Venice Travel Diary

Selfie on the Rialto Bridge looking over Grand Canal, Venice, Italy

When we were planning our honeymoon in Italy, Venice was the destination we were both most ambivalent about, especially after reading this New York Times article likening it to "Disneyland for adults" and hearing several fellow bloggers complain about what a tourist trap it was. Rome had history and a certain grandeur about it; Florence had the Medici and medieval architecture; Cinque Terre looked amazing in photos. But Venice, what did it have? Canals? Gondolas? In the end though, Venice ended up blowing us away and was by far the best, most enjoyable leg of our trip.

The game-changer for Venice was definitely our choice of Airbnb and our amazing hosts, Martina and Andrea. We had a cozy room with private bathroom located in an apartment that had been converted into rooms to rent out on Airbnb, on the mainland in Venezia Mestre. I'd initially booked it because the price was right and the decor looked like something out of Pinterest (green plants everywhere, Scandi-inspired minimalist chic). What we didn't anticipate was how well taken care of we would be from check-in to check-out and the little touches that helped make us feel more welcome, from the welcome refreshments in the fridge to a custom-designed takeaway map of Venice filled with their tips on things to do and restaurants to check out. If you are planning a trip to Venice, I highly recommend booking with Martina and Andrea in one of their three Urban Oasis rooms.

We ate so well thanks to their recommendations, starting with the local osteria on our first night that looked like it was run by Venetian hipsters. The wait staff wore tight jeans, man buns, and full beards. There was turmeric in the bread. Living as we do in Mt. Pleasant, all night I kept joking with Lawrence that we'd found our people in Italy. Our waiter greeted us with genuine warmth and answered all of our questions about the menu. At the time, there were two Italian women at the table next to us who had just ordered something that looked like steak and mushrooms and they looked absolutely ecstatic about their food. One woman even held the plate up to her face and inhaled the aroma with a beatific expression on her face.

"What did they order?" Lawrence asked our waiter.

"Oh, that is ricciola. It's a fish from southern Italy," our waiter replied.

"Is it better than the salt cod?" Lawrence said.

Our waiter sort of snorted, smirked, and rolled his eyes at the same time. "Oh, it's much better."

We ended up ordering both and he was right, it was so much better. We took it as a good sign that our inaugural dinner in Venice had started with us ordering an amazing off-menu dish. I mean, how lucky was that?!

The next day we took the bus to Venice; the stop was a 5-minute walk from our Airbnb and the ride was about 25 minutes long, with the big bus and tram loop just outside of the Venice train station as the final stop. As soon as we climbed the footbridge onto the island and we caught our first glimpse of the Grand Canal, we fell in love with the city and knew we were in for something special.

To be fair, Venice is definitely overrun with tourists swarming the campos and the narrow alleys, clogging the footbridges, clamouring for the perfect photo op. There are a lot of shops hawking masks and souvenirs, and I think we even walked past a Disney store at one point. But it also has a mysterious, melancholy, splendid beauty to it that cannot be denied.

We walked down as many alleys and through as many campos as we could, admired the canals and how the feeling of the city changed from the hubbub of midday to the quiet of night, taking as many mental pictures of the scenery as we could with hungry eyes. We sampled cichetti and polpette and squid ink pasta. We went on a walking tour and learned more about the history of Venice. We took a twenty-minute gondola ride with four other people. The boat consistently listed to one side so we were all a little nervous we'd tip, but that didn't stop us from marveling at the doorsteps that led into the canals and the beautiful buildings. After we got off the gondola, I remember eating gelato in St. Mark's Square and feeling as though the basilica and the ground were tilting upward to meet me. We spent an afternoon exploring the islands of Torcello and Burano and watching a glassblowing demonstration in Murano.

On our final night, we ate at an osteria seated outdoors with a view of the Grand Canal. Our first couple of days in Rome had been so chaotic, and in going from Rome to Venice we'd missed our train and arrived later than anticipated, something else that threw us off. The three nights we spent in Venice were when I finally relaxed into the rhythm of being in Italy and started to feel like I was truly on vacation, from our morning cappuccinos to aperitivo hour to late, leisurely dinners. And when I look back at our time there, I always associate it with that sense of mental calm and joy.

As with my Rome travel diary, all of my travel recommendations are at the end of this post after the photos!

Narrow canal with pink and coral buildings in Venice, Italy
Street art in Venice, Italy
Venetian architecture around an alley
Selfie in a gondola
Statue in Venice, Italy
Gelato
Facade of red building with pointed arch windows next to a canal in Venice, Italy
Snail staircase in Venice, Italy
Columns of the old monastery on Torcello island in Venice, Italy
Gondolier steering a gondola down a narrow canal in Venice, Italy
Venetian mask
Rialto bridge
Facade of Basilica San Marco
Pink and white church facade in Venice, Italy
Facade of the Doge's Palace in Venice, Italy
Colourful houses of Burano island in Venice, Italy
Walking past the colourful houses of Burano island in Venice, Italy

Stay

I cannot say enough good things about Martina and Andrea's Airbnb located in Venezia Mestre. It's affordable and adorable and about a half hour's bus or tram ride away from all the action on Venice proper. You can book Room 1, Room 2, or Room 3.

Eat

All credit goes to Martina and Andrea for these restaurant recommendations. If you end up staying at their Airbnb on the mainland, Osteria Plip is just a short walk away and offers a modern (read: slightly hipster) take on Venetian cuisine. On Venice the island, Ca D'Oro alla Vedova has cozy ambiance to spare and delicious signature meatballs. Another noteworthy restaurant is Osteria Bancogiro, which has great cichetti, the tapas-like appetizers that are a Venetian specialty. Try to get a table outside with a view of the Grand Canal. Talk about romantic!

Do

Gondola rides are ruinously expensive, but really, how could you go to Venice and not have a gondola ride? We opted to book a one-hour walking tour and 20-minute gondola ride through Viator at a much more affordable price than the starting rate for gondola rides (80 euros for 40 minutes during the day). Not only did we learn a lot about Venetian history from our informative tour guide, the 20-minute ride was just enough to give us a taste of the experience and the photo ops we wanted. Along similar lines, I also booked a 4-hour boat tour that took us to the islands of Torcello, Burano, and Murano. It seemed easier than taking the vaporetto between destinations, and we reasoned that if we really wanted to return to one of them we could take the vaporetto later.

1 comment

  1. superb way of explaining, and great blog to get wonderful information.San Giorgio dei Greci

    ReplyDelete

Back to Top