“Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go” – Truman Capote.
Italy – the world’s largest producer of fine wines, founder of the pizza, creator of the Roman Empire and, most importantly, the maker of some pretty sexy ice-cream.
I was understandably very excited to visit Italy for the first time in my life.
So we arrive in Venice – a city made up of 118 small islands connected by a complex system of canals and over 400 bridges. A city built on the Venetian Lagoon, sat between the Po and Piave Rivers in Northeastern Italy. It all sounds pretty wonderful already doesn’t it? It gets better believe me.
Venice is not like the rest of Europe. It’s like a time warp. It felt like I had stepped into a time machine and gone back 400 years. I mean, it’s not touristy in ANY way – there are no tourist attraction signs anywhere, no bars selling English food, no fancy lighting on the bridges and no modern structures in the slightest. Venice is an unspoilt historical city and if you come here as a tourist then you’re pretty much on your own.
We were staying in a nice little hotel in Mestre, just outside the city. There were no canals here, nothing really historical. So we were in awe when we jumped on the Italian commuter bus and arrived the heart of Venice. We walked over our first bridge (of very many) and saw the wonderful sight of the Grand Canal. This vision has such an impact. It really tickles the senses and makes you realise that you’re in a really special, unique place.
We walked (alot) through many streets, alleyways and over bridges. There are so many little streets that it’s difficult to comprehend. Every street, every alleyway, every nook and cranny has something worthy to look at, whether that be a cute little restaurant, a gelato shop, venetian masks or a quirky sweet shop (there was nougat everywhere we went). There is literally something to see on every tucked away street.
In the evening, we stumbled across a lovely little restraunt called Caffe Saraceno which is situated just under the Rialto Bridge on Grand Canal.
We sat under hallogen lights, put blankets over our laps, and supped on some Italian pinot grigio whilst we feasted on our gorgeous diavola pizzas.
What a view we had of Grand Canal. Pizza, wine, water lapping and perfect company. A wonderful first evening in Venice.
….But on the way back we got lost. I started to panic a little (ok, alot). It was dark and we were walking down little deserted alleyways and into dead ends – with no street lighting! It was literally a maze with no way out and we were lost for about two hours. Yet, it was perfectly safe. If this had have been anywhere else I would have no doubt that the city would have been heaving with crime. Thanks to a calm and collected Sharon (and lifesaving technology called GoogleMaps) we were able to find our way out!
Day two. Ok, so we’ve walked all over San Marco and Rialto but there were three important things left for us to do – experience a Gondola ride, visit the infamous St Mark’s Square and eat gelato. We did all three things before the end of the day. But, as standard with me, we got lost again trying to find St Mark’s Square in San Marco (about a two mile walk). I was initially really peeved off about this until we accidentally stumbled across Venice University which sat on the edge of this spectacular view. Check out the Alps in the background.
Pure heaven in a cone. Quality lunch.
We found a little gelato store tucked away under St Mark’s Square (rather bland tourist attraction). This was our lunch so we had to make the right choice here. I had a salted caramel cone and Sharon went crazy and had a duo coconut gelato with cookies and cream in a chocolate cone!
So that’s two down. All that’s left to do was the Gondola ride. This was a personal highlight for me. It was part of a two hour tour we had booked (the tour sucked but the 35 minute Gondola ride was great). We drifted through the ‘back-streets’ of Venice and saw the real Venice. Gondolas are very popular and you get to see parts of Venice that you would never see on foot. Well worth the Euros.
On our last night we stumbled across a discreet restaurant in one of the San Marco alleyways. We had spaghetti and meatballs. Yumballs! We decided to stay for a couple of drinks in the bar and quickly got intoxicated on quadruple servings of vodka and lemon soda. We jibbed off the two mile walk back and decided to jump on the commuter water bus. I enjoyed the 30 minute boat ride back to North Venice and it made me realise how far we had actually walked that day. Insane amount of walking.
I really have to mention a place called Quanto Basta on our final morning in Venice. We walked past this place everyday and saw HUGE slices of pizza in the window, next to Kit-Kat icecreams and the promise of Nutella crepes. It was cold and rainy so we sat indoors (twice that day) for a slice of pizza and more gelato. What a gem of a place. Cheap eats and quality food. Check it out if you ever go to Venice.
So this was a wonderful trip to Venice. I’d always wanted to go, Sharon had always wanted to go too, and it surpassed both of our expectations. We were a little raged that we didn’t go in the summer as it must be so incredible to be out by the water in the Mediterranean heat.
Even though we were exhausted, our feet extremely sore, consumed so many calories that I seemed to have put on 5lbs in 3 days, we will never forget how amazing this place was. It rates as my top European city so far.