I started writing this post with my usual format of describing my trip in order of days and events, but I realized that dividing this city into sight-seeing points doesn’t do justice to it. Venice is simply a place like no other, the feel, the history, the ambience is best put as an experience, so I’m going to try and do just that!
The weeks leading up to our first European adventure were insanely hectic. The excitement actually settled in when we boarded the water bus to our hotel at around midnight, hit the Grand Canal and saw the beautiful softly lit buildings!
We planned to stay in Venice for for 3 days and 4 nights, at Hotel MonteCarlo on San Marco Square (review here). We pretty much crashed once we reached the hotel and got up the next morning. Since we were just a few feet away from San Marco Sq, we started our day there.
This expansive square lined with the palace, basilica and the office is simply gorgeous. Listening to the Rick Steves audio app gave an interesting historical description of this place. We had pre-booked entrance to the Basilica (just $2, totally worth it) and went inside this beautiful place and continued our audio tour. The top floor has a museum that houses the original Triumphal Quadriga (the ones on the loggia are replicas). Stepping out onto the loggia, you are greeted with an amazing view of the expansive piazza with the clock tower on your right. We waited until the clock struck to see the Moors in motion.
We also spent one evening here sipping drinks and snacks at Cafe Florian (I’ll spare you the history lesson 😉 ) and listened to the bands at various cafes around the squares.
Walking along the Mercerie to the Rialto bridge, it struck me that I had no idea that these centuries old quaint buildings were home to so many high-end stores! This was a perfect blend of old world charm and modern luxury. On the way, we stopped in one of the piazzas where some kids were playing in giant bubbles being blown by some vendors, while people stood by watching, sipping their wine and enjoying the beautiful day, It was perfect idyllic European scene.
Reaching the Rialto area, the full power of the unique Venetian landscape hits you. The wide Grand Canal, Venice’s ‘Main Street’ bordered by gorgeous ancient palaces and merchant homes with water entrances, the street performers, cafes with sunny patios, gondolas and cobblestone streets transport you to a whole new (or old?!) world!
S and I found a pier all to ourselves, and he set up his tripod to take pictures while I soaked in my wonderfully exceptional surroundings.
An interesting way to enjoy this city is also to take the Vaporetto from the train station down all the way down to San Marco Square. Taking a slower line (like #1) brings you to every major stop and let’s you admire the wonderful architectural blend of the eastern and western worlds. The palaces, originally belonging to merchants from a multitude of different regions, depict a wide range of styles. There’s even a Ca’ d’Oro (short for Casa d’Oro -which means house of gold)!. Though there’s barely any of the original embellishments, a lot of the palaces had gilded exteriors among other decorations as a sign of prosperity.
Being the lucky lucky girl that I am, I got to spend my birthday in Venice this year! We started that day by visiting the charming islands of Murano and Burano. Murano, famous for it’s glass, is a pretty island with plenty of glass stores and a museum. We ambled around looking into shops, picked up a few souvenirs and enjoyed this gorgeous sunny day. The old church there is quite pretty.
There was a lovely glass sculpture demo in front of the church. I’d always heard about the famous Murano glass, and after seeing it in person I literally had to tear myself away from buying everything I liked (The steep prices helped a bit too :P).
We had a lovely lunch with half a jug of wine, yummy pesto pasta and a veggie lasagna, followed by a melt-in-your-mouth tiramisu.
We continued to Burano from there, this is definitely the more the picturesque of the two. It is cute like nothing else, flower-filled window boxes in every home, every building perfectly painted in a bright color, cheery cafes and stored all around.
I felt a little bad for the locals though, imagine having boatful of tourists traipsing through in front of your home at every hour, always having to keep the curtains drawn at all times to prevent people from peeking into your living room (yes, I saw tourists actually trying to do that). I bought a lovely dust pink lace scarf in one of the stores, S took a bazillion pictures, while I admired some beautiful lace tablecloths and wondered if we’ll ever be fancy enough to need one of those :P.
After a short nap, we headed out to being the amazing surprise evening S had planned for me 🙂 We started with a gondola ride from San Marco going under the Bridges of Sighs and around, just as the sun set.
Seeing Venice in the night with the softly lit buildings, smooth swishing canals, elegantly decorated gondolas is molto romantico. We then went for dinner to De Pisis, a terrace restaurant with an absolutely stunning view of the canal and Santa Maria della Salute.
The beyond brilliant view, amazing food and wine, and of course the lovely company made this not a just a meal, but a complete experience. After a long leisurely dinner, we strolled down the street back towards the hotel to a talented street musician singing and playing the banjo. This was easily one of the most perfect days ever!
To sum up these magical three days, I’d just say that Venice is a completely unique experience, like a throwback in time. Venice has gone from being the party capital of it’s time to pretty much a cultural theme park, I wonder if this is what Vegas will be like a few centuries from now!
Being a huge fan of Italian food and wine, this vacation was culinary heaven for us! A simple plate of pasta and a glass of house wine was almost always absolutely divine. Wherever we enjoyed the food, we’d order dessert(usually tiramisu, or panna cotta). I’ll try and highlight some of our best experiences here. While Venetian food is simply sublime, my top two favorites were De Pisis, of course, and Al Chianti.