Sunday 20 August 2017

Four Days in Venice: Gondolas, Canals, Coffee, Pasta and Sandals

Ah Venice, you beauty. Last week, my mum, sister and I jetted off from Gatwick for four days in the land of gondolas, canals and pasta. It was my third trip to the city having stopped off there for a few days while inter-railing as a student and revisited with the hubs for our mini-moon (oh my goodness, that was magical), so I knew it was special.

When I was last there we took a private water taxi from the airport straight to our hotel; we loved it so much that we booked it for my parents when they spent Christmas in Venice a few years ago so were keen for my sister to experience that superstar feeling of stepping off a water taxi on to the hotel's jetty. It is much quicker, you don't have to wait for the scheduled departure and they are really smart. Expect to pay around 90+ euro depending on where you're headed. I would suggest booking ahead or keeping extra currency as you can only pay cash and it will drain your supplies pretty swiftly.

Made up of 117 islands and with over 400 bridges spanning its 150-odd canals, it's no surprise that gondolas, water taxis and vaporetto litter the waterways while pedestrians don sensible foot-ware to wander it's cobbled streets (at almost 7 months pregnant, I definitely stuck to flats!). It's a great deal larger than you might imagine, plus the maze of streets (many only really qualify as alleyways) often lead to dead-ends so you'll find it takes you longer than you think to get around; if you're not fussed about where you go and, let's face it, you won't be disappointed where you end up then wander aimlessly, otherwise you'd do well to pick up a map from your hotel and ask them to mark out the best routes for your destination.

Piazza San Marco is visually stunning and, if you don't mind the queues, the Basilica and tower are well-worth a visit, but it's also thronging with tourists and over-priced (albeit stunning) cafes and restaurants from which quartets play. Expect to pay around 15 euro for a coke!

For us, it was the smaller piazzas that appealed so, although we strolled through San Marco each day (our hotel, All Angelo which we found in the British Airways sale, was in an amazing location only a few minute's walk from it), we didn't hang around for long. Plus, with the huge cruise liners that dwarfed the city each afternoon (you feel like you need to run for high ground when you see them) came unbelievable queues of tourists who were on day trips from their short lay-overs.

If you venture away from San Marco to Campo San Barnaba, Campo Santa Maria Formosa or Campo Santi Giovanni e Paulo it's not that difficult to shake off your fellow tourists and enjoy coffee, lunch or dinner at a more reasonable price while you take in the beautiful architecture of a city that dates back to around 400AD. One of my favourite finds was Teatro Rossini where we took shade from the heat to enjoy one of our last coffee stops while listening to the operatic tones of the singers rehearsing in the theatre next door.

I'd also read about the 57th Venice Art Biennale and the installations across the city, so couldn't help but keep my eyes peeled for some of them. We missed out on quite a few, but stumbled across some pretty striking ones; my favourite just so happened to be by an artist who's name I shared until I got married: Lorenzo Quinn's Support. The Biennale runs until 25th November so, if you're heading to Venice before then, I'd recommend checking it out.

No trip to Italy is complete without several tastes of gelato (I love mine in the little cups) and, although we didn't do it this time, one of my favourite things to do in Venice is grab a takeaway slice of pizza followed by several flavours of gelato (always finishing with limone) and sit in a quiet square (not San Marco, where it's banned) watching people wander by.

I'm not sure there was much of the city we didn't wander around, from the northern tip of Cannaregio, to the southern stretch of Dorsoduro and the east of Castello. We crossed more bridges than I could count from the grand Ponte di Rialto, Accademia and Scalzi (3 of the 4 bridges crossing the Grande Canal to the smallest footbridges across little waterways. Accademia was pretty nostalgic as it was the bridge the hubs and I crossed several times each day from our hotel (Centurion Palace - it's very special) while on mini-moon.

We didn't do it this time, but I would recommend taking a trip on a gondola. The price might put you off and you may want to avoid taking one during the heat of the day, but there is something magical about the whole experience. When the hubs and I mini-mooned in Venice, we grabbed a bottle of bubbles and a couple o glasses from our hotel beforehand; it very civilised and pretty special. This time, we looked on at the queues along Piazza San Marco aghast, but you there are plenty of other places to hop on one so keep your eyes peeled. We dined alongside the ... one evening where several passed with their passengers being serenaded and it sounded pretty wonderful.

If you have enough time, a trip on the vaporetto to one of the other islands is a great way to explore Lido, Murano or Burano among others. You can get a day pass for 20 euro or single trips cost 7.50. We spent a day on Burano which we all loved and I've done a separate post on as it here really deserves it's own space; even if you don't read a word of my post, you must look at the pictures as you won't want to miss out on a trip there.

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