Venice is located in the Northeastern area of Italy, and is built upon 118 small islands separated by canals and connected by bridges. It’s allure is contagious, and it’s architecture is stunning. It’s a city where you get around in boats, not cars, and where all the buildings appear to float on water. The entire city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s unlike anywhere else in the world – and a must see for anyone and everyone.
The city centre of Venice is very compact, and although you can get around via boat, gondola or water bus, the best way to explore the city is to wander the maze of streets and narrow pathways on foot. Getting lost throughout the stunning Venetian architecture is mandatory. It’s the best way to stumble upon incredible areas of the city that you can only find by accident.
During our time in Venice, we stayed at a small, boutique hotel called Locanda Al Leon, which was very conveniently located near the Piazza San Marco, the principal, and most iconic public square in Venice. To get there from the train station, we chose to take a Vaporetto water bus down the Grand Canal to the Piazza, and then the hotel was a short walk. The hotel was lovely, and traditionally Venetian in design. The owners were friendly and helpful. Locanda Al Leon is a wonderful choice for your stay in Venice.
Venice was the first city that we visited in Italy. As such, the priority always was pasta, wine and gelato. Venice has the most lovely restaurants and patios. It’s not hard to spend hours drinking wine al fresco-style. The best places to eat and drink are found off the beaten track. Try to wander away from the Piazza San Marco to avoid restaurants that are more touristy than they are authentic. The very best pasta we had in Venice came from a small takeaway-only shop called Dal Moro’s – Fresh Pasta to Go (formally Alfredo’s – Fresh Pasta to Go). It’s a tiny, hidden space with no seating. You simply walk in, order your pasta, and walk out with fresh, insanely delicious homemade pasta in a takeaway container. We took our pasta and wandered through the narrow streets with our heads in the boxes.
The best gelato in Venice is from Gelato Fantasy. We tried a few different Gelato shops while in Venice, but always came back here. Their pistachio gelato beat every other by a long shot. Mind. Blowingly. Good.
There are so many incredible sights to see in Venice – The Grand Canal, the Piazza San Marco and the Basilica di San Marco, Doge’s Palace, The Bridge of Sighs and the Rialto Bridge are the main highlights. However, the Rialto fish market, the Gallerie dell’Accademia, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the Teatro La Fenice and the surrounding smaller islands that are accessible from Venice by Vaporetto, such as San Giorgio Maggiore, Burano and Murano, are also high on the list of must see’s.
It sounds cliché, but when visiting Venice, you must take a gondola ride throughout the canal system. Although these gondola rides can be expensive, you can negotiate with a gondolier on the price. The most expensive time to take a gondola ride is at dusk. If you’re set on a sunset gondola experience, just put your bargaining hat on and everything should work out fine. My husband busted out his bargaining skills and managed to save us 20 euros! More gelato for us!
A northern Italian past-time that you definitely need to experience while in Venice is Aperitivo. Aperitivo is similar to ‘happy hour’ in North America. It’s an informal, glorious couple of hours—generally between 7pm and 9pm—when Italians relax over a glass of wine and/or cicheti (Italian version of tapas).
Quite possibly though, the most important sight to see in Venice is the sunset. On a clear night, as the sun fades down, the city is illuminated in oranges and yellows and golds. It’s hypnotizing, and if you haven’t fallen hard already, this is the moment when you will fall in love with Venice. It’s so incredibly romantic. You don’t have to be in a gondola to experience the magnificence of a Venetian sunset either. We stood on the Riva deli Schiavone, facing San Giorgio Maggiore and watched in awe, hand in hand, as the sun danced downward into the Adriatic Sea.
We had one and a half days to explore Venice, and we felt that we hit all the highlights. You can always spend more time in every destination you visit, but for Venice, I recommend two full days. This will allow you enough time to see the sights and walk the city. If you wish to visit the surrounding islands of Venice, then be sure to take a day or two more. I hear they are worth the visit.
*All photos & opinions are my own