chianti, 3 days and 2 nights in Cinque Terre, a stopover in Pisa and two days and nights in Venice. This blog post covers the final destination of our Italy trip, Venezia (Venice).