There are some places in the world where being lost is not a pleasant experience. Venice is most definitely not one of these! I’ve stumbled across some of the best views and experiences in Venice whilst being totally lost…for me it really is part of its charm, wandering the narrow streets, hitting dead ends and turning back, stopping off at a bar or café and getting you’re bearings. You will be sure you are heading towards one of the many major sights only to find you are no where near it and have stumbled across something else that makes you smile. If you have the time and it doesn’t matter… I love that feeling!
We stayed in the Mestre area, not on the island, to keep costs down. The Hotel Delfino was fine as a base. The hotel was clean tidy and quiet, we had breakfast included which was pretty decent. The bus stops were right outside the hotel as well, so convenient, and you can buy tickets from the reception at the hotel. It takes about 20-30 minutes to get onto the island by bus, they run regularly and it was never a problem. We had read some bad review of this place but were pleasantly surprised by it and found it to be o.k.
Piazza San Marco (St Marks Square) is a real focus point for the major sights and it is beautiful. One end dominated by the Basilica di San Marco and the 99 metre tall Campanile Tower. Surrounded by cafés restaurants and shops and at the other end is the brilliant Museo Correr which includes Napoleons Royal Apartments. Take some time out from wandering the streets and canals to visit this museum, it really is great! The Caffé dell’Art inside is a brilliant place to chill out and have lunch or just a drink. It has the best views over the square and prices are really reasonable. Some of the café’s and bars around the square are very pricey but cool for a treat. Café Florian was established in 1720 and has been running ever since. The décor inside is really fancy with hand painted wall paper. Outside what seem like impromptu violin and Piano concerts take place, however if you want to sit and watch this there is a surcharge.
The interior of St Mark’s Basilica is something to behold with its gilded mosaics, the shear size alone is enough to stop you in your tracks. Needless to say it is a must, but be prepared for long queues during Peak travel months, also worth knowing is that no bags are allowed inside, there is a place to check them in but it is to the left of the cathedral in a small alleyway in a some time theatre!
The Doges Palace (Palazzo Ducale), next to the basilica, was home to the ruling Doges and the seat of the government. It’s history and stories are legendary. It is said that Casanova was imprisoned in the attic prison but outwitted guards and escaped through a window! Inside is really impressive, you are able to visit the Doge’s apartments and also inside are numerous stunning works of art by famous artists such as Titian.
We were in search of authentic Venetian food so consulted our trusty Lonely Planet guide book and stumbled on Osteria da Carla, we were not disappointed. Located just off St Mark’s square you can enjoy wonderfully presented cicchetti at the bar with a glass of wine, or dine from the menu at a table. I had veal and wild black rice, it was amazing and the house wine was really good!!
Walking past the Doges palace takes you to the bustling water front, a great place for a stroll, the dreamy views across the water are great. Remember to stop and take a look at the famous Bridge of Sighs connecting the courts and interrogation rooms in the Doges palace to the prison the other side of the canal. There are so many sights, colours, and sounds to take in here it’s incredible!
If you turn left past the Doges palace and walk along the waterfront past the Bridge of Sighs eventually you will see signs for Arsenale. Follow the signs to take you away from the crowds along a really atmospheric branch of the canal to the Arsenale di Venezia. The Arsenale is a former shipyard and armoury which was founded in 1104 and at the height of Venice’s industrial and naval power employed 16,00 workers responsible for churning out a galley a day.
The Arsenale wasn’t open to the public when we visited but it is still worth going to see and is a nice corner of Venice. it periodically plays host to exhibitions, catching one here would be great.
There are so many famous sights in Venice, and yes they are all amazing and definitely worth trying to visit. However try to make time to slow things down and enjoy wandering with no specific aim or intention in mind, it is during these times that I really found myself really enjoying Venice, taking in the sounds and the colours, breathing it all in! We stumbled upon so many cool little craft shops, bars and cafés doing this and had a really great time. There really is no other place like this, let it sink in.
We flew with EasyJet to Rome, they have some great fares there sometimes as low as £30! Definitely worth checking out. We travelled throughout Italy by train and it was great, quick and simple to navigate.
Check out the trainline link above, they have a european train section where you can pre book travel making it cheaper. Booking rail travel in advance always gets you the cheapest deals, book them as one way trips as well, usually you can make them even cheaper if you are able to stick to a specific time.
These pocketbook guides are great when going to a specific city, they have a really useful map which pulls out at the back and are packed with photographs and have guides around certain sights. This one has great sections on St Mark’s Basilica and the Doges Palace and negates having to buy guidebooks there. Check out the Lonely Planet link on the side of the page as well for 3 for the price of 2 on all books, e-books, and specific chapters only available in the Lonely Planet shop.
I hope you enjoy Italy as much as I did!! Thanks for reading.