The first time I visited Venice, I went with 2 girlfriends and we went during winter. It was cold (freezing actually) but still mesmerising. We got to roam the islands of Venice for hours one Friday evening, purchase masks, eat pizza and gelato. Hop from island to island by bridge, walk on cobblestones, hear lots of musical Italian, see laundry hang from widow to window and of course, get lost! However we weren’t one little bit concerned. If you need to get lost, get lost in Venice – it is extremely romantic! I promised myself that I would return with that special person one day.
I didn’t think that I the opportunity to hop between the 118 islands of Venice would happen quite so soon but it’s astounding how much can happen within the space of 4 years and with Boyfriend! (TL)
The great thing about experiencing Venice for the first time is that you get to experience it for the first time. And there’s nothing more special than seeing the beauty of Venice for the first time. It really is a real life novel. It’s like you’ve travelled into a story book. Thats the only way I can think of describing it.
Even if you are not staying long in Venice, you can actually get a lot done in a short space of time. We spent a day there and still managed to see and experience plenty. (AM)
TRAVUL DIARY VENICE TOP 5
1. Chill in St Mark’s Square
What’s an old European city without a main square? The main feature of the square is the St Mark’s Church, the city’s cathedral whose construction dates back to 1093. Yes, you heard correct 1093. That’s an old church. The buildings around the square include some fine restaurants and bars as well as high end shops. You can gaze at the amazing architecture of the square from one of the many restaurants. Because Venice is generally not high above sea level, the whole square is actually quite vulnerable to flooding apparently and as recent as 2007 was totally under water. Luckily we had no such issues. (AM)
TRAVUL TIP: If you purchase something at the cafés or restaurants as a take away, the cost might be different to a sit down. Make sure you check first before sitting down and then finding out that the prices are different. (TL)
2. Go on a gondola ride
I battle in smaller boats because if I plan to swim, I swim. But if I plan to be in a boat, then I really would like to remain in the boat and then the possibility of falling in doesn’t sit too well with me. Of course there really is no reason to fear falling out because the Gondoliers are skilled professionals. The gondola rides cost quite a bit, but if you share it with a few friends, it does ease the pressure on the wallet. If you’d like the Gondolier to sing you a song while you’re doing your ride, you have to cough up an extra 100 euros. Fortunately for our gondola crew, I consider myself a good singer (they will definitely disagree, but be that as it may) and started singing ‘It’s Amore’, the Gondolier loved it so much, he joined in on the chorus – free of charge!
Did I smell anything funny, you might ask? Not at all. According to Steve our Tour Leader, who’s been to Venice almost 50 times, he’s only experienced a bad smell twice. It has to do with weather, wind and a few other things. Clearly everything was in our favour, no wind and no smell.
TRAVUL tip: Take sunblock. Take a hat or an umbrella, anything that can give you a bit of shade. You will thank us later. (TL)
3. See the Grand canal by speed boat
The gondola rides are a great way to see the city but it can get quite cluttered in there with all the boats in the water. Now if you want a bit of space and speed then get on a speed boat and take a trip down the Grand canal, James Bond style. The speed boats can take you much further out than the gondola’s can which means you get to see more of the city scape. From here you can in fact spot the Palazzo Pisani which featured in a prominent shoot out scene on James Bond Casino Royal as well as my close friend George Clooney’s waterside 3 story pad. He wasn’t in town when we were there so we didn’t bother to pop in.
TRAVUL tip: Make sure you book your rides ahead of time because they are extremely popular and you’ll otherwise have to wait quite a while before you have one available to you. Also don’t be late for whatever time you have booked for. (AM)
4. Drink like a Venetian
You can’t go to Italy and not partake in a young tapas and drinking session. You are certainly not going to run out of options in Venice and if you feel like taking your time, try out more than one. Girlfriend is quite fond of Bellini cocktails so when we found out that Harry’s bar is the home of the first Bellini, I was quite keen to check it it. Apparently they also “invented” the carpaccio and was the regular hang out spot for Ernest Hemingway.
When we finally found the spot, which was suprisingly not an easy task, we still almost missed out because I initially thought it was closed. I guess sometimes you should try pushing doors when pulling doesn’t work. The jury is still out as to whether the €17 Bellini was worth it but it was definitely an experience and clearly the thing everyone comes to have at the bar.
5. Feast on some gelato
We always hear about the African sun and how hot it is, I really don’t think it has anything on the European Summer. It really is insanely hot, to the point of wanting to constantly walk in shade just to be able to enjoy the city more. No one can prepare you for this kind of heat. (TL)
Aside from the relief from the heat, the local gelato is a must have. It’s not ice cream. It’s pretty much what they give to royalty when they feel like ice cream. It’s deluxe ice cream and the beauty of it is that it’s relatively cheap. If you really want to ball then try out some local pizza slices and then finish off with some gelato. Alternatively you can stroll through the city gelato in hand and visit me of the numerous shops on the islands. There is more than enough variety for all types of tastes and budgets (AM)
TRAVUL tip: Be friendly and kind at the shops, don’t walk in and start negotiating. When you are kind the shopkeepers will initiate those conversations themselves and you’re guaranteed a better bargain.