Venice is sometimes compared to being a Disneyland. Because of this comparison, I had never prioritized visiting there until my parents proposed a trip in the Spring of 2019. Within a few short hours, Venice immediately became one of my favorite cities that I have ever visited. It is one of those places where I was gripped by the awe of its beauty each day, with each winding street uncovering something more magical and more exquisite. Unlike other cities, there is almost no juxtaposition of old and new in Venice. It is preserved in its’ perfection. In Venice, the Italian Renaissance lives on. I still feel an inexplicable gratitude when I think of this city.
I visited Venice is the beginning of Spring 2019. I was lucky to be there before the summer crowds, and lucky enough to be able to walk through uncrowded streets, meandering over bridges and through the piazzas. Each turn left or right unveiled more to a city so unique and so frozen in time.
Saint Mark’s Basilica is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, northern Italy. It is located in the famous Piazza San Marco and also attached to Doge’s Palace.
Doge’s Palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice and was built in 1340 with many additions added through the centuries. One of the most fascinating things in Doge’s Palace is the prison and the Bridge of Sighs (Italian: Ponte dei Sospiri) which connected the prison to the interrogation rooms. I could still feel the heaviness in the air when walking through the bridge.
The Rialto Bridge is the oldest of the four bridges over the Grand Canal in Venice. It serves as a lifeline for the city and its stone archways are a sight to be seen.
Riva degli Schiavoni is one of my favorite places to walk in Venice and watch the sunset. The street traces the waterfront of Venice, and you can see nearby island of Giudecca across the waterway.
Landmarks in Venice may seen very close together, but due to the way that the city was built, you will find that it will take much longer than expected to navigate the winding maze of streets and footbridges to get from one location to another. Budget lots of time to get where you are going by foot, maybe even budget some time that you may get lost along the way.
The Vaporetto service which is essentially a hop on hop off public bus on water is a great way to get across town quickly. There is also the Alilaguna service, and I have linked a handy how to article on how to take a ride. You can also take these services to reach Venice from the Marco Polo Airport. I had planned on taking one, but prefered walking and finding new hidden gems tucked away in the winding streets on this discovery visit. Although, my father took a Vaporetto on this trip, and found it very easy to get around.
Gondola rides are not only for fun, you can hire them to get from point A to point B. Although, you can book them in advance, there is no need, and the cost is likely lower when you take a ride from the pickup points than what is offered online. I was so worried that I would fall victim to a tourist trap with our gondola ride, but realized very quickly that they are all licensed gondoliers and the service is flat rate, so there is no stress with feeling as if you got hustled. The price at my time of visiting was 80 euros for 40 minutes. I would highly recommend experiencing a gondola ride on your trip. It allows you to experience the city as it was designed around waterways, with separate entryways in the water to hotels, restaurants, and buildings that you would have never found on foot.
You can also hire water taxis to take you from point A to Point B to arrive in style in a classic wooden speedboat. The Marco Polo airport also offers water taxi service directly into Venice.
Restaurants in Venice
Venice is an Italian foodie’s paradise, especially for myself because I love seafood. Because of the reliance of the city on the waterways, there are still a great deal of fishermen, and therefore an abundance of seafood available. Some highlights include squid ink infused pasta, fritto misto in cups to go, and fish paté cicchetti.
Cicchetti is a way of life for Venetians. Cicchetti is found in small casual establishments serving wine and snacks that many Venetians go to for a happy hour of sorts after work. To the North American palate, the selection may appear intimidating, but you may surprise yourself with some new flavors with little risk here since each item is meant to be devoured in only one or two bites. After lots of research for an authentic experience, I went to All’Arco which is also featured on the Netflix show Somebody Feed Phil. My favorite cicchetti were the mini sandwiches filled with local ingredients sourced from the nearby Rialto Market.
Whenever I find myself in a new city in Italy, I like to find the local specialty pizza and pasta and try it. In Venice, you can find the distinct Venetian style pizza at Antico Forno, a takeaway pizza shop located near the Rialto Bridge. In a window lies pizza slices to go in thin and thick varieties, all with the thicker slices made with the signature fluffy Venetian style dough.
6342 a le Tole is located a little walk away from the main tourist attraction in Venice, near the Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo. This eatery serves fresh pasta in house made daily and a perfectly done wood over Neapolitan pizza. The squid ink infused pasta may have temporarily left my tongue black, but it was worth it for the burst of unique flavor with each bite.
Once in while, you have a meal that blows you away with each dish being more surprising than the next. Antiche Carampane was one of those meals, and probably one of the top five best restaurants that I’ve dined in Italy. If you eat here, arrive hungry and try to sample as much as you can, because this Michelin Guide restaurant delivers some of the most unique and elevated dishes in the region highlighting the Venetian flavours and freshest local ingredients.
For another homestyle dinner spot, try Ai Garzoti. It is located near the Venice Train Station, with views on the Rio Marin waterway. They have a white pizza topped with tons of shelled seafood that I’ve ever seen anywhere else. And, a delicious squid ink pasta with shrimps on top. With many classic Italian staples on the menu, it is sure to please.
For coffee, Pasticceria Tonolo is a café frequented by mainly locals with an order counter that is bursting with life and, of course plenty of pastries. It can be difficult to get your order in, but if you wait your turn, you will be rewarded with smooth velvety espresso.
For gelato, head over to Suso Gelato for unique flavors like Mascarpone and Fig (my personal favorite), and the best gelato in Venice. The classic lemon here is also very zesty, with an extra zip. Sometimes the queues can be long because it is very popular with tourists. We came here everyday on our trip. It’s that good.
Supermarket Coop is a supermarket chain with locations throughout Venice. We went here for bottled water and other snacks to stock our Airbnb between meals. They also have a great selection of local meats and cheeses, with little Italian, you can point at the items you want from the deli counter and say, “100 grams per favore“.
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