It’s been 2 months since Vinny and I have started working, and it has not been easy! I think it can officially be said that being an adult is hard work! So it was fair to say that we were ready to pack our bags and set off to our next destination, and Venice was perfect! Towards the end of September, its hard to find places that are affordable and warm enough to visit for a weekend.
Fortunately, we were lucky that Italy was just this country. Flight prices weren’t too bad (from the UK) being roughly £100 return, with the weather looking at around 21 degrees C and nice and warm. We got an easy jet flight, which meant we only had hand luggage, but who needs more for a weekend? This seemed ideal to us, so we packed our bags and off we set. We were lucky, as this is the end of summer, and when it hits October to December the high tide levels can lead to acqua alta (flooding). At this time, the city becomes flooded and visitors often need wellies and raincoats just to be able to go around the city. On the plus side, some visitors love this time, as the number of tourists go down and it means people can experience a whole new side of Venitian culture.
But, as I mentioned before, we were lucky enough to get beautiful weather at the time we went.
Where did we stay?
Our first struggle was where to stay?? If you have researched a little about the places you are staying, you may have noticed that to stay in the historical centre of Venice you’re going to have to pay a bit more than you bargained for.
Venice is a beautiful, but a rather expensive city. The historical centre of Venice, are a group of islands and is connected to the mainland via the ponte della liberta, a road bridge which has several busses leading into the city. Where you stay therefore depends on how much money you are willing to spend and what kind of experience you are looking for.
There are some absolutely gorgeous luxury hotels within the islands, so if that’s your thing, it would be worth investing in these. If you want the shortest commute, and want to travel everywhere by foot, looking around santa lucia railway station may be helpful. If however, you are looking for somewhere slightly cheaper but commutable, Mestre is an option. This is the place where we stayed. Mestre is about 11 mins by car or 20 mins by public transport from Marco Polo airport , and we had 3 direct busses going to historical Venice, which took roughly 15 mins. For those of you staying a bit longer, Mestre is one of the most populated regions in mainland Venice, and is a sight to behold by itself. Mestre railway station also means that if you are travelling to other cities or coming from other cities it makes it easier.
We stayed in Russott Hotel, Mestre. Which is beautiful 3* hotel. As with many hotels it was quite pricey, however the customer service was very nice. The bedrooms were lovely (large bedrooms with 2 double beds- for a standard double!). However, one thing to mindful of when booking a hotel in Italy. Make sure your hotel is smoke free. And if it doesn’t specify, ask! Our hotel room smelt quite strongly of smoke, and leaving the windows open did very little for this. However, the transport links were wonderful! So we had little complaints of where we stayed.
How to get around
I am unfortunately known for getting us lost in just about any strange city. Lucky for us, Vinny was with us and as directionally challenged as I am, he was able to figure out the public transport of Venice with minimal help (go vinny!).
At the airport itself, there is a public transport office, where you would need to buy your ACTV transport tickets in advance. As in London and many other major cities, the public transport is all contactless. The tickets are bought in advance and then need to be activated on each bus/train. Simple enough right?
The ticket cost depends on how many days you want to spend there.
Single one way fares are really expensive, at 7.80 euros is much more than the locals have to pay. So if you are planning on travelling on the vaparetto and the bus I would recommend buying the day passes.
The thing about day passes is that they aren’t cheap either! They range from one to seven days and can be helpful for checking out all the islands around venice. But don’t buy these unless u really need them. For us, we were travelling from mestre and therefore bought 2 day passes and used the vaperetto as much as we wanted. For us this was a 2 day trip, and therefore this was the best way to check out as much of venice as possible.
Day pass prices:
1 day – 20 euros
2 days- 30 euros
3 days- 40 euros
7 days- 60 euros
There are multiple busses and trams go to pizzale roma which has connections to the water busses, which are a must to take many of the destinations in venice. I’m a big fan of apps, and now that the majority of networks in the UK have free access to some of the countries in the UK, why would you not use it?
Moovit, is an app that I love! (As vinny would tell you, with the amount of times I asked him to download the app before we left). Its essentially a public transport app, which has live directions and bus stops as you travel. I’ve used it in the past and it is really simple.
The website is also good when booking a hotel, but works in a similar way to google maps. Its real benefit is when travelling live. Make sure you have at least one maps on your phone that works. If you don’t have internet, download the local area on google maps and walk around.
On our first day in venice, we put away our maps and walked in an aimless direction checking out as much of the small cozy streets and observing the canal side magic. Getting lost in the streets of venice is an experience in itself, and one not to be missed.
When in Venice
We arrived in Venice at around 12 and went immediately to our hotel to check in and begin exploring. We got the bus to piazzle roma bus station, where the connection for more busses, vaperetto and trams are all there. However,as I mentioned before on a glorious warm day, we wanted to check the streets. So off we set to find a nice place to eat.
The food in Italy isn’t something that can be described, it has to be experienced. It doesn’t even come close to the best Italian restaurants in the UK. Vinny and I are fans of the little cozy restaurants you find at the side of the streets. The picture below shows place that one my friends suggested was this lovely place in Dorsoduro. We have never had lobster yet so when the opportunity came up to try some (at a very reasonable price!) how could we say no!? (L’Osteria San Barnaba, Calle Lunga San Barnaba, Dorsoduro 2736, 30123- Venezia).
Dorsoduro, is a quiet part of historic Venice, without the large crowds that you expect in San Marco. There is particularly a lot of things to see if you are an art lover! The Gallerie dell Academia is one to see! 15 euros for entry isn’t bad for Venetian prices.
It is also a great place for gelatos, little pubs and a place just to sit by the canal or enjoy a gondola ride.
A tip about the gondola ride. It is 80 euros per ride which goes up to 100 after 7pm, so quite expensive. For us this was a once in a life time experience, so after considering all the options we decided to go for it. The ride itself is 40 minutes around the canals with the operator giving us some tour information about the city as we went around. Bringing some food or wine would have made the ride even better, but in our opinion the ride is quite slow, and romantic as it is 40 minutes was enough. However, if 80 euros is way over your budget, don’t worry! There are websites which allow you to share gondola rides with other tourists. As the price is per gondola, it makes it a lot cheaper particularly if you are a lone traveller!
Another way to enjoy the canals at night is to just hop on the vaperetto at night. We took a ride from San Marco to Pizzale Roma, roughly 40 minute journey. When the lights turn on, it is absolutely stunning. The benefit of having lighting inside the vaperetto meant we could see the waters as well, and felt that a ride at nightfall in a gondola might have been a bit dangerous.
San Marco square
I think everyone can agree this is one of the most beautiful places in Venice! This square attracts thousands of visitors, with lines and lines of tourists attempting to enter doge’s palace and St. Marks Basicila.
St. Mark’s Basicila is the roman catholic cathedral that has been attached to doge’s palace since 832AD. It was initially burned down by 976 but restored in 978AD. Today the cathedral stands majestic over the san mark’s square, with exquisite paintings decorating the outside and startling gold designs on the inside of the church. We were warned before visiting here that the lines would be horrible, and the best way to experience this is cathedral is to come early morning to beat the crowds.
Doge’s Palace was the palace of the leading magistrate to reside in. This magistrate would be the main authority over venice. The museum opened in 1923, and now attracts thousands of people every year.
St. Mark’s Basicila closes at 4pm on most days so if you want to appreciate the architecture and the paintings rather than go inside, come after this time the crowds have usually thinned out and its just the right time to enjoy sitting in the sqaure to enjoy a cup of tea and some nice desserts.
And where best to enjoy this than La Florian. A cafe that literally paints the picture of luxury in Italy. We went to St. Mark’s square on both days and both days, there was a lovely band (!?) playing. Violins, piano and oboe filled the square with music which we all knew and could enjoy our food with. It is an expensive cafe, and they require you to pay 6 euros extra per person for the music, but I would say it was worth it. We finished our first day in the square, and I would say this was the best way. Particularly when the lights turn on at night. The whole of Venice comes alive.
Other places to visit
On the second day Vinny and I jumped on the vaperetto, and I recall this moment when we saw a beautiful church and had to see it. Vinny jumped off the water bus as quickly as he could (almost leaving me behind!). So we got off at salute and saw the magnificent church of Santa Maria della Salute. This church was built following the last plague of 1630-31. The literal translation of this church is ‘St. Mary of Health’. It was initially built as St. Mary was thought to have had a part in saving the population of Venice, after 46,000 people died (30% of the population).
The view from here is beautiful, and if you want to rest here why not?! We lay out by the canal for a bit and soaked in a bit of the venice sunshine (we had to make the most of the warmth before returning to cold cold england).
2. Visit a chocolate shop
As I’ve mentioned at least a thousand times by now. Venice is expensive, and when thinking about buying souveniers at the end of a trip I always struggle. But we had a brilliant idea of going to a chocolate shop.
The chocolates in Venice are delicious. So off we went trying to find a chocolate shop near San Marco. But with the help of trusty google maps, we found a beautiful little shop called VizioVirtu Cioccolateria. It is a well known chocolateria in venice (it will always be the first one to pop up on your google search). The quality of the chocolate here is divine and reminded me of a fine chocolate shop in France. It was beautiful and the chocolates were amazing. Although I have to say, my head nearly blew off when I had the chilli chocolate (so obviously I packed some for my friends just to see their reaction!), so be a bit careful when trying some of them. Everyone at the shop is lovely, and even helped us out when we were a bit short. I would definitely recommend!!
All in all I would say Venice was a complete success. Just the right amount of time for everything that we did. It really is a beautiful, romantic city and lived up to everything!! Until next time Italy…