Venice is one of those places that you feel like you’ve seen even if you’ve never been. Iconic images of canals and gondolas aren’t hard to conjure up, but having now visited, it’s pretty clear to me that there’s really nothing seeing it for yourself.
The cities’ 100+ islands are connected to the mainland by a causeway and to one another by a series of bridges. Getting around involves a lot of walking, and for some people, the use of water taxis, gondolas and vaporettos (water buses) but visitors are rewarded with plenty of unique sights and Italian food – read on for our suggestions to help you plan your time in Venice…
Check out the Rialto Bridge
The oldest and most unique of all the bridges in Venice, this beauty spans the grand canal with shops either side of it. I haven’t a clue how it’s still standing considering all the weight it must support, but be sure to swing by the Rialto Bridge on your way to Piazza San Marco.
The main gathering point in Venice, Piazza San Marco is found on the shoreline of the South-Eastern part of Venice. Each day, tens of thousands of people congregate in this area to relax, meet friends and soak in the sights.
The namesake church, St Mark’s Basilica, takes pride of place on the corner of the square whilst the clock tower provides a focal point for tourist photos. Tucked around the bend is the Piazzetta di San Marco which is not official a part of the square but may as well be. It is also home to some amazing architecture and is the water access point to St Mark’s Square.
If you end up on a cruise, keep an eye out as you depart/enter Venice as you’ll get amazing views of the square!
Nathan’s a bit of a tiramisù-eating machine and though I must admit I’m generally not much of a fan (I don’t like coffee), we were both blown away by the delicious and innovated tiramisù creations on offer at I Tre Mercanti. This amazing little shop, right on the corner of a canal and near the Piazza San Marco, houses an amazing selection of Italian products – it’s seriously a foodies dream! Best of all though, are the delicious tiramisù cups, flavourful macarons and, so I’m told, the Italian hot chocolate.
We were there first and foremost to try out the tiramisù that we had heard such amazing things about. Nathan tried their traditional tiramisù (when someone is rumoured to make the best dessert around, you really do need to try it after-all) and I tucked into an apricot and liquorice version; both were completely different but equally amazing.
Nathan’s traditional tiramisù (€3.50) was fantastico! Creamy, rich and everything a good tiramisù should be. It’s not often that Nathan finishes a dessert by himself, but this time round he polished off his and tried pinching some of mine too – if that’s not an indication of how good these are, I don’t know what is.
My apricot treat (€4) was refreshing, with the fruity layer cutting perfectly through the rich creamy body and a subtle hint of liquorice that came through right at the end. The addition of liquorice added an interesting twist to this dessert but for the most part it was a heavenly apricot and cream concoction – so good.
As much as Nathan loves tiramisù, I love a good macaron, so of course we couldn’t resist taking a couple home for later. I settled on the apple & cinnamon and wild berry. Honestly, they were the most flavourful macarons either of us have ever tasted!
Do yourself a favour and track down I Tre Mercanti when you’re in Venice.
Though Venice isn’t the best place to sample the top-knotch versions of these, if your time in Italy is limited, make sure you indulge in some Italian specialities – it would be rude not to.
These two islands lay to the side of Venice, each offering something different to the more famous city. If you have a spare day up your sleeve, buy yourself a 24 transport pass for €20 and jump on a vaporetto (water bus) to check out Murano, which is famous for its artisan glass blowing. Following that, head over to Burano (my favourite of the two) to snap some photos of the brightly coloured homes – it’s out of this world gorgeous.
For more on these islands and specific instructions on how to get there, check out this post.
Take a Gondola Ride
For us, this wasn’t a priority, largely due to the price. At €80 for 30 minutes, they’re a relatively expensive way to get around, especially when you’re travelling as a couple – if you’re in a larger group and are able to split the cost amongst more people, the value does improve however. When we considered what other adventures we could get up to on our trip with that money, we decided it was better spent elsewhere, but there’s no doubt that boarding a gondola in Venice is about as iconic as it comes. If it floats your boat, go for it!
Keep an eye out for…
We’d read about these before but when we settled down to eat in a small Chinese restaurant off the well-trodden tourist track, we didn’t even think about it… until the bill came and we saw we’d been stung another €4 for the ‘pleasure’ (and I use that term very loosely!) Apparently restaurants and cafes should disclose this fee on their menus but we saw no sign of it anywhere – before you order, be sure to ask if there is a cover charge so you can make an informed decision about where you want to eat.
I can’t tell you how many times we got lost, only to double back and see there was a sign pointing us in the right direction, tucked away just a little out of sight. Walk around with your eyes up, constantly on the lookout for directional signs.
Getting lost in general
During the second half of our time in Venice we had a go at using Ulmon’s app, CityMaps2Go and it was a godsend! This handy app is free and allows you to save maps to your phone and then navigate through them using GPS in real-time – if you’re hitting up Venice (or any spot really), pop it on your phone right away.
Venice is a relatively small city but thanks to all the twists and turns, you’ll end up doing a heck of a lot of walking, much of it up and down steps thanks to all of the raised bridges. Take comfortable shoes and wear clothes that won’t restrict your movement too much.
Getting from Marco Polo Airport to Venice
After arriving into Marco Polo Airport, we ventured outside knowing we needed to catch either the 5 or 15 bus – what we didn’t know though was that we couldn’t purchase tickets onboard. We were promptly turned around and found the ticket counter back inside; we should have turned to the left as we soon as we left the arrivals hall. Tickets for the buses that run from the airport will set you back €8 each, one way – relatively expensive considering the distance travelled, but no doubt cheaper than a taxi and much cheaper than a water taxi.
Getting around Venice
It’s impossible to get cars past the entrance to Venice, so straight away anything with wheels is ruled out. Venice is an incredibly walkable city (just remember your comfy shoes) but if you’d like someone to take you to a specific spot, you’re able to hail a water taxi, hire a gondola, or jump onboard a vaporetto (or water bus). Though the vaporettos aren’t particularly affordable at €8 a pop, they are the most cost effective way of getting around on water. If you’re planning to use a fair bit of public transport, you might like to consider a 24 hour pass for €20, which allows you unlimited use of the system for your chosen time period.
Whatever you do, don’t spend all of your time on boats – there’s something special about just going for a wander and getting lost amongst the twisted lanes of streets and waterways. Just be sure to pack your patience and plenty of time.
Venice is a magical city, unlike anywhere else we’ve ever been. If you have the chance to visit, take it with both hands!
For those of you that have spent time in this fabulous place, what do you recommend doing whilst there?
Thanks also to I Tre Mercanti for inviting us to sample their infamous desserts!